|Animal Defenders of Westchester||
We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.
Animal Defenders of Westchester
Campaigns Greyhound Racing: Death in the Fast Lane
Greyhound Racing: Death in the Fast Lane
The natural speed and grace of greyhounds have been exploited for human benefit since the days of the ancient Egyptians. The dogs have been used for centuries in hunting and coursing events, but the advent of modern dog racing at the turn of the twentieth century caused greyhound breeders and racetrack proprietors to think of this breed as a mere commodity.
Greyhound racing continues to be big business, bringing millions of dollars in revenue to the 15 states that still allow it. Today, however, the cruelty of the industry is finally being exposed, and thanks to the resulting public outcry, there has been a decline in the number of spectators who are attending greyhound races. Unfortunately, these financial losses may be contributing to poor track conditions, which have caused a marked rise in animal injuries at some tracks. (1)
Alabama Man Kills Thousands of Greyhounds
In May 2002, the remains of approximately 3,000 greyhounds from Florida racetracks were discovered on the Alabama property of a former racetrack security guard who had been "retiring" unwanted greyhounds with a .22 rifle for more than 40 years. (2) The attorney for the accused, who faced up to 10 years in prison on felony cruelty-to-animals charges, said, "If there’s anybody to be indicted here, it’s the industry because this is what they’re doing to these animals. The misery begins the day they’re born. The misery ends when my client gets a hold of them and puts a bullet in their head." (3)
The Alabama greyhound massacre made it more evident than ever that racing greyhounds are treated as "running machines," produced in quantities that require the disposal of surplus dogs and dogs who are injured, old, or deemed too slow or no longer profitable.
Winners and Losers
Thousands of greyhounds are killed each year as the declining dog-racing industry struggles to stay alive. Some puppies are killed in the name of "selective breeding" before they ever touch a racetrack.
Dogs who do qualify to become racers, at around 14 to 17 months of age, typically live in cages and are kept muzzled by their trainers at all times. Many exhibit crate and muzzle sores and suffer from infestations of internal and external parasites. Although they are extremely sensitive to temperature because of their low body fat and thin coats, greyhounds are forced to race in extreme conditions— ranging from subzero temperatures to sweltering heat of over 100 degrees.
Few dogs make it to the nominal retirement age of 4 or 5. Injuries and sickness—broken legs, heatstroke, heart attacks—claim the lives of many. Others—such as Randad, a dog in Alabama—are victims of track machinery. Randad jumped onto the lure rail, was electrocuted, then became entangled on the mechanical lure. (4) Another dog, Tune Me In, suffered for 30 minutes before being euthanized after he was badly cut by a mechanical lure at a Florida track. (5)
At one track in Iowa, more than 100 dogs were injured and 18 died during the first nine months of the year 2000. The track’s general manager defended his track by claiming that "top-notch dogs run harder and are more injury-prone." (6)
Still other dogs die during transport from one racetrack to another.
It is industry practice to carry up to 60 greyhounds in one truck, with two or three dogs per crate, and to line the floor of these "haulers" with ice rather than providing air conditioning. (7)
The backs of these trucks reach temperatures in excess of 100 degrees on a summer day, deadly conditions for animals who cannot sweat to cool themselves. In 2002, several greyhounds died on a truck during a 100-mile trip between Naples and Miami. (8)
Conditions for the animals "at home" are often not much better. A Massachusetts man was charged with cruelty after 10 greyhounds at his farm were found to be severely dehydrated and suffering from malnutrition. (9) Heatstroke killed 53 dogs in a West Virginia trailer that had been converted into a kennel; the air conditioning malfunctioned, and the owner did not open any windows or turn on a fan. (10) Most dogs who slow down and become unprofitable are either killed immediately or sold to research laboratories.
In 2002, a former greyhound kennel owner and an assistant faced felony charges for selling more than 1,000 greyhounds for medical experiments. They claimed to be running a greyhound "adoption agency." (11) Some unwanted dogs suffer further cruelty. In one such instance at Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Greyhound Park, a female greyhound was taken from her crate and placed in the middle of a crowded room on a wet floor, then a man shoved a metal wire into her rectum and attached an alligator clip onto her lip, and she was then electrocuted. Witnesses said that it was not the first time that a race dog at the park had been killed in this way. (12) The state of Idaho has since banned live dog racing.
Other Animal Victims
Midwestern farmers who use greyhounds to kill coyotes in the winter have begun to race the dogs during the summer, using dead coyote skins as lures "to keep their dogs in shape." (13) In live-lure training, greyhounds are encouraged to chase and kill rabbits who are hanging from horizontal poles so that the dogs will chase the inanimate lures used during actual races. Officially, the industry now frowns upon the once-sanctioned practice of using rabbits, guinea pigs, and cats as bait for live-lure training, but the method continues to be used.
