I have heard there are greyhound rescue groups that are "pro-racing," or "neutral." Can that possibly be true!?
Individuals and groups involved in greyhound rescue hold philosophical positions on dog racing that range from pro-racing ("The dogs are treated very well and they love to run!"), to neutral about racing ("we refuse to address the reasons the dogs need homes"), to anti-racing ("educate, legislate and eliminate dog racing") and everything in between. To complicate matters, even members of the same group can entertain differing views.
To a world unfamiliar with the politics of greyhound rescue, it appears as if any sincere effort made by any group to find homes for unwanted greyhounds appears admirable. We agree! But we also believe the goal of any legitimate rescue organization should be to put oneself out of the business of rescue by solving the underlying problem, instead of perpetuating it.
Pro- racing or neutral groups and individuals assist an industry responsible for the immense suffering and destruction of greyhounds when they either innocently or purposely engage in the following behavior:
Last week my adoption group told me that "greyhounds will go extinct if we do away with racing cause that is what they were meant to do…"
Astonishingly, there are some naive people who buy into the propaganda that they would lose their beloved greyhound breed if dog racing were to end tomorrow. People who believe such a statement have allowed fear to obscure their common sense.
Greyhounds are one of the most ancient breeds of dogs known to man and have existed in their most current incarnation for centuries. Greyhounds were not originally bred to race. In fact, greyhounds existed before the creation of dog racing and were originally bred in the Middle East for hunting purposes. Dog racing is a 20th century opportunistic phenomenon, based on the exploitation of a breed characteristic. Greyhounds thrived long before dog racing and it seems certain that they will do so after racing no longer exists.
In our modern era, most currently recognized breeds of dogs are no longer used in the capacity they were originally bred for and have not "gone extinct." For example, many terriers are no longer needed as ratters and likewise many herding breeds no longer drive cattle or sheep. Greyhound and greyhound-type breeds are still used, as they have been since antiquity, for lure coursing events and as hunting dogs, to eradicate perceived "pest" animals. A suprising number of countries possess an indigenous greyhound breed.
Greyhound fanciers in the U.S. recognize two distinct types of registry systems: The American Kennel Club (AKC) greyhound and the non-AKC, or National Greyhound Association greyhound. The AKC or "show" greyhound enjoys a small but loyal following in this country. Mercifully, they have not had to endure the level of exploitation which has befallen the greyhound type which is over bred for dog racing.
Since the preponderance of destroyed and discarded greyhounds in this country are of racing stock, many adopters are wrongly led to believe that the hardy and personable variety of greyhound currently asleep on their floor would not have existed if it weren't for greyhound racing. The fact is, greyhounds of the same conformation, size, weight parameters and temperament we currently term "racing stock," have persisted in history alongside the AKC greyhound type to the current day, just as other purebred dogs exist in differing "lines." Today, there are breeders of racing stock-type lines producing and selling greyhound puppies of the same confirmation and temperment as your ex-racer. If there was no dog racing, but there was a continuing demand for this type of greyhound, there would undoubtedly be an increase in the supply of this type of greyhound. While buying a healthy pup from a responsible breeder may not have the cache of "saving a life," it also does not promote the needless overbreeding and killing of innocent creatures. It seems more likely that if dog racing had not evolved as a business, supply and demand for any type of greyhound would be quite reasonable (given the breed's historically understated popularity). It can certainly be said that exploitation of this distinct type of greyhound for its speed and persistence never would have taken place on the scale it does today, were it not for its unfortunate commoditization.
It is patently incorrect to state that greyhound racing is responsible for the creation of the breed and its perpetuation. The only "extinction" that would take place if greyhound racing were to end tomorrow would be the "extinction" of the bizarre and inhumane ritual of destroying thousands of greyhounds each year in the name of entertainment.
I just recently adopted my greyhound and don't know that much about dog racing. Could you please respond to the following two comments I recently heard?
"Greyhounds are canine athletes that are treated better by the
industry than most people treat their children: The dogs wouldn't run if
they were poorly treated."
