RACING GREYHOUNDS: BRED TO RUN  OR BORN TO DIE? By Marcia King Racing Dogs Image


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    The Greyhound racing industry reports that the days of tortuous and abusive animal practices are over, that a new era of humanity has dawned. But animal welfarists claim that Greyhound racing proponents are only mouthing platitudes to appease an increasing outraged public. In a two-part series,Dog Fancy examines the issues of Greyhound racing. Part one focuses on the breeding and training of Greyhounds, including the live lure controversy. Next month, part two looks at life on the track - and beyond - plus Greyhound rescue groups which, some say, have contributed to the misery and suffering of countless Greyhounds.

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    A persistent, bloody image haunts the Greyhound racing industry.  A perception, perpetuated by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfarists, that helpless rabbits and other small animals are tortured and torn apart by Greyhounds in standard training practices known as live lure training. That Greyhounds languish in long kennel confinements and are denied socialization with humans or its own kind. That after Greyhounds are raced until they're too injured or slow to finish in the money, they're abandoned on city streets or country roads, their tattooed ears cut off to foil identification, or sold to research labs, or left to starve in their kennels, or condemned to die from a bullet in the brain - or worse. That image, claims the Greyhound industry, is completely false. "Sensationalism," says Joan Headland, Greyhound Pets of America representative and racing Greyhound owner. "They'll take a story about something that happened 15 years ago and tell it over and over again."  "They use isolated incidents as being the norm in the industry," adds Gary Guccione, Secretary / Treasurer of the National Greyhound  Association (NGA), the official registry for racing Greyhounds.  Isolated, perhaps. Ancient history, no. In February, 1991, a Key West track, an end-of-the-line facility for last-chance Greyhounds, closed mid-season because of numerous and repeated state violations. Abandonment of poorly performing dogs was one ongoing problem. Explains Van Jones, Director, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, "If the dogs aren't doing well, [some] trainers give up and leave."

    During the 1989-90 racing season when dogs were abandoned in their kennels, trainers in neighboring kennels neglected to notify officials, allowing the dogs to starve. According to court documents provided by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, 141 dogs were also left behind three separate times this year when trainers disappeared. Many of the dogs were undernourished, grossly underweight, and dehydrated. "But none of the dogs, this year, were abandoned," says Jones. "This year, the other trainers told the State, so we got in there fast enough to make sure the dogs were well taken care of."

    Additional violations included accumulation of dog waste, lack of fire detection and fire notification devices, dog meat left out in the open, crates infested with fleas and ticks, cool-down areas littered with glass, stones, and other debris, inadequate water supplies in the cool-down area, poorly maintained turn-out pens with coral rocks protruding through the sand surfaces, and so on.

    (Ironically, the ultimate offense that caused the closing of the track was not animal neglect but a series of waste disposal problems that culminated in liquified dog waste bubbling up onto the patrons' parking lot.)

    Only six months earlier, a similar abandonment occurred at yet another Florida track. According to Tropic Magazine, Sunday Magazine of the Miami Herald ("You Can Bet Their Life On It," Gary Karasik, October 21, 1990), 102 starving Greyhounds were found lying in their own filth. "Some had open wounds; all were covered with ticks," the article states. "Three were in such bad straits that they had to be killed immediately.  Within the week, 73 more dogs were judged too far gone to survive."

    Reforms

    Certainly, abusive incidents in animal sports is not limited to the Greyhound industry.

    And the Greyhound industry is reforming - either because of new enlightened attitudes of its members (says the industry) or because of external pressure tied to the industry's expansion plans into new states (charge critics). At any rate, "The sport has made the animal welfare issue the priority issue that needs to be most effectively addressed," notes Guccione.

    For example, to reduce the numbers of dogs destined for euthanasia after their careers are finished, the American Greyhound Council, co-sponsored by the NGA and the American Greyhound Track Operators Association (AGTOA), funds an 800 number for Greyhound Pets of America, a placement service for retired Greyhounds.

    The industry is also promoting studies and methods to reduce stress injuries at the track. As a result, says George Johnson, AGTOA executive director/secretary, "Injuries have come way down. "One of the trends over the last decade," Johnson explains, "has been an increase in banking, especially along the first curve.  Years ago, all the tracks were flat and the Greyhounds would charge down the first turn and have all this bumping and banging and knocking down. Now they go around this first turn like clockwork." Johnson points out, too, that new sophisticated tracks in the northern states are warmed by underground heating coils, keeping winter tracks warm and comfortable.

    In addition, the NGA and other racing organizations officially and publicly condemn live lure training. "The majority of [NGA] membership is in favor of strictly artificial lure training,"  Guccione says.

    To publicize changes in the industry's attitudes and to bolster its image, the AGTOA hired a new public relations firm. But, according to Tropic Magazine, one of the initial public relations agency firms under consideration declined the contract after examining the industry, citing problems with the destroying of Greyhound has-beens and the live lure issue.