Ronald Floyd was prohibited from running dogs at Oregon tracks in 1999 after he allowed six dogs to die of heatstroke inside a van, but he was not prohibited from breeding the animals. Investigators had to find a dead rabbit in his driveway following yet another greyhound death at his farm in 2002 before the commission finally pulled his license to race, train, and board dogs. (14)
Later that year, the Arizona gaming commission suspended the license of a trainer who was caught attaching live rabbits to the "whirligig" that greyhounds chase around the track. (15) One Massachusetts breeder says that she sends her 1-year-old greyhounds to Oklahoma for six to eight months "where they learn to race by chasing jackrabbits."
Help and Hope
Greyhounds are usually gentle, quiet, and friendly, and some lucky dogs are placed in caring homes. Reputable adoption groups, funded by donations and staffed by volunteers, save as many retired greyhounds as they can. There are more than 200 greyhound rescue groups in the U.S., the U.K., and Western Europe. The Greyhound Protection League www.greyhounds.org organizes adoption programs throughout the U.S. and distributes information about the racing industry.
Although adoption helps, the only way to ultimately end the abuse of greyhounds is to put an end to racing. The industry is slowly dying because of competition from casinos and a lack of interest from younger gamblers who are looking for games with faster action.
At Oregon’s Multnomah Greyhound Park, less than $11 million was wagered in 2002, compared with $25 million in 1995. (17) The Washington Post noted the dwindling numbers of breeders, bettors, and purses and concluded that "the sport has declined so sharply even its aficionados see no real hope for its revival." (18)
Dog racing is illegal in 34 states but continues in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. (19) Even states that have banned live dog racing may still permit off-track or satellite wagering and the breeding of racing dogs. In an attempt to revive dog racing, some state legislatures and lobbyists are rewriting gambling laws to allow the tracks to install slot machines and video lottery terminals.
GREY2K USA www.grey2kusa.org is lobbying for legislation to put a stop to greyhound racing.
You can help to educate racing supporters by leafleting at a local track. Even if your state has banned greyhound racing, it is likely that it has breeding kennels that are supplying dogs to other states.
Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers explaining why it’s vital that we put an end to this cruel and useless sport.
1)"Injuries to Dogs Increase at Dairyland," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 May 2003.
2)"Ex-Pensacola Security Guard Admits Killing Greyhounds," Associated Press, 22 May 2002.
3)Buddy Bracken, National Public Radio, 31 May 2002.
4)Benjamin Niolet, "Greyhound Death Spurs BRC Change," The Birmingham News, 29 Jun. 2000
5)Charlie Whitehead and Becky Wakefield, "Greyhound Group Files Complaint Against Track After Dog Injured During Race," Naples Daily News, 10 Mar. 2000.
6)William Petroski, "Greyhounds Die at an Alarming Rate," Des Moines Register, 3 Nov. 2000.
7)Luisa Yanez, "Inquiry Launched in Death of Dogs—Greyhounds Likely Died From Heat," The Miami Herald, 13 Aug. 2002.
9)Michael Jones, "Charges to be Sought in Greyhounds Case," The Boston Globe, 9 Feb. 2000.
10)Amy Gareis, "Heat Stroke Kills 53 Greyhounds in West Virginia Kennel," The Wheeling Intelligencer, Jul. 2000.
11)Associated Press, "2 Charged in Deaths of Former Race Dogs," 1 Jan. 2002.
12)J. Todd Foster, "Slow Greyhounds Electrocuted on ‘Hot Plate,’ Trainers Say," The Spokesman Review, 17 Sep. 1995.
13)Kristi Wright, "The Ancient Tradition of Racing Finds a Contemporary Counterpart on the Plains of Nebraska," Omaha World-Herald, 15 Oct. 2000.
14)Stuart Tomlinson, "Eagle Creek Man Loses License to Raise Greyhounds," Portland Oregonian, 27 Jun. 2002
15)Mary Jo Pitzl, "Dog Breeder Gets 60-Day Suspension," The Arizona Republic, 15 Nov. 2002.
16)Judith Gaines, "Down to the Wire of Greyhound Racing …," The Boston Globe Magazine, 5 Nov. 2000.
17)Tomlinson, "Dog Racing Struggles to Stay on Track," 8 May 2003.
18)Andrew Beyer, "Greyhound Racing: A Sport Gone to the Dogs," The Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2000.
19)National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, "Greyhound Facts," 2003 www.ncalg.org/GreyhoundFacts.htm
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