What's all the fuss about? Greyhound racing's not so bad, right? Wrong. Here I try I dispel some of the myths propagated by people to justify the greyhound racing industry...
pro racers say: If it were not for greyhound racing there would be no greyhounds.
I say: Wrong. Greyhounds have existed for thousands of years before the relatively recent advent of commercial greyhound racing. Like all other domestic dogs, greyhounds were originally bred to serve a practical function to humans - they were bred to hunt & equipped with keen eyesight & fast speed to enable them to do so effectively. I am not saying that I think greyhounds should be used for hunting in this modern age - Far from it! I think that, just like other dogs whose traditional purpose was herding, guarding, fighting & hunting, greyhounds should now be kept first & foremost as pets, with owners using knowledge & understanding of their original function to inform not only the way they rear & train their dogs but the way in which they enrich their dogs' lives to fulfill their primitive needs.
Tricks for Treats dog bandana by thedoghouse
featuring rescued sighthound Max &
modeled by ex racing greyhound Sandy -
pet greyhounds can enjoy fun activities like agility
pro racers say: Greyhounds love to run.
I say: Granted, greyhounds do love to run, but give them the choice of running free with their friends at a beach or park, at a pace & in a direction of their choosing, or bolting around a track with steep (dangerously steep - many greyhounds sustain fatal injuries on them) bends in pursuit of an unreachable dummy, & I think I know which one the dogs would prefer.
Born to Run (NB not to race) vest top by thedoghouse
featuring rescued ex racing greyhound Molly
running free, as it should be
pro racers say: Greyhounds enjoy racing.
I say: Whilst there may be an element of truth in this, many greyhounds likely find the environment they are forced to race in pretty stressful - the bright lights, the noise, the inappropriately warm or cold temperatures. However, given that they are usually confined to crates or kennels unless they are racing some of them are bound to enjoy the relative freedom of running on the track. If they could comprehend that their very lives depended on how fast they ran do you think they would enjoy it then? Greyhounds who stop making their owners money are 'retired' from racing. That's the nice way of putting it. The reality is that for many greyhounds this means death. For the lucky ones it means more time spent in kennels whilst an adoption agency tries to secure a home for them, followed by months (sometimes years) of stressful experiences as they adjust to living in a world that is alien to them, a world beyond kennels & race tracks.
I say: At best, greyhound owners/trainers treat their dogs to the very minimum quality of life necessary to sustain them long enough to propel themselves along the tracks & win them money. Racing greyhounds receive next to no enrichment or socialisation as puppies, are actively encouraged to chase (sometimes using live bait), crated or kenneled for up to 23 hours a day, & risk physical injury every time they run around the track (& many dogs are euthanised for very treatable injuries which would have no impact on their future life as a pet, but deem them unprofitable in terms of racing).
However, lets suppose, hypothetically, that all trainers did take good care of their dogs. Would that mean that racing them was alright then? I don't think so. Even the best cared for dogs would still be cast aside whenever they stopped winning/earning their humans money & traded in for a newer, younger, faster 'model'. Some trainers do at least place their dogs with adoption agencies instead of culling them, but many don't bother & instead dispose of the dogs themselves, at the hand of a vet's needle if they are lucky, or by dumping them alive/dead or somewhere in between the two if they are not so lucky.
Greyhound Safe puts it simply -
they advocate an end to greyhound racing
In order to meet the 'demands' of the racing industry for fast, keen (willing to chase the lure) dogs, many thousands of dogs are bred who are surplus to requirement because they don't 'make the grade'. Many greyhounds are culled as pups if they are from an accidental mating or show no propensity to chase (it doesn't make financial sense for trainers to expend money on a dog who will not make you them money in return), there is a further huge cull at around 18 months when the dogs are first trialed for racing, & by 5 years of age almost all greyhounds are past their peak fitness & will no longer be racing (despite greyhounds having a natural lifespan of around 12 years). So even if all trainers/owners treated their dogs well whilst they were racing I would still have a problem with greyhound racing.
rescued ex racing greyhound Sally -
all greyhounds deserve to live long enough for their muzzle to go grey
I say: True, there are shades of grey (no pun intended) here. Not all trainers are equal & some take better care of their dogs than others. Some even profess to love their dogs, & perhaps in some sense of the word they do - perhaps their dogs make them happy, they may go to pains to make sure they are in optimum physical condition for racing, they may even shed a tear as they hand them over to an adoption agency at the end of their 'career'. But to me loving something is being prepared to put its needs/welfare before your own, & I have yet to meet a trainer can say this about the dogs that they race. Regardless of any affection felt for their dogs, all people who race greyhounds are deliberately exploiting these animals for their own financial gain. There is no benefit to the dogs themselves comes from racing, only to the greedy people who make money from them doing so.
featuring much loved rescued ex racing greyhound Dennis
pro racers say: Banning greyhound racing would force it 'underground'.
I say: Underground where? A racing track is not something which could easily be hidden - it requires a considerable amount of outdoor space & I find it a bit preposterous that people think they'd be able to somehow hide this from the eyes of the law. In this sense legislation banning greyhound racing would be much easier to enforce than that pertaining to for example dog fighting, which is (sadly) able to continue hidden away behind closed doors.
At the Gate photo greetings card by thedoghouse
featuring rescued ex racing greyhounds Molly, Torres & Max -
there