By Stephanie Ulmer on Animal Legal
Defense Fund (ALDF)
The Los Angeles Times recently reported [May 2011] that the alleged “sport” of greyhound dog racing is in steep decline in America. Animal activists have long fought for the end of such racing, citing the horrendous conditions in which most of the dogs are kept. The article discusses how “the dogs are kept muzzled in small cages, fed inferior food, injected with steroids and frequently injured at the track.” It is well-known that greyhounds love to run and exercise, and breeding and keeping the dogs for racing does not usually allow them to do what they love most.
There have also been numerous instances of blatant animal cruelty and unnecessary killing of these majestic animals. One such case in point is one from last fall in which dozens of dead dogs were found at an Ebro Greyhound Park kennel in Florida. Waltonsun.com reported that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office initially charged greyhound race trainer Ronnie Williams with 37 felony counts of cruelty to animals (the count was later raised to 42) following state investigators’ discovery of at least 30 dead greyhounds in his kennel in October 2010. He later pled not guilty to the charges. Five suffering and emaciated dogs were also taken from the kennel alive, and they survived and recovered after receiving proper nutrition and care. Unfortunately, this is but one of the many examples of the horrendous treatment that these dogs face because of racing.
Photo: John Tlumacki
Positive signs of the decline:
- In 2001, there were 50 greyhound tracks in 15 states, and now there are only 25 tracks in seven states, with 13 of them in Florida. That state was “once considered the hub of dog racing.”
- Throughout the country the amount gambled on greyhound races dropped from $3.5 billion to $1.1 billion between 1991 and 2007.
- There are probably fewer than 300 greyhound farms today, down from as many as 750 in the 1980s, at the peak of greyhound racing.
- One greyhound track in Arizona once drew 3,000 bettors a day, but now maybe 50 or 60 people per day visit the park.
Some have attributed the decline in racing popularity to the rise in the variety of betting and gambling options now available, ranging from lotteries to casinos to slot machines. Maybe that’s true, but maybe there has also been a collective epiphany by the people, who, after seeing the effects of racing, are now collectively saying, “This is bad. I am going to stop patronizing these tracks, and give these dogs their lives back.” Wouldn’t that be something? Getting the word out seems to have indeed made a dent in this situation.
However, unbelievably, some track owners have faced resistance while trying to close their operations. “Iowa's two track owners want to call it quits, but can't because they were allowed to build casinos or gambling halls on track grounds on the condition they keep the races running,” according to the posting. “The track owners have offered Iowa $10 million a year for seven years for permission to end the races, but the Iowa legislature would have to change the law that made casino operations contingent on the tracks' existence. ... And measures introduced in the Florida state legislature would allow some tracks to close there as well, but the Florida Greyhound Association opposes the proposal,” arguing that it could lead to the loss of jobs or small businesses.
There may still be obstacles, but we have come a long way since the days when greyhounds were being trained to race using small live animals (1970s). This is an urgent battle we need to continuing fighting, as there is always the possibility that as the money continues to dwindle so will the dogs’ living and breeding conditions. Only when racing is outlawed in all 50 states will the greyhounds truly be safe. Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia residents can take action by contacting your lawmakers.