In the past few years, more information about greyhound injuries has been made available to the public than ever before. For the first time, the full scope of this problem is starting to come into view:
- At Tri-State Racetrack in West Virginia, more than 3,000 greyhound injuries have been reported since 2005. At a second West Virginia dog track, more than 700 greyhound injuries were reported between January 2008 and September 2009.
- At two Arizona dog tracks, 923 greyhound injuries were reported between 2007 and 2009.
- At two dog tracks in Iowa, 530 greyhound injuries were reported between 2006 and 2010.
- At two dog tracks in Texas, 342 greyhound injuries were reported in 2008.
Sadly, these injury reports also tell the story of greyhounds who suffered and died. Dogs like Oxbow Savage, a one-year-old brindle greyhound who died after suffering a broken skull during a race at Tucson Greyhound Park on April 11, 2009.
In an effort to minimize these injuries, greyhound breeders have begun to compare the rate of injuries to the number of "starts," the total number of times a greyhound "starts" a race. The problem with using this as a metric is that a greyhound will "start" a race every few days, and over a career can "start" hundreds of times.
Thus, by using the "starts" metric, greyhound breeders can count the same greyhound over and over again. This creates the false impression that a much larger number of dogs are competing than actually are, and allows supporters of dog racing to manufacture a phony "injury rate" that is extraordinarily low.
Additionally, in using "starts" as a metric, greyhound breeders are asking the wrong question. While it may be true that the risk a greyhound faces in any given race is relatively small, that is really not the point. The real question is: what is the risk of a greyhound suffering a serious injury at some point during his or her career? If a greyhound races 99 times, and then suffers a broken skull in his or her 100th race, it is no consolation that the dog wasn't injured the first 99 times.
The fact is, greyhound injuries are the great equalizer.
Not only are champion greyhounds at risk of injury, they are more at risk of injury than other greyhounds, because they race more times. As evidence of this, take a look at the Greyhound Hall of Fame.
Since 1994, twelve greyhounds have been inducted into the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Of these, nine greyhounds, or 75%, suffered career-ending injuries. According to the Hall's official website:
- P's Rambling: "Injury forced P's Rambling into retirement."
- EJ's Douglas: "after winning the first two rounds, suffered an injury in round three that ended his career."
- HB's Commander: "HB's Commander's racing career ended when he tore his Achilles tendon at age 28 months."
- Hi There: "while training for the English Derby, Hi There went lame. It was a new beginning for the Greyhound, who was retired to stud."
- Representation: "She ran Grade A at Wonderland before an injury brought an end to her career"
- Molotov: "the 79-pound speedster then suffered a career-ending injury."
- Rooster Cogburn: "Rooster Cogburn suffered an injury that ended his astounding racing career."
- Talentedmrripley: "an ankle injury forced his retirement"
- Gable Dodge: "an injury forced his retirement."
Finally, while it should be true that champion greyhounds are more often rehabilitated, due to the fact that they can continue to generate a profit for breeders, that is not always the case. Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the tragic story of Crispin's Place, the champion greyhound who was euthanized in Texas earlier this year after suffering a broken leg.
When greyhound breeders race their dogs for profit, they do so with the knowledge that many of the dogs will suffer injuries, and some will die on the track. To these breeders, this is simply a cost of doing business.
This acceptance of greyhound injuries and death goes against the mainstream values of most Americans, and it is one reason why dog racing will end.