Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Greyhounds…racing abuses and rescue

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Driving home from work today I saw a woman walking a greyhound. This greyhound was a new rescue. How could I tell, driving by at a good clip?

The classic new-rescue skinniness was one sign. And yes, greyhounds tend to be lean running machines, but anyone who has been around the just-rescued know the concentration camp look that I’m talking about.

The slinking walk was another sign, the head drooping to the ground, though the dog wasn’t sniffing anything. The tail drooping, no wagging. No joy anywhere in his or her body language.

Greyhounds are one of the few dogs that you literally can’t find to buy as puppies. They are all designated for the racetrack, and it is a closed world. Any greyhound you see outside of a racetrack has been rescued after their career has finished. It is rescue or death once they aren’t fast enough and their offspring wouldn’t be worth enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m opposed to breeding, in general. With millions of homeless animals killed every year, the last thing we need is to be purposefully breeding yet more animals for our own purposes. There is literally no justification. Yet I grew up around dog breeders, and I know that there is a large percentage of breeders who love their dogs, and are in it for that love. Few make any money at all from the breeding. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a bit misguided. I should know – I was one of them. I know all the excuses, because I used to make them.

Greyhounds are a horror situation of their own, however. There is no nurturing in their lives, unless they are lucky enough to be adopted and rescued after their racing career is done. And this is why you can always tell a new rescue. They have to learn how to have fun, how to enjoy life, how to be social, that they are not going to be beaten and starved, forced to race.

I actually find it amusing that the official greyhound association says this, as if it is some wacky extremist view:

The animal rights movement has never been successful in banning greyhound racing in a state where the sport actually exists. In areas where people are unfamiliar with the sport, and there is no industry presence to educate the public, it’s easy for extreme animal rights groups to misrepresent the facts. Often, people are led to believe these campaigns are about animal welfare, but in fact that’s not the case. These groups oppose all animal use, whether it’s for food, clothing, medical research, entertainment or any other purpose. The same people who oppose greyhound racing think it’s wrong to eat a hamburger, wear a leather jacket or go to the zoo.

And they’re trying to convince people that they have any animals’ best interest in mind? Right. It is about profit for them, no more, no less. And they care about these greyhounds so much that they see it as the job of animal rights people to find homes for the “retired” racers, not their own:

How do you justify breeding so many greyhounds each year when you know that thousands will have to be euthanized because they aren’t fast enough to be successful competitors?
Even if every greyhound were adopted after retirement, the animal rights movement would still oppose greyhound racing, because they oppose all animal use, no matter how humane or beneficial to society. If your concern is animal welfare, the industry is taking aggressive action on several fronts. Our goal is to reach a point where every healthy greyhound has a home to go to after retirement. We’ve dramatically reduced the number of dogs bred, and substantially increased the number of dogs adopted. In 1997, for example, we expect to breed fewer than 30,000 dogs, and adopt out more than 18,000. Thousands more will go back to the farm as breeding stock after their careers end. If animal rights groups really want to do something in the area of animal welfare, they should work constructively with the industry to maximize adoptions and secure a good home for every greyhound. That’s our goal.

This is from the Greyhound Racing Association’s own website – they admittedly kill at least 10,000 animals every year. THAT is how much they care about their greyhounds. Nice avoidance of responsibility on their part, trying to make it sound like ARAs should be getting busy finding more homes for the greyhounds instead of them taking responsibility and stopping to create animals purely for the sake of their profit.

According to wiki:

In the late 20th century several Greyhound adoption groups were formed. The early groups were formed in large part out of a sense of concern about the treatment of the dogs while living on the track. These groups began taking greyhounds from the racetracks when they could no longer compete and placing them in adoptive homes. Prior to the formation of these groups, in the United States over 20,000 retired greyhounds a year were killed; recent estimates still number in the thousands, with about 90% of National Greyhound Association-registered animals either being adopted, or returned for breeding purposes (according to the industry numbers upwards of 2000 dogs are still killed annually in the US while anti-racing groups estimating the figure at closer to 12,000.)

Conclusion: Despite what the national association for profiting off of the lives of greyhounds would like us to think, they did absolutely nothing to save the lives of the dogs they exploited after their “usefulness” was used up. It wasn’t until rescue organizations stepped in that this began to change, no thanks to the people profiting off the racers.

No one who sees another sentient being as a commodity can possible have any interest but their own in mind, regardless how they try to make the people who really do care sound like extremists. Check out the Greyhound Protection League in the states, and Greyhound Action in the UK for more details on the realities of greyhound racing. Both groups are working towards the abolishment of racing through education and outreach.