    To be sure, the Greyhound industry is partially a victim of changing philosophies and of its own past.

    Greyhounds have a long history of serving their owners by running down small animals, primarily hares. Says Guccione, "It's important to know Greyhounds were first brought to this country back in the 1800s to help farmers with their problem with the wild jackrabbits which were destroying crops." Dog owners soon began betting on whose dog could catch a rabbit first, and Greyhound racing was born.

    It was a natural step, then, to use jackrabbits for training racing Greyhounds. And for decades, no one seemed to really mind. In fact, one Greyhound owner recently wrote to Dog Fancy, describing jackrabbits as disease-spreading rodents, "really nasty critters, full of ticks and grub-type worms."

    But in an era when animal lovers condemn the wearing of fur coats, when dam and hydro-electric projects are delayed or cancelled because of an endangered fish, when views of Man's role in Nature is shifting from that of conqueror to caretaker, Greyhound trainers have been slow to follow. They continued to employ the same traditional - that is, live lure - training techniques that grandpa used, then were puzzled and angered to suddenly find themselves vilified for the practice and, indeed, to find the practice itself outlawed in many areas.

    The culling out of slower Greyhounds is another bitter controversy that, according to animal welfarists, claims the lives of tens of thousands of dogs a year, beginning right from puppyhood. Again, those charges are disputed by industry representatives.

    Greyhound Farms

    Most Greyhounds, says GPA's Joan Headland, owner of 17 racing Greyhounds, are not bred, born, or raised in private homes but at professional breeding/training farms. Good farms, she says, "have a sprint field, long chained runs, and long kennels.  They're clean with runs picked up frequently to prevent infestations from flies. I look for farms where the dogs are happy - dogs that have been handled a lot and want to be around people and other dogs. I look for appropriate care: the brood matrons and puppies are getting supplements, their shots kept up, their teeth cleaned, and that the farm has a training program instead of haphazardly getting dogs ready for the track."

    "A typical Greyhound farm and kennel," says Guccoine, "not the model ones but the typical ones, just see the care, the attention that is given to them, the way people love the animals and provide for them.

    "Growing up, these dogs are given as much opportunity as possible to learn to run," Guccione continues. "They get much exercise.  They're turned out in big pens so they can learn to open up and gallop. Then, around 10 - 12 months of age, they can be trained with the drag lure. Basically it's a kind of device that will drag the artificial lure along the ground so the puppy will see it and pursue it. Usually they're equipped with a noise maker inside that further compounds the attention to the lure."

    The use of live lures - rabbits either whisked around on a whirligig or chased down in an enclosed field by dogs-in-training until they're killed - is "practically done away with," says Guccione. In addition, Headland points out that since dogs at the track chase artificial lures, "trying to train by using means that are not the means they're going to race under is silly."

    Once the dogs are trained, usually by age 17 or 18 months, they're sent to the track. "The trainers at the race tracks work or different kennels, so the dogs go to the racetrack probably for their racing life," explains Headland. "The track is actually leasing the dogs from the owner."

    The best runners go to top tracks while slower dogs go to cheaper, less competitive tracks.

    Born to Die?

    Obviously, not every young Greyhound is going to make it to the track. Says Guccione, "This year, there will be about 48,000 pups whelped or born and practically all of these will be litter registered. In about a year and a half, about 38,000 will end up getting individually registered and named before they go to the track."

    As for the 10,000 culled pups, Guccione says that "some of the pups may be used for breeding, some will be given away as pets.  And some will, unfortunately, be euthanized."

    While NGA figures indicate that each year 20 percent of litter registered pups face a dubious future, Robert Baker, Chief Investigator for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), says the actual number of culled puppies is much, much higher.  "A few years ago," Baker reports, "the Florida Greyhound Breeders Association - and Florida is one of the biggest racing states in the country - stated that at best only 30 percent of the dogs bred ever become qualified to race. From the time these dogs are born and don't have the right conformation, to the time they go the whirligig training, to the time they go to the training track and then to the regular track trying to become qualified, they're being culled out constantly."

    Judith Donaldson, top breeder of AKC show Greyhounds and member of Run Or Die, an anti-Greyhound racing organization, says, "Only one puppy out of every ten born ever races one race. At age 11 months, if they can't time at a minimum speed at a training track, they're dead meat."

    Donaldson, whose information on racing Greyhound practices comes from former members of the Greyhound industry ("people with consciences"), says culled puppies are not adopted or given away.  "Absolutely not. They don't want their stock to go out to other people. It's like Sak's not selling a dress; will you give it to me? No! These dogs are dead. Zip. They're gone. If you take them down in the basement and club them to death, who's going to know.

    "These people aren't animal lovers," she adds. "These people didn't get into Greyhound racing because they love the bow-wows.  They love the money, the buck."

