Animal Writes
10 January 1999 Issue

Racing Greyhounds In The News

According to the Associated Press, Derby Lane, purported to be the world's oldest
continually operating dog track, was shut down on Friday after the deaths of six
racing dogs to a mysterious disease. More than 100 young dogs are said to be
suffering from a highly contagious disease that includes coughing, internal
bleeding, bloody stools, and instant death. The race track kennel has been
quarantined, along with tracks in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Miami, Naples,
and Orlando, after an autopsy by the University of Florida College of Veterinary
Medicine. There will be no racing through at least Wednesday according to the
track's general manager. Derby Lane races about 1100 dogs each year and is
one of the largest taxpaying pari-mutuels in Florida. Prior to this incident, dog
racing had been permanently banned in 7 states, including Vermont, Virginia,
Idaho, Washington, Maine, Nevada, and North Carolina.

Statistically, each year approximately 43,000 greyhounds are bred, 12,000 are
adopted, 2,000 are kept for breeding, and 28,000 are killed - some in very cruel

Greyhound puppies are bred on large dog farms and by "backyard breeders."
Puppies who don't show promise as racers are often destroyed. Greyhound pups
are typically sent to training farms throughout the country. The dogs are often
transported in trucks for days on end. it is not uncommon for some dogs to arrive
at their final destination severely ill or dead. A lot of training farms are in Florida,
Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Many greyhounds are killed without ever having
raced at a commercial track. Of those who are fast enough to generate earnings,
many are discarded after racing only a short time - from several weeks to 18
months. Most states require that dogs cannot race beyond five years of age; few
make it that far.

To qualify to race, dogs are put into a series of races. How they do in each race
depends if they will go onto the next level. If a dog doesn't finish in the top 3
positions in 3 consecutive races, it drops a level. If it fails at the bottom level, it is
"retired" to be killed, sent to research, or adopted. Only about 1/3 are adopted.

The average track has 20 kennels, each housing 50-80 dogs, for a total of 1,000+
dogs. Greyhounds are kept at track kennels in stacked cages for a total of 18-22
hours a day. The dogs are let out four times a day in small turn-out pens.
Greyhound are muzzled in the pens because the large number of dogs often
leads to fighting. Some trainers keep the dogs muzzled in their crates for the
majority of each day Many tracks continue to use wooden crates -- perilous for
fire and difficult to clean. The wood gets soaked with urine, making sanitary
conditions difficult.

In most kennels, greyhounds are heavily infested with fleas and ticks. Adoption
groups regularly report that incoming greyhounds suffer from untreated conditions
and injuries such as missing or broken toes, broken hocks and internal parasite
infestations including heartworm, and diseases which are easily preventable in
this day and age by vaccination, such as Parvo, Distemper and Kennel Cough are
still reported. 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 out of stress and

Racing greyhounds are routinely fed raw "4-D Meat" -the meat of diseased, dying,
downed (unable to walk), or dead animals deemed "unfit for human consumption"
by the USDA. This meat often causes dogs to be ill and sometimes die in a
reaction called "blow-out." 4-D meat is used to save costs.

Greyhound injuries are common on tracks because of poorly constructed first turn
or poor racing surface. For many greyhounds, the only real exercise they receive
is during races. Their lack of muscle tone can lead to injuries and death. Often,
dogs who break a leg are immediately euthanized unless they are females that
can be bred -- broken legs don't stop breeding. Some greyhounds have been
electrocuted by rail that powers the track lure; others have died when they
became confused and ran back into the pack.

Because these dogs have such a high drive to run because of genetics and
training including live lure reinforcement (allowing them to catch and kill small
animals) they will run even with injuries.

State governments reap tax revenue from greyhound racing. The rules and
regulations of almost all racing states fail to cover humane conditions. Most
inspections and regulations apply to possible drugging of the dogs to "fix" races -
not to humane standards. Although most state governments require a state
veterinarian during races and occasional inspections, government officials have a
vested economic interest (state revenues) in keeping the number of greyhounds
killed or problems and poor conditions hidden from the public - and they do.

Since the late 1980s, there have been over 50 documented abuse cases
collectively involving thousands of racing greyhounds.

Because of the problem in Florida right now, the Greyhound Protection League is
calling for a nationwide quarantine at greyhound tracks in order to halt the spread
of the "mystery illness."

Please write a letter to the editor at the St. Pete Times and voice your concerns
about the current situation at Derby Lane and greyhound racing in general. The
greyhounds are depending on us!

Email: [email protected] Fax: 727-893-8675

Mailing address: Letters To the Editor
P O Box 1121, St Petersburg, Fl 33731

For more information on this subject, go to the following website:

Greyhound Protection League

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