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7 responses to “Greyhounds…racing abuses and rescue

  1. Pat Getz March 19, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Excellent article! One comment: I adopted a greyhound pup. She was one of five in an Oops litter that was set to be killed at two days of age. (Oops litters occur when the former litter is left together too long and two siblings make babies.) It happens far too often, and they kill the pups because they can’t register and race them. A greyhound rescue person took them, nurtured them, held them and fed them with an eyedropper till they could take milk from a bottle. She was nearly four months old when I got her, and is now four years. The difference in her ebullilent personality and a retired racer is astounding. The killing of pups is also a part of the wonderful world of greyhound racing!

  2. Deb March 20, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    I had a suspicion that there was something nasty like this that happened when they were babies. I saw a few references that raised flags for me, but I didn’t research enough to have anything concrete. Thank you for providing more information! I’m so glad you were able to rescue one of the pups. I can only imagine the difference between one who knew love her whole life compared to one who grew up in a kennel and on the tracks. That should be all the argument needed for abolishing racing. Unfortunately, we’re fighting the money, not the emotions, when it comes to the legislation and the greyhound breeders.

  3. Mary Martin March 26, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks so much for addressing this critical issue. I have adopted two greyhounds from the track, one of whom made her owner almost $500,000, yet she was “discarded” when her pancreas shut down due to the injectable steroids she was being given, and she became an insulin-dependent diabetic. She soon developed cataracts and went blind. I have since fixed her eyes (though one retina detached and she is half blind again) and every day she lives to prance and leap and gallop is a blessing. For the first year her head hung low and she had no personality, but now, despite her disabilities, she is vibrant and happy. And her “brother,” who was discarded early on, is just finding himself. I urge all readers to pressure their friends to not go to the tracks and to hit them where it hurts–the only place they care about–their bank accounts. There are so many dogs who need homes, but if you have it in your heart to give a home to a dog who needs extra TLC, please think about adopting a greyhound.

  4. Mary Martin March 27, 2007 at 9:44 am

    I have two retired racers, one of whom became an insulin-dependent diabetic when her pancreas shut down due to injectable steroids. She is the offspring of a Hall-of-Famer (there’s only one Hall-of-Famer each year, and some years there isn’t one good enough), she made her owner hundreds of thousands of dollars, and when her pancreas shut down she was immediately “discarded” (put on the “shoot list”). When I adopted her, her head hung low and she didn’t look me in the eye for nearly nine months. I thought about returning her (she was returned several times before me) because I thought she didn’t like me and I thought she was unhappy with me. But I couldn’t even get anyone to take her. That was all in 2004. Now, half blind (she went blind and had surgery, but then went blind again in one eye), she leaps like a gazelle, prances when she’s feeling playful, and even trots sometimes. She races her adoptive brother, who is half her age and didn’t race much, and is able to beat him on a good day.

    They all need time to adjust, as their lives were unimaginably miserable for years. And when they feel safe enough to allow their true selves to emerge, they are full of love and life and passion for fun and running (and sleeping). Thanks for raising this important issue.

  5. Deb April 4, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Mary, thanks so much for sharing your stories! I just went to your blog and I’ll definitely be spending time there in the future as well.

    I walked dogs for book-money when I was going back to school and one of the dogs I walked the most often was a retired greyhound named Cloud. Sweetest laziest dog I ever met. He had several issues – hadn’t been housebroken, and his anxiety made the housebreaking really difficult, to name two of the biggest issues. His adoptive mom stuck with him, and they were able to get past these problem, which I think would have caused many people to give up on him. He is so different now than when she first brought him home. It was beautiful to see. And heartbreaking as well.

    My apologies for the length of time it took to get your comments published. The spam catcher caught a few non-spams, but none of the potential spams showed up in the bucket until today (going back more than a week!), and your two comments were in that bucket. (out of 54 possibles, 50 really were spam!) Normally they would show up immediately!

  6. Mary Martin April 15, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Sorry about the double post. I didn’t think the first one worked. Then I didn’t think the second one worked. Anyway, part of the issue with getting them housebroken is that they are often not permitted to stop to relieve themselves. They must do so while walking or running. I know several hounds who, to this day, pee and poop while walking. It’s so sad. Then there’s the reality that they often don’t allow them to poop until just before they enter the gate. When you adopt them, they’re often so used to that that they’ll poop and then run like the wind immediately thereafter.

  7. Deb April 19, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    No problem on the double post. Akismet is finicky lately, it seems, and this comment just appeared in my bucket today. Thanks for explaining about the housebreaking. The poor babies!

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