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Stop Dog Racing

Superb Greyhound Segment Airing on HBO

Superb greyhound segment airing on HBO till December 9 -- please send thanks:  . That is the general HBO feedback page.  You'll see a pull-down menu headed "Choose a topic" from which you can choose "Real Sports."

At the top of the show, when Gumble gave his overview of the various segments, this is how he summarized the greyhound piece: "When racing greyhounds hit the track they are literally running for their lives, because, all too often, the also-rans are put to death."

The story was the first segment on the show. Here is Gumble's introduction:

"We begin tonight with a fairly disturbing look at what happens to racing greyhounds when they are not fast enough to turn a profit on the track.  In a perfect world these retired greyhounds would be allowed to run free in open fields when their racing days are done. But that scenario is far too idyllic. In the real world there are too many dogs who can't cut it on the track, and too few places for them to go. And that's an equation with deadly consequences."

Henry, one of the nine greyhounds found starving at a Massachusetts breeding farm in 2000

You might notice that Gumble's script said "who can't cut it" when referring to the dogs, rather than "that can't cut it," which would be more common language.  Throughout the piece, Bernard Goldberg, the correspondent, also consistently uses the word "who" or "he" rather than "it," to refer to a dog.

The piece begins with shots of greyhounds in training, muzzled, racing after a mechanical rabbit. We learn that greyhounds are raced on 46 tracks in 15 states and that a dog can win $200,000 in one big race, making it big business for the breeders.  And we hear that 33,000 greyhounds are bred around the country each year.

Goldberg says: "The fastest ones are money making machines, but the slower ones grade off, as they put it, being sent to lower and lower tracks until they can't compete any more. So what happens to a greyhound when he reaches the end of the line, when he is not winning races any more and not making money for his owner? The good ones, the ones with champion blood lines, go back to the farm for breeding, to make more champions. Others are put up for adoption to live out their days with families across the country. But for the rest, the washed up athletes with no place to go, the news isn't nearly so good. They are the ones who are "put down," to use the delicate terminology, "killed" in plain English."

And then viewers saw something I have never seen on television before: a

close-up of a dog -- a beautiful white greyhound -- being killed by lethal injection, then dumped in a trash bag.

Goldberg interviews Susan Netboy of the Greyhound Protection League  She says, "There are thousands and thousands and thousands of greyhounds killed every year....The excess of dogs in intrinsic to the racing industry. You've got an eight dog race, one primary winner.

There have to be losers. There is no competition if their aren't losers."

Goldberg asks, "If the dogs aren't making money, if they are not winning races, I don't want to be cold about it, but they are of no use to the people who own and train the dogs?"

Netboy nods and says, "Unfortunately."

There is an interview, with darkened face and electronically disguised voice, of a man who worked as a breeder and trainer for ten years. He says, "The lingo, the talk in the kennels is, 'If a dog is not running, take it out back and kill it.'  It is just a business. They don't even consider them animals, they consider them gaming machines. They are breeding enormous amounts of greyhounds every year to get the one dog that they feel is going to go out there and win."

Goldberg explains, "Killing racing dogs humanely, euthanizing them, is perfectly legal in most states as long as it is done by a licensed vet. But not everybody plays by the rules."

Greyhound euthanized at Massachusetts shelter

Then we are shown the farm where the remains of 3,000 greyhounds, who had been shot in the head, were dug up in 2002. We see close-ups of the decaying bodies of the dogs.

Goldberg tells us that advocates say dogs are commonly shot, clubbed or even electrocuted and "since it is happens on private property... the dogs simply disappear with no official record of what happens to them."

We hear about "kill trucks going out the back door of the track."

Goldberg asks what a kill truck is and Netboy responds: "It is a truck jam-filled with dogs going to a remote location to be killed."

Then we see another groundbreaking sequence. Goldberg narrates as we watch:

"On a tip, Real Sports went to a veterinary clinic ten miles from a track in Alabama. At seven in the morning trailers began pulling in and the dogs were taken off the trucks." (They are gorgeous dogs, looking happy to be off the trucks, tails wagging.) "Look at the dog on the left, the light greyhound with the brown spot on his back. The dogs are walked behind this fence. And less than three minutes later, the light greyhound with the brown spot is thrown into a dumpster." (We see his dead body getting tossed in.) "What we don't now is exactly how the dogs are put down behind the fence. We do know that over the course of thirty minutes, sixteen dogs were disposed of, and it is all legal."

Goldberg interviews Gary Guccione, director of the National Greyhound Association who says that the industry is trying to save as many greyhounds as it can and that 85% of greyhounds coming off the track are being adopted or going back to the farm for breeding careers.

Netboy, however, says that yearly around 17,500 are killed. Guccione says that is ridiculous, that the number is more like 3,500. I think the average person watching HBO Real Sports would be shocked to learn that the most conservative, highly biased, estimate of how many unwanted greyhounds are killed every year as a result of the racing industry is 3,500!

Bridget Cooper, another greyhound rescuer, is interviewed. She says "The moment I set up an adoption hall and get thirty dogs out, a week later the racetrack owners call again and say we need more dogs out."

Goldberg explains that far too many dogs are being bred in the hope of getting that one superstar. He says to Cooper: "No matter how you cut it, this is a business, and if the dog isn't generating revenue, the dog isn't winning races we don't want you. This sounds like any other athlete, if you don't produce for us on the field, you are out."

And at the close of the segment, she answers, "But he lives. He can find a different job. A greyhound cannot."

Revealing the life of a racing greyhound, towards the end of the segment we have seen shots of greyhounds living in small individual cages, muzzled.

The segment is followed by the following discussion between host Bryant Gumble and correspondent Bernard Goldberg.

Gumble: "Mr. Guccione, speaking of his critics, told you they are trying to shut down the industry, is that true?"

Goldberg: "For some of them it absolutely is.  Some of them don't want any greyhound racing because they say it is cruel to the animals --they are kept in cages all day when they don't run. So for some critics, not all, it is true."

Gumble: "At what age do the owners of these greyhound typically give a thumbs up or a thumbs down on their future?"

Goldberg: "Well, when the dogs are about eighteen months, that is when they start running. It takes a little while to see if they win any races and the thumbs up or thumbs down is based on one thing and only one thing: Do they win races? So a little after that."

Gumble: "What kind of pets do they make if they don't make it on the track."

Goldberg: "If you can catch 'em, they make very good pets. These dogs have been running all their lives. They like to just hang around. They are like couch potatoes. And there are thousands and thousands of them right now, tonight, that need to be adopted. If anybody is interested they can go on the Internet and find an adoption center near where they live."

Gumble: "Yeah, but that applies to a lot of other dogs, non greyhounds also. And on a regular basis aren't we euthanizing dogs by the hundreds of thousands year in and year out?

Goldberg: "Millions. Dogs and cats, about three to four million a year. The difference here is that the greyhounds are bred and the question is, are they over bred -- is that why we have too many who need to be put down."

I don't think anybody with any affection for dogs, and that is the majority Americans, could have watched the segment and been left with the feeling that greyhound racing is a good thing. Please, using the link I provided above, thank HBO Real Sports. And catch the segment if you can. Below are the listings I found on line, but my local channel (Adelphia Los Angeles) tells me it will air tonight, Dec 1, at 8:30 on HBO East, so check your local listings.

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