At every opportunity the racing industry tries to promote a humane image by capitalizing on an uninformed public's willingness to accept some generalized assumptions, such as "dogs could not run if they weren't well cared for." People not exposed to the realities of kennel life believe racing industry statements that insist greyhounds are "prized athletes who could only run if they receive the best of care." Industry members have publicly alleged the dogs wouldn't run at all if they were poorly treated. The truth is, most people do not know what a day in the life of a racing greyhound is, or how horrendous the general quality of life for racing greyhounds can be.
Greyhound racing is first and foremost, a business. Most greyhounds do not receive the best of care (it costs money!) and cost of the greyhound is not always a major factor in determining how well the greyhound will be treated as soon as it is determined the dog is less competitive than originally thought. In most cases, the owner(s) of the greyhound (the investor(s) who made the financial investment in the dog) is not the same person who is responsible for the day to day care of the dog and its treatment. Daily care and management of the greyhound is left up to the trainer and/or assistants.
Note the following facts:
This substandard level of care for racing greyhounds takes place at many tracks around the country and is reflective of the fact that the dogs are a farmed commodity. It is cheaper to neglect a dog or get rid of it, than it is to care for one well. Tracks with stronger economic resources tend to attract kennels with more competitive dogs, dogs which could win more money for the kennel which in turn could (and sometimes do) administer a more consistent and slightly better level of care to protect their investment. For the most part though, this substandard level of care taking is agricultural in spirit, routine and "traditional" throughout the industry. Non-competitive dogs outnumber winning dogs, and every winning dog will eventually start losing one day. No one wants to pay the upkeep, feed and care for all these losers any more than a business would want to continue to pay an unproductive employee.
Industry comments that greyhounds are treated better than most people's children is a frightening notion since greyhound adoption groups regularly report that incoming greyhounds suffer from an incredible variety of afflictions. Untreated conditions and injuries such as missing or broken toes, broken hocks and incredible internal (whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, coccidia and giardia) and external (fleas, ticks, mites) parasite loads are common. Rescued Greyhounds often test positive for several species of worms and other parasites simultaneously. Heartworm positive dogs have also been reported. Diseases which are easily preventable in this day and age by vaccination, such as Parvo, Distemper and Kennel Cough are still reported. Dermatitis is common and skin and haircoat are often dry, dull and lifeless, due no doubt to a combination of flea and tick bite irritations, poor diet and stress. Teeth and gums frequently show advanced signs of neglect related disease and wear, attributable to diet, as well as stress related trauma to the enamel from chewing on available materials in the environment (stress/boredom precipitated). Adoption groups are witnesses to these facts, but few will own up to it, for fear of retaliation from their racing contacts. Adoption groups also fear loss of industry support, both financial and otherwise.
Neglect can also have behavioral ramifications. Most greyhounds bred and raised for dog racing are socialized within the confines of a particular track/farm environment. Lack of exposure to a variety of different experiences early in their lives can hinder emotional flexibility later on . Claims that greyhounds wouldn't run with such a bevy of afflictions is ludicrous. Greyhounds were bred to be hunting dogs. As "sighthounds," ie; dogs bred to sight, pursue and catch game, greyhounds have been bred for centuries for increased prey drive. Running around a track is imprinted early in the young greyhound and is reinforced and fueled by the power of instinct. This genetic potential coupled with live lure reinforcement (allowing greyhounds to catch and kill small prey animals) creates an intensely driven dog. Many high drive greyhounds will run even with musculoskeletal injuries. The good news is that most greyhounds recover from these physical and psychological stressors, becoming wonderful pets once such problems are assertively addressed.
In short, economics determine the dogs' expendability at each stage of its racing career. It is cheaper to get rid of a losing dog, rather than spend money to care for it, especially when there is always an over abundance of greyhounds waiting in the wings.
When and if you reach your goal (of getting rid of dog racing) will your group be able to handle the 50,000 or so greyhounds that will be available for adoption?
Your question suggests that you might actually believe tracks are better off staying open because of what would ensue should they close. If you believe that 50,000 greyhounds is an unreasonably large number of discarded dogs, where have you been? We're up to over 1,000,000 greyhounds (and counting). Shame on you for having so little faith in greed and stupidity!