    Live Lures

    Donaldson, Baker, and others also dispute industry claims that live lure training is practically obsolete. "I've seen them training these dogs first hand," says Baker, who conducted undercover investigations at farms and tracks. "Ninety percent of them use live lures. They believe the dogs will race faster when they're trained on a live animal rather than an artificial lure."

    Estimates that 100,000 animals are torn apart a year in live lure training is "conservative," says Baker. "Jackrabbits, domestic rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens are used. Most commonly, jackrabbits are used in coursing, domestic rabbits on the whirligig because the animals are tied so they don't have to be fast. For a while, the industry was promoting guinea pigs because they squealed so loud and the dogs like a loud squeal.  That's why [trainers] break the jackrabbits' legs.

    "The animals are used over and over again, and this is the height of inhumanity. They pull the dogs off of it and turn another set of dogs on it. The animal dies a very slow and painful death.  The reason is economics. Rabbits are expensive. If they can use the same rabbit on 20 dogs, then it's economical. At one place, we went to a trash barrel where they were throwing the discarded rabbits and one was still alive. They didn't even have the decency to put the rabbit out of its misery when they were done using it."

    Guccione vehemently contests the statistics and statements by anti-racing groups. "Where do they come up with those figures?" he asks. "The perception they're giving to the public is an effort to discredit the sport because of their strong opposition to it. Their willingness to say anything including false statements, false statistics, activities that were relevant to the past but may be not be relevant today. Times have changed, attitudes have changed, and laws have changed. There are people now who, 10 or 15 years ago, I never would have dreamt would have given given any consideration in changing their [live lure] techniques. Now they are totally artificial lure training. It's amazing. Its very low and gets closer to zero all the time.

    "In the last two or three years, in new [racing] states, strict laws have been passed. Many states specifically address the fact of not allowing live lures, but I'm not so sure that all states - if their general animal welfare laws are interpreted that way - I'm not sure that all states don't make it illegal. Florida has a specific law. Kansas has a specific law. Texas has a specific law. Oklahoma has a specific law."

    But live lure training is legal in some states, says Baker, and, consequently, those are the states where owners send their dogs to be trained. "Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma: These are where dogs are being trained and that's the key point," says Baker. "The only states where we got laws passed [prohibiting live lures] where it meant anything significant was in Florida and Kansas, and in Florida and Kansas nobody's enforcing it.  They'll claim there is a law in Texas, but it's not true. The law in Texas says it's illegal to train on live animals at a race track. But it's meaningless: Nobody ever alleged they used live rabbits on the race tracks. They use them on the training tracks."

    When asked about the Texas law, Guccione says, "I'm not familiar with the language of the law, but I have never heard that interpretation. My understanding was it was illegal to use a live lure at any stage."

    In addition, Guccione's assertion that he, as a 20-year employee of the NGA and a highly-placed officer there, believes that all states prohibit, by one means or another, live lure training directly conflicts with what other industry representatives state. The March/April, 1991, issue of Greyhound USA, a pro-racing newspaper, notes, "As of January 1, 1992, greyhounds may only race in Wisconsin if they were trained in a state which specifically prohibits the use of live lures during the training process. As of this writing, only a handful of states satisfy this requirement, and kennel owners and tracks may be scrambling to find greyhounds eligible to compete in Wisconsin unless a number of states revise their laws."

    Furthermore, industry representatives cannot agree on the numbers of trainer still using live lure methods. While Guccione declares that live lure training is "practically done away with" and "getting closer to zero," AGTOA's George Johnson says the number of trainers using live lures is "about a third" - adding "There is no way to really know."

    In states where live lure training is illegal, glaring infractions continue. In 1988, Robert Mendheim, one of the country's largest and most successful Greyhound breeders and kennel operators, was arrested in Florida for using live rabbits in Greyhound training. "We had video-tapes of him doing it," says Baker. "We had several law enforcement agents witness it.  Mendheim wanted a jury and he never denied he did it. But he came from Lee county, and Lee county probably has more breeding farms and training tracks in the county than any other county in the state." Consequently, a local jury acquitted Mendheim on all counts of animal cruelty although, according to Tropic Magazine, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering did suspend Mendheim's license for five years.  Afterwards, Mendheim transferred the operation to his son.

    In Kansas, a case is now pending concerning the arrest of another prominent breeder for live lure training. Says Baker, "It's alleged that the owner was breaking the legs of the animals prior to releasing the rabbits so the rabbits would squeal a lot and incite the dogs to chase them so they'd run faster. The industry is so hypocritical: [the owner] was one of the biggest promoters of artificial lures. He was taking out ads in newspapers for artificial lures and was selling them and promoting them."
     

