The greyhound racing industry treats dogs like running machines. For the few minutes that a dog spends on a track during a race, he or she will spend many hours confined to a cramped cage or kennel. Thousands of greyhounds die each year—some in the name of "selective breeding"—before they ever touch a racetrack. Few dogs make it to the nominal "retirement" age of 4 or 5.
Sickness and injuries—including broken legs, heatstroke, and heart attacks—claim the lives of many dogs. During a three-year span, almost 500 greyhounds were injured while racing on Massachusetts tracks. Although they are extremely sensitive to temperature because of their lack of body fat and thin coats, greyhounds are forced to race in extreme conditions—ranging from subzero temperatures to sweltering heat of more than 100 degrees. Three dogs were found dead of heat exhaustion in August 2007 at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club in Florida.
Greyhounds are drugged in order to increase performance, and females are injected with steroids in order to prevent them from going into heat. Pregnant dogs do not race at the desired speed, and sterilization would prevent potential "winners" from being bred. In addition to legal and illegal steroids, cocaine has been found at greyhound racing tracks across the country. The same dog at a Massachusetts racing track was found to have cocaine in her system two years in a row, and a Florida trainer had his license suspended after three dogs tested positive for cocaine. Claims were made that the three dogs had ingested the drug "by accident."
Other dogs die during transport from one racetrack to another. It is common 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 provide air conditioning. The backs of these trucks reach temperatures in excess of 100 degrees on a summer day—deadly conditions for animals who cannot sweat in order to cool themselves. Several greyhounds died on a truck during a 100-mile trip between Naples, Florida, and Miami.
Conditions for the animals "at home" are often not much better. The dogs can live in cages for up to 20 hours a day and are kept constantly muzzled. Many dogs have crate and muzzle sores and suffer from infestations of internal and external parasites. A Massachusetts man was charged with cruelty to animals after 10 greyhounds on his farm were found to be severely dehydrated and suffering from malnutrition.
Most dogs who slow down and become unprofitable are either killed immediately or sold to laboratories for experiments. In 2003, a former greyhound kennel owner was fined and jailed after netting hundreds of thousands of dollars from selling more than 1,000 greyhounds for medical experiments after fraudulently guaranteeing their adoption.
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. A man then shoved a metal wire into her rectum, attached an alligator clip onto her lip, and electrocuted her. Witnesses said that it was not the first time that a race dog at the park had been killed in this manner. The state of Idaho has since banned dog racing.
In 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-caliber rifle for more than 40 years. 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 ahold of them and puts a bullet in their head."
In live-lure training, greyhounds are encouraged to chase and kill live rabbits who are hung from horizontal poles so that the dogs will also chase the inanimate lures used during actual races. While the industry now officially frowns upon using live animals for training, this method is still used.
Reputable adoption groups try to save as many retired greyhounds as they can, doing their very best to place them in caring homes. At individual tracks all over the country, the moment racing season is over, hundreds of dogs at a time are immediately in need of placement. Although adoption helps, the only way to ultimately end greyhound abuse is to put an end to racing.
The greyhound racing industry is slowly dying as awareness of its cruelty grows and because of competition from casinos and poker rooms. There is a marked lack of interest from younger gamblers, who are looking for games with faster action, such as jai alai in Florida, where bets are placed on human competitors.
Dog racing is illegal in 35 states but continues in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. (A few states don't have tracks, so they don't have any racing.) GREY2K USA is lobbying for legislation to put an end to greyhound racing and was instrumental in a victory in Massachusetts, where it will be phased out by 2010.
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