Thousands upon thousands of greyhounds will continue to suffer and die each year, as they have for decades -- as long as the industry is a reality. If all the tracks were to miraculously close tomorrow, a one time figure of 50,000 dogs (plus farm dogs etc.) would need to be adopted out. This would take years (just as it currently does) and the coordination of private groups (just as it currently does) and private money (just as it currently does) to come to the rescue. In keeping with tradition, the industry would once again audaciously depend upon the public to assume all responsibility for its livelihood. Mercifully, this would be the last time.
Would the industry start killing off all its dogs, if business were to end tomorrow? Perhaps it would be tempted to revert to wholesale slaughter, as it was customary to do prior to adoption efforts in the early nineties (and which many still try to get away with, and do). I would think that with the world watching, however, that such types would have to answer to public pressure: the same forces that caused the industry to reluctantly embrace adoption in the first place. Supply and demand would eventually adjust breeding figures to that of other pet breeds. Death on a large and continuous scale would finally take a (permanent) holiday.
As long as the tracks stay in business however, the overbreeding, killing and exploitation are a fact of life. The economics of dog racing demand it. If you do the arithmetic (shoes and socks off for these numbers), you will discover that:
Tragic, hardly covers it.
An industry member writes:
..."I can honestly say I was hurt and VERY OFFENDED by your accusations and so called "facts" that you people have displayed on your website ... I myself own some greyhounds, my family has been breeding them and raising them for most of my life which is about 15 years ... I am 19, and let me just say these dogs are treated better then some people ... I'm not saying that its normal to put dogs down to sleep but sometimes it's not up to us ... and if they are hurt to the point they can't be fixed ... then some people do put them to sleep ... which is sad ... very sad... but there is always a good reason for it ... not just because it can't race or is to old and cannot race anymore ... We ALWAYS try to find the dogs a good home ... ALWAYS. They have central air and I don't even have central air in my house! ... They get fed well ... they take many vitamins to stay healthy and they get treats all the time ... I love my puppies ..."
There are people in the dog racing industry, like yourself, who write to us because they are genuinely disturbed by the information on our website. They tend to be first or second generation dog racing families, many who have bred and raised their dogs in their own backyard, by hand. The dogs have nicknames, are known from birth and in some, but not all of the cases, are cared for more than adequately.
Like any farming endeavor, caring for animals is labor intensive and can be isolating. In many cases breeders must spend more time on routine farm obligations than they do networking with other industry members or visiting other farms. As a consequence, some dog people truly do not know what goes on after their hand reared pups leave their care. The greyhound breeders lucky enough to be able to consistently find homes for most of their dogs and to keep track of them are in the minority.
There are people in the dog racing industry who care for their dogs. Too bad there aren't more of them. But many of your colleagues across the country still dispose of the greyhounds in their care in less than humane ways and can sleep at night. The non-competitive pups, unproductive and/or injured adults taking up kennel space routinely disappear. If you are offended by the way your industry conducts itself, do something about it.
Perhaps you're one of many in the industry who believes that the NGA knows how to deal with members of the industry that give it a bad name, these "bad apples." When the public is watching any bad guys caught are openly condemned for their behavior. When not so many people are watching, the NGA opposes legislation that would designate greyhounds as pets because the purpose would be to afford the dogs greater protection under the law. Instead, they would like the public to believe that "self-regulation" is adequate. In other words, leave us alone to do what we've always done and what we want to do.
Self-regulation regularly manages to overlook piles of rotting greyhounds in Florida dumps and has somehow never seen the abandoned kennels of starving dogs. All manner of horrible variations on those themes get swept under the carpet. Self-regulation has allowed for the mass slaughter of unwanted greyhounds for more than 75 years. Olympian irresponsibility. The industry magazine everyone subscribes to doesn't want to dwell on the unsavory practices. Just spin the good stuff. Promote adoption! Make us look good! Assume responsibility for my unwanted dogs! They want to do their best to convince the public that pretty soon all the greyhounds bred will be regularly adopted out. And then every one will live happily ever after.
The reality is greyhound racing has inherent problems no one can remedy. That is because it is not a sport about fast dogs, but a form of gaming where profit dictates level of care and expendability at each stage of the dogs' development. As in any equation in which man, animals and the expectation of money are thrown together, economic interests will always prevail over concern for the animals. This fundamental fact is what makes greyhound racing inhumane and unfixable.