RACING GREYHOUNDS: BRED TO RUN  OR BORN TO DIE? By Marcia King Racing Greyhounds Image


 PART TWO

    Life at the track for Greyhounds, according to the Greyhound  industry, consists of languid, almost luxurious, days of pleasant relaxation punctuated by the excitement and exhilaration of the race. Young adult Greyhounds arrive at  the track after completing training, usually at about 17 or 18 months of age. Leased by kennel operators for their entire racing careers, the dogs live in a kennel compound at or near the track until they're moved to another track or retired.  "They love the kennel life," says Gary Guccione, secretary/treasurer of the National Greyhound Association  (NGA). "The Greyhounds are kept in immaculate condition.  They are racing athletes and need to be given the best of  care, the best of feed, the best comforts in order for them to perform at maximum ability. Their kennel conditions are immaculate and their bedding is fresh clean paper or carpet."

    Adds George Johnson, executive director/secretary of the American Greyhound Track Operators Association (AGTOA), "The Greyhounds at the race track are pampered. The building [kennel compound] is normally air conditioned or heated. They have long runs for exercise. They are turned out three or four times a day in the run to relieve themselves and for exercise."

    Generally, a Greyhound will race about twice a week. Eight to twelve dogs compete per heat, with 13 heats a day being the norm, over distances ranging from 5/16ths to 7/16ths of a mile.  An individual race lasts about 30 seconds. "On the day of the race," says Guccione, "all the Greyhounds get very excited.  They're very eager and want to go to the track to compete. At race time, they're weighed in and checked by a vet who makes sure they are in good health. The Greyhounds are then blanketed and the racing muzzles put on them, then they're taken onto the  track for the pre-race parade. When it's time for the race,  the lead-outs put the Greyhounds in the starting box, all wagering ceases, the artificial lure comes around on the track, and the box pops open." After the race, dogs are tested for drugs. In years prior, Greyhounds moved from track to track following the racing season. With the advent of year-round racing, today's dogs tend to stay in one geographical area. A  dog that runs consistently may spend its entire career at only  one or two tracks, but dogs that grade up or down as their performance improves or declines will accordingly move to other  grade tracks.

    Stress and Neglect

    Unfortunately, all tracks are not of equal quality. Major tracks where dogs earn handsome purses tend to offer quality care. But lesser grade tracks where Greyhounds barely earn  their keep often care little about the animals' welfare. At the worst tracks, authorities have found dogs turned out in glass- and rock-strewn areas - or not turned out at all -, housed in soiled and infested crates, given improper food and medical care, and denied sufficient bedding. In some cases, dogs were abandoned and slowly died of starvation, lying in their own waste, their bodies riddled with parasites, because they ceased to earn adequate revenues. Even at the best tracks, traditional policies are detrimental to a dog's well-being, say animal welfarists. The standard practice of racing a dog twice weekly, all year long, for example, doesn't allow a dog time to recover from the stresses of racing.  Says Robert Baker, chief investigator, Humane Society of the  United States (HSUS), "There's a high incidence of injuries.  These dogs have massive muscular structures, so they're supporting all this weight on very thin legs. A lot of them have bad hock joints from pushing off on the first turn. They get bumped a lot in the races, they take spills, and [the industry] loses a lot of dogs that way." Many dogs coming off the tracks suffer from broken or missing toes, strained or separated muscles, shattered hocks, and broken ankles.  Despite temperature extremes, Greyhounds are still expected  to race. "Some veterinarians did a study in Arizona and  found, in a three-week period, five dogs that died from heat stroke," says Baker. "It was 106 degrees when these dogs were racing. When they race in winter, the dogs have a lot of  problems because, to keep the tracks from freezing over,  some tracks pour chemicals on the tracks which irritates the dogs' paws. These Greyhound owners don't care: They send them out no matter how hot or cold it is."

    In addition, Greyhounds are denied the socialization opportunities enjoyed by most dogs. Judith Donaldson, top breeder of AKC show Greyhounds and a member of Run or Die, an  anti-Greyhound racing group, says, "They don't want these dogs  to develop keen attachments to each other, and certainly not  to humans. They're muzzled constantly. The muzzle is taken off twice a day when they're fed."

    Furthermore, Baker adds, "Greyhounds are housed in cages their  entire existence and the cages are not all that large. If you  look at the hind legs of a Greyhound, you'll see a high percentage where their hair is totally worn off and their thighs are bare. That's from lying in these cages constantly."  Some even bear sores from constant lying around. As for proper medical attention that, too, is another story. Many Greyhound  adoption groups complain that Greyhounds are not given heartworm preventives and that many, if not most, are bothered by a variety of parasites including hookwork, webworm, tapeworm, roundworm - or worse. Says Donaldson, "A family in Lexington received a Greyhound from a Greyhound rescue organization. He came to them with heartworm and a disease called erlichiosis. It's a parasitical disease of the blood vessel which came over here when men brought dogs back from Vietnam. The owner contracted the disease from the dog, which is now long dead. The diagnosis [on the owner] was made after seven months of suffering."

