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An Advocate's Perspective of Greyhound Racing

My first experience with greyhound racing was in late 1989 when I took my first greyhound away from a racing compound to find it a new home. I knew very little about the industry at that time, but now, almost 20 years and 7000 adoptions later, I have learned a great deal. In America, greyhounds are born to run and to make money for a dog owner, a kennel operator and a track owner. They are only worthwhile and worth keeping if either they have the potential of making money or they are already making money. When those options are gone for whatever reason, the greyhound is gone.

The state of Florida currently has the most tracks and is where we concentrate most of our efforts and receive most of our dogs from. When it comes to greyhound racing, all of the tracks are struggling to survive. Several years ago, Florida began small-time card playing at the greyhound tracks. Over the past few years, the ability to make higher wagers has been legislated and now the tracks make the majority of their money from card playing, not greyhound racing. One track in Hollywood, Florida now has slots and another in Miami will have them soon. As each new diversion goes onto a greyhound track, there is less and less emphasis on the dogs. But now the track can subsidize them, which was something they could not do before.

The National Greyhound Association, the official registry for racing greyhounds, will lead you to believe they have made great strides in the adoption of former racing greyhounds. As an insider, I know these ‘strides’ come off the backs of volunteers who love the breed and wish to end the abuses of greyhound racing. Few of them are in a position to speak freely. There are only a few tracks in the United States that truly support adoption. Melbourne, Florida, a small seasonal track, probably has the best program in Florida. Dennis Tyler and his wife are full-time employees of the track and work year-round to promote adoption. They transport dogs from Melbourne to adoption agencies in many parts of the country. Daytona also has an admirable adoption coordinator devoted to the dogs. Daytona has a new track; the old one was bought out by the Daytona car racing conglomerate. You would think a new track might be good but this one is bad. If you look down the list of those dogs waiting to be adopted, you see one broken leg after another. The track is obviously poorly designed and takes its toll on the dogs racing there. We don’t know how many dogs have actually died on this new track; those numbers are not available. A good example of one of the worst ‘adoption programs’ is the former Hollywood track, now called Mardis Gras, combined with Flagler and Bonita Springs/Fort Myers. These three tracks have the same ‘in name only’ adoption agency with hardly any funding.

If you go to the other side of the state of Florida to Pensacola, Dr. Hillman is still euthanizing many more greyhounds than you would like to think. He no longer releases the numbers. Several years ago, we know he would euthanize about 800 greyhounds per year at his one facility. We know about the kill truck that comes weekly to the Monticello track but do not have the resources to investigate it properly. A few years ago, Real Sports on HBO did an expose about ‘Kill Mondays’, where every Monday a vet clinic in Alabama would euthanize greyhounds. It showed the trucks lining up and the dogs marching in. Shortly thereafter, through an opening in the fence, they showed the dogs’ lifeless bodies tossed into a dumpster. Alabama also has its own kill truck. Little is said about it, but it is there.

West of the Mississippi, information is hard to come by. The National Greyhound Association is based in Abilene, Kansas and there are many greyhound breeders in this state. Kansas is also the only state in the Union where a greyhound is specifically not categorized as a dog. This means that it does not have the same protections that a pet would have regarding humane treatment. The greyhound racing industry has been able to have the State of Kansas legislate this injustice, suggesting that greyhound dog breeders and the greyhound racing industry take responsibility for their care. The National Greyhound Adoption Program believes this is unacceptable, but local groups have not been able to over-turn this law thus far. So, if you happen to be in Kansas, you will have to call your greyhound something else besides a dog, because in that state it is only a commodity.

In addition to the greyhound racing industry, I feel I must spend a few moments talking about greyhound blood donors. Hemopet in California and the Pet Blood Bank in Austin, Texas, when combined, have over 400 greyhounds in captivity for use as blood donors. It is important to understand that in order for a greyhound to become a blood donor, permission must be given by the registered owner of that dog. In the investigations that we have done, few of the greyhound owners we were able to track had ever given such permission and we have signed statements to prove it. We are currently working to file legal action against both of these facilities shortly. For many years, the Animal Medical Center in New York City also kept greyhound blood donors. We were finally able to put enough pressure on this large institution so that they have at long last ended that practice. You can read the full story of our war with the Animal Medical Center in the ‘Advocacy’ section of our website.

The greyhound racing industry paints a wonderful picture of greyhound adoption. In reality, thousands of dogs will still die each year; some will die a horrible death, some will be exploited additional at blood banks, some will be found at research facilities, some will be clubbed, and some will be shot. That is the reality of greyhound racing in America.

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