The greyhound racing industry treats dogs like machines. For the few minutes that they spend on a track during a race, they will spend many hours a day confined to a cramped cage or kennel. Countless numbers of greyhounds die each year—some in the name of “selective breeding”—before they ever touch a racetrack. Dogs start racing at 18 months old, and many don’t make it to the nominal “retirement” age of 4 or 5.
According to statistics compiled by GREY2K USA Worldwide in its 2015 report “High Stakes: Greyhound Racing in the United States,” more than 80,000 greyhounds were registered to race between 2008 and 2014. An average of between 500 and 1,000 dogs at a time are required in order to operate a racetrack. Sickness and injuries claim the lives of many dogs. Since 2008, more than 11,700 greyhound injuries have been documented nationwide, including heart attacks, heatstroke, electrocution, fractured skulls, broken necks, and more than 3,000 broken legs. Until recently, Florida, which is home to more than half of the nation’s tracks, wasn’t even required to report greyhound injuries to the public. This means that the total number of injuries is undoubtedly far higher.
In addition, nearly 1,000 greyhound deaths have been documented since 2008. In Florida alone, state records show that, on average, a greyhound used for racing dies every three days. Some recent examples of greyhound deaths include the following:
- In April 2014, the skull of a 1-year-old greyhound named Colt Maximus was crushed in a training race at Wheeling Island in West Virginia.
- A 3-year-old greyhound named LNB Night Mare was electrocuted after she collided with another dog and fell into the electrified rail during a race in March 2014 at Tucson Greyhound Park in Arizona.
- In September 2013, a 1-year-old greyhound named Kells Crossfire was euthanized after she hit the rail and broke her neck at Gulf Greyhound Park in Texas.
- In July 2013, a 3-year-old greyhound named Scotty’s Buzz was euthanized after sustaining a severe spinal injury during a race at Dubuque Greyhound Park in Iowa.
Although they’re extremely sensitive to heat and cold, likely because of their lack of body fat and their 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 may be drugged in order to improve performance, and females are injected with steroids in order to prevent them from going into heat. Even cocaine has been found at greyhound racetracks. Since 2008, 16 dogs in Florida and Alabama have tested positive for cocaine. One Florida trainer had his license suspended after three dogs in his care tested positive for cocaine.
Other dogs die during transport from one racetrack to another. It’s common 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 providing air conditioning. The backs of the trucks may reach temperatures in excess of 100 degrees on a summer day—deadly conditions for animals who can’t 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” often aren’t much better. Some puppies have their dew claws amputated without any anesthetics. The dogs may spend up to 20 hours a day in cages 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 malnourished.
Since 2008, at least 27 cases of greyhound abuse and neglect have been documented, including situations in which dogs were denied veterinary care, starved to death, or kept in inadequate kennel conditions. In 2010, investigators acting on a tip discovered 32 dead greyhounds at the Ebro Greyhound Park kennel in Florida. The dogs had been starved to death. Greyhound trainer Ronald Williams was charged with felony cruelty to animals in the case and sentenced to five years in prison. In West Virginia, a greyhound named Kiowa Dutch Girl broke her leg on the morning of March 4, 2013, and was left to suffer in her cage for four days. A kennel worker described the leg as “bleeding, dangling” and admitted that she had been left in her cage “panting [heavily]” in pain for days.
What Happens When Dogs Don’t Win?
Some “retired” greyhounds are put up for adoption, others are sent to breeding farms, and the fate of the remaining dogs is unknown. The National Greyhound Association, which registers all greyhounds for racing, doesn’t keep track of the dogs after they leave the track. Executive Director Gary Guccione admits that there are “[n]o cumulative annual records” of the ultimate fate of dogs used for racing.
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 in the early 1990s, a greyhound who was not fast enough was taken from her crate and placed on a wet floor in the middle of a room full of partying racetrack employees. A man then shoved a metal wire into her rectum, attached an alligator clip to her lip, and electrocuted her. Witnesses said that it wasn’t the first time that a 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.”
Some trainers teach greyhounds to chase and kill live animals 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. In 2011, a Texas greyhound trainer named Timothy Norbert Titsworth was caught on video using live rabbits to bait greyhounds. Titsworth, who surrendered his license, was initially charged with cruelty to animals, but his case was later dismissed.
Help and Hope
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 that racing season is over, hundreds of dogs at a time are immediately in need of placement. Although adoption helps, the only way to 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, in which bets are placed on human competitors.
Between 2001 and 2012, the total amount of money gambled on greyhound races nationwide declined by 66 percent. Some states prop up dog racing with subsidies and requirements that casinos hold live races. Florida is actually losing money on greyhound racing—$42 million in one 18-month period—because regulatory costs exceed revenues.
Dog racing is illegal in 39 states but continues in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia. There are currently 21 dog tracks in those seven states. However, even states that have banned dog racing may still permit off-track or satellite wagering as well as the breeding of dogs used for racing. In an attempt to revive dog racing, some state legislatures and lobbyists are rewriting gambling laws to allow the tracks to install slot machines and video lottery terminals. GREY2K USA Worldwide is lobbying for legislation to put an end to greyhound racing and has compiled an extensive report available online.
What You Can Do
- Help educate racing supporters by leafleting at a local track. Even if your state has banned greyhound racing, it probably has breeding kennels that supply dogs to other states.
- Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers explaining why it’s vital that we put an end to this cruel “sport.”