    Bad Meat

    Even the meat commonly given to Greyhounds is of such suspect quality that the both the NGA and AGTOA are examining side-effects more closely. Says Guccione, "We are funding, through the American Greyhound Council, a study on the meat to see just what or if there are any risks or problems with it.  We are also working with racing commissions to encourage a higher quality of meat."

    The meat in question, which is the meat of choice for Greyhound trainers and kennel operators, is 4-D meat. Explains Baker, "4-D meat comes from animals that were slaughtered when the animals were either dead, dying, diseased, or disabled. The cows, horses, or whatever are sick and are being treated, then they die and are slaughtered. They carry those drugs in their system. The problem with this meat is the meat can be contaminated and can make the dogs ill. They buy 4-D meat because they can get it cheap." The meat can carry anthrax,  botulism, lockjaw, tuberculosis, and other diseases. Arthur  Strohbehn, DVM, member of the Iowa Public Health Commission, and former track veterinarian, says, "The meat is not sterilized or treated. It's cut up and fed to the dogs raw.  Quite frequently we'd see animals that had severe vomiting and diarrhea; the industry calls them 'blow-outs.' A lot of that was due to food poisoning. One summer, there were 16 kennels on the track and three of them were low on 4-D meat. They ordered a new batch of 4-D meat, and two days later, they had nothing but sickness in those three kennels."

    Although Guccione says that "occasionally there are traces of foreign substances" in 4-D meat, an analysis by Cornell University of 4-D meat from five different tracks revealed that procaine was found in all five samples, sulfa drugs showed up in three samples, and one sample carried salmonella. Additionally, many of the drugs in 4-D meat show up in the dogs' drug tests.  Says Baker, "Procaine and sulfa drugs are so common [in urine  tests], states will not call a positive on the drugs because they assume they got the drugs from eating contaminated  meat, even though procaine administered directly into the dog will act as a stimulant."


    Retirement

    After injuries or age ends a Greyhound's career, usually by  age 3 or 4, its post-career options are limited. Some dogs are bred, some go into pet homes, some are sold for research,  but the majority, it is widely believed, are killed. No statistics exist for the disposition of retired Greyhounds, but the HSUS contends 40,000 Greyhounds are either killed, sold to labs, or abandoned every year. While the industry  contests those figures, NGA records show 38,000 newly registered Greyhounds arrive at the track each year,  presumably displacing a like amount of veteran dogs or being culled out themselves, with, according to NGA estimates, only 6000 - 7000 going into adoptive placements: That leaves unaccounted the fate of more than 80 percent of the retired Greyhounds. With euthanasia fees costing about $15 - $25, owners or kennel operators often elect cheaper means of euthanasia such as a bullet in the brain. Some operators use more creative methods of disposal - bludgeoning,  cutting tattooed ears off and dumping them far from the track, etc. - but most experts feel those practices are not  typical. One favorite means of "retiring" a Greyhound has been to sell it for research. "Selling dogs to research labs is the ultimate," says Baker. "They got every dime out of them they could."

    Adds Donaldson, "They sell them for 40 cents a pound to lab bunchers that hang around the tracks to buy dogs. They bunch up on dogs and when they get 75 or 80 dogs, they contact the universities, the vivisection laboratories, and the chemical research labs. [Researchers] love Greyhounds because they're calm, they're tractable, they don't bark, and they have a high level of pain tolerance. They have no hair, no fat. They have a  universal blood type, a large heart, and a magnificent  skeletal system."

    Some of the dogs purchased by labs end up being blood donors - dogs from which blood is drawn for transfusions to other dogs hurt in accidents and so forth. "The labs will keep blood donors for nine months," explains Donaldson. "If they can find homes for them, they're placed. If not, they're euthanized.  The best they can do is not have them live that life too long and to care for them."

    Many states allow research sales. "In Arizona," says Baker, "it's very prevalent for tracks to sell dogs for research." But recent publicity over research sales caused some tracks to  prohibit kennel operators from delivering dogs to research labs. However, kennel operators can - and do - return the dogs to the owners, who then sell the dogs to the labs, themselves.  Although most retired Greyhounds are euthanized, more and more are finding post-career happiness in the warmth of a family, thanks to the aid of both pro- and anti-racing groups. The NGA, for example, allocated to Greyhound Pets of America $10,000 for a toll-free phone number plus gives $1000 each to GPA chapters and other rescue groups affiliated with race tracks.  In Wisconsin, state laws actually mandate that tracks provide and fund on-site adoption centers. At Wisconsin's Dairyland Greyhound Park, for example, Greyhounds accepted into the adoption program are examined by a veterinarian, given  shots and heartworm preventive, receive any necessary  surgeries or medical treatment, are spayed or neutered, groomed, and socialized. On the average, a dog is at the center one or two months before placement. Regrettably, while other rescue groups struggle to find both monies and adoptive families yet average placements of 100 dogs or more a year, the well-heeled Dairyland adoption center placed only 40 dogs in its first ten months and actually has a waiting list of families for  adoptive Greyhounds. Holly Trello, director of the Dairyland adoption program, explains, "Dairyland [track] has the very best  competition. The Greyhounds that grade off of our track go on to smaller tracks, so we don't have the numbers [of retired Greyhounds] that other tracks have. We get quite a few injured dogs that can't run but, if properly healed, will be pet sound.  We also get dogs too old to race and the Greyhounds that interfere out on the track."

    Many adoptive owners find that Greyhounds fit in well with  their new families. "Greyhounds make wonderful pets," says Joan Headland, GPA member and an owner of 17 racing Greyhounds.  "They're fantastic. Their temperament is wonderful, they get along well with children and the elderly. They're quiet, very loving, and sweet. When they're inside, they're couch potatoes.  Outside - if they see something move, they chase it." Adds Sally Allen, president of Indiana Retired Greyhounds as Pets (REGAP), "Greyhounds do better than other breeds who are  dropped as adults into a family setting." Because  Greyhounds have been raised in kennels, a careful introduction into a suitable home environment is a must for successful placements. Unfortunately, not all Greyhounds make suitable pets. "Many of them were taken away from their mothers  when they were very young, kept isolated from people and other dogs," notes Allen. Known as "spooks," these dogs are  deeply fearful and are terrified when out of their crates.  "The spooks very seldom work [in placement]," says Allen.  "They are a tiny minority."

    Rescue Groups

    Although Greyhound placement groups have saved thousands of dogs from certain death, some groups, animal welfarists claim, are actually contributing to the problem. Says Baker, "With few exceptions, they've become pawns of the industry. The Greyhound industry loves these rescue groups because it's the  greatest PR that has ever been done for them. The industry gives them some funding, and even though it's minuscule, because  they're getting funding from the Greyhound industry, the rescue groups will not speak out. In states where there are attempts to make Greyhound racing legal, these rescue operations will not come and testify to the seriousness of the surplus dogs, to stop racing. "For example," Baker continues, "in Texas, Greyhound Pets of America would not oppose legalizing dog racing even though they knew this was going to create thousands of more dogs that have to be destroyed, many more dogs than they could ever save. But they wouldn't oppose it because they'd lose their funding. In an effort to save a few dogs, they allow thousands to be disposed of. I have to question their motives. "One REGAP chapter was so desperate to justify and show they were rescuing so many dogs," Baker adds, "they were  giving these dogs to research themselves!"

    In addition, placement groups are only rescuing dogs off the track. "They do nothing for the 70% of the dogs that don't even see a race track," says Baker.

    No Solutions?

    Baker and other animal welfarists believe the only way to end the continual slaughter of countless Greyhounds is to abolish  Greyhound racing. Considering the unlikeliness of that  happening in the foreseeable future, the HSUS and others continue the battle to halt the spread of Greyhound racing into other states. "We've had some success and have kept it out of California, New York, and Illinois, three of the most populous states," says Baker. "Why do you think Greyhound racing is legal in only 19 states?" asks Donaldson. "The answer is because the rest of the states are, so far, too moral to allow it. It isn't that we have Greyhound racing in 19 states: It's that we don't have it in the rest."

    Certainly, the future success of Greyhound racing rests with the industry's ability to convince welfarists and a wary public that they are not only capable, but willing, to bring reforms and humane measures to Greyhound practices. But no answers are pending from industry experts as to how they can remove from  the sport the culling process that uses up and throws away tens of thousands of Greyhounds each year. As long as vast quantities of dogs - be it 1000 or 10,000 or 50,000 - are killed because they're too old or too slow to catch the all-mighty dollar, the blood of the unwanted still stains this industry.


    SIDEBAR:  Dirty Politics?

    These days, Greyhound racing is big  business - and getting bigger. According to the National Greyhound Association (NGA), Greyhound racing is the sixth  largest spectator sport in the US. In 1990, 29.4 million people attended races with a pari-mutuel handle of 3.4 billion dollars. Currently, Greyhounds race in 18 states (19 states  have legalized racing) on about 60 tracks. Those figures are sure to increase as the Greyhound industry continues to  press for legalization in additional states.

    As the Greyhound industry attempts to expand, the battle between  pro- and anti-racing factions grows more heated. "The  Greyhound racing industry is syndicate owned and operated,"  alleges Judith Donaldson, AKC show-Greyhound breeder and member of the anti-racing group, Run Or Die. "The way Greyhound racing gets into states is not pretty. When a state is marketed by the multi-million dollar industry, it's a monster campaign by the industry. They find legislators in states who are approached to introduce legislation [to legalize racing]. The pay-off is a job with the Greyhound racing industry, jobs for family or friends, and a greater salary."

    Money is also gained by inside information, charges Donaldson.  "As soon as the dog on the track starts losing interest in  chasing the plastic bunny, they take it off the track to a clandestine training track for seven or eight days. They'll race it on short track runs once or twice a day [where] it kills five or six animals. When it's back at the regular track, it pop, pop, pops with big money wins. The general public has no idea that Greyhound is having its first runs after blood experiences off the track. That's how the syndicate makes the big money: They know which Greyhounds are going to pop. They're hotter than hell for the lure and they will win."

    Many states, looking for quick-fix answers to budgetary woes, are eager to bring Greyhound racing and its revenues within its boundaries. And to appease their new profit-making partners,  many states do not properly prosecute track and kennel violators.

    During his two-year tenure as an Iowa track veterinarian, Arthur Strohbehn, DVM and member of the Iowa Veterinary Public Health  Commission, reported numerous state and federal law violations: lack of health certificates for inter-state dogs, no quarantine pens and abuses of quarantine procedures, open and  daily use of anabolic steroids, questionable drug testing, lack of fire extinguishers and sprinkling systems in track kennels, harmful dog food, etc.

    Appeals to the racing commission, the governor, the state  attorney general, the USDA, the state veterinarian, two  senators, and the Department of Criminal Investigations yielded naught. "When the Iowa Para-Mutuel Wagering Act was passed," explains Strohbehn, "it was set up to be self-regulated." Adds Robert Baker, chief investigator for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), "Iowa was not inspecting Greyhound racing kennels because it was too political. They didn't want to expose any cruelty at the race track because it would hurt the betting, and the state shares in the money that's bet at the race track."

    At one point, the Iowa racing commission convinced state legislators to attach an amendment to a bill exempting the Greyhound industry from state kennel laws. The bill passed unanimously in one house, but was defeated in the other house after an outcry of negative publicity.

    Kennel operators in other states also tried to exempt themselves from state kennel laws, but where Oklahoma failed, Kansas succeeded. "Greyhound kennels in Kansas - at the breeding farms, training farms, and race tracks - are all  exempt from their state kennel law. Why do they try to  amend themselves out of regulations that other commercial kennels have to abide by?" asks Baker.

    Dirty politics aside, animal welfarists also protest what they perceive as wide-spread animal neglect and cruelty. Besides culling out young, healthy, pre-track Greyhounds and live lure training methods where countless small animals are mutilated  and tortured to death, anti-racing factions argue that during a  Greyhound's career at the track, the dog will likely suffer from neglect, mistreatment, and long, lonely confinements. When the dog's performance starts to falter and it's no longer bringing in sufficient revenues, it will almost certainly be euthanized.

    "The cruelty is so inherent, there is no way you could clean it up and regulate it effectively," charges Baker. "I admit  that the National Greyhound Association [NGA] and the American Greyhound Track Operators Association [AGTOA] will not take a position anymore in support of the use of live lures, but their members work behind the scenes and publicly oppose legislation [prohibiting live lure training.] If the NGA really believes this is an archaic practice, why won't they come forward and support these bills? I find it unbelievably ironic that Gary Guccione [NGA secretary/treasurer] can fly all the way from Abilene, Kansas, to Maryland to tell [legislators] that this practice doesn't go on, but he cannot drive from Abilene to Topeka to tell their legislators the practice doesn't go on anymore so go ahead and prohibit it. The hypocrisy really incenses me about them."

    In response, Gary Guccione reports, "We haven't gone out and supported it nor have we opposed it, either. There are many elements in Greyhound racing that the NGA doesn't involve itself with."

    As far as the Kansas kennel exemptions, Guccione says it's not necessarily so. "They're regulated already by the Kansas Racing Commission and are inspected by the Kansas Greyhound Registry and they're under NGA requirements as well. They're already triple  overseen, so that's why they were excluded. The Kansas Racing  Commission is not self-regulation. That's a separate, independent government agency."

    "Our sport isn't perfect," Guccione concedes, "and there's much  that needs to be done and improved, including the animal welfare issue. But the Humane Society won't work with us.  It's amazing: We were the ones who went to the Humane Society.  We had a number of discussions with the Humane Society to see if we could work together - to solve the problems. The story we were told: 'No matter what you do, we're still going to be opposed to you.'

    "I think it goes back to a statement made seven or eight years  ago by John Hoyt, president of the Humane Society. He basically said even if we got to the point that every Greyhound that came off the track was given away as a pet and not one live lure was used in training, that the Humane Society would still be opposed to Greyhound racing on the basis that it still exploited animals.

    "Would they discontinue horse racing, sled dog racing, zoos?  Discontinue the eating of meat? I'm curious as to what else would be on their wish list. I really think their thoughts and ideas are far outside the ideas of the vast majority of the American public."

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    SIDEBAR: Adopting Greyhounds

    The quiet, gentle nature of an  ex-racing Greyhound and its strong, almost anxious, need to be loved can make it an excellent pet. But like all breeds of dogs, a racing Greyhound is not the ideal pet for everyone. Most are kennel broken, but need to be house broken. Because they've never been in the confines of a house, Greyhounds need to be introduced with care and understanding to things they've never seen or heard before - the clanging telephone, the loud tv, even the sound of aluminum foil whipping off the roll.  Greyhounds are not used to being alone, so until they adjust to more solitary quarters, they needed to be crated when the family is absent. While Greyhounds are a hardy breed, they do have  special needs. They are sensitive - sometimes fatally - to flea-products and insecticides. They have no undercoat, so outside stays should be brief during extremes of hot and cold weather. Because they are sighthounds, they should be muzzled when first introduced to small pets. The best adoptive placements occur with groups that attempt to determine a Greyhound's personality before placement, particularly if an animal is extremely shy or aggressive. Most conscientious  groups also try to educate potential adoptees on Greyhound behavior before approving placements. Policies, requirements, and fees vary among the placement groups, and even among chapters within national groups. Most have strict adoption policies and contracts. There are many placement groups throughout the US; many can make referrals to local placement organizations. Local humane societies and racetracks may also be able to refer interested parties to area placement groups. The Humane Society of the United States (202/452-1100) may also help in making referrals. The following groups are some of those that are active in rescuing and placing ex-racing Greyhounds.

    CAUTION!
    NOTE:
    SOME OF THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS OUTDATED
    .
     

    Please use our Adoption Agency Directory to find a group near you.

    Indiana Retired Greyhound As Pets (Indiana REGAP), c/o Sally Allen, PO Box 111, Camby, IN 46113, (317/996-2154).  REGAP chapters throughout the US operate autonomously.  Incorporated in 1989, Indiana REGAP is a vocal, anti-racing group that has placed 250 dogs throughout the US and Canada, but works primarily in the midwest. Refers callers to local groups.  Receives dogs from persons who have relationships with tracks and trainers (they have no direct contact with either) and from pounds. Before placement, all dogs are checked by a vet for heartworm and parasites, have had their teeth cleaned, and have  been spayed or neutered. The service is funded by adoption fees and by member contributions.

    Michigan Greyhound Connection (formerly Michigan chapter of the Greyhound Connection), PO Box 46633, Mt. Clemons, MI 48046-6633. Active since February, 1989. Has placed  about 190 dogs in the midwest. Receives dogs from Iowa  tracks via contacts there. All dogs have been examined for suitable pet temperament, are spayed or neutered, examined for  heartworm and other problems, have received health certificates, and are sent to new homes with a muzzle. Funding comes from adoptions fees and member donations.

    National Greyhound Adoption Program (formerly Delaware  Valley Retired Racing Greyhound Association), 8301  Torresdale Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19136 (800/348-2517). National placement service that ships dogs to homes throughout the country. Has placed about 100 dogs  since its founding in late 1989. Adoptive Greyhounds primarily from south Florida. Each dog has a profile filled out by either a Florida staff member or kennel operator  containing information on personality traits, physical condition, habits, etc. Dogs are vet checked for heartworm and parasites. Spaying or neutering by the organization is  optional (at an extra charge); otherwise, the new owner is responsible for sterilization. A spay/neuter deposit is collected. Costs are covered by adoption fees and the founder's personal contributions, with reduced airline transportation rate provided by USAir.

    Dairyland Greyhound Park Adoption Center, 5522 104th  Avenue, Kenosha, WI 53144, (414/657-8200). Has placed 40 dogs within its first 10 months of service. Primarily serves the  Wisconsin-Illinois area. Places dogs from Wisconsin tracks, only. Maintains personality profiles on dogs. All adoptive dogs are socialized and introduced to cats and small  animals, sterilized, checked for heartworm and parasites, given all vaccinations and booster shots, given corrective surgeries and medical treatment, have had their teeth cleaned,  been groomed and given flea baths. Clients are provided with a collar and leash, 12-inch chew bone, toothbrush kit, GPA pamphlet on Greyhound care, grooming and feeding instructions.

    Greyhound Pets of America (GPA), 102191 Leesburg  Pike, Vienna, VA 22180, (800/366-1472). Thirty GPA chapters  and sub-chapters in 41 states and British Columbia. Founded in 1987. Policies, fees, and procedures vary from chapter to chapter. Will refer callers to area chapters. Total GPA dog placement in 1990 is about 2500 - 3000 dogs. Some chapters work directly with racetracks. Requires new owners to  sterilize their dogs; spay/neuter deposit required. Support includes $10,000 allocation from National Greyhound Association for toll-free number, $1000 for each applicable chapter from the National Greyhound Association, adoption fees, member donations.

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This article originally appeared in the 9/91 & 10/91 issues of DOG FANCY magazine. Copyright 1991 Marcia King. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part is prohibited unless expressly authorized by the author. For reprint permission, contact Marcia King CIS # 73437,1730.
Photo Rendering by Dan Schmidt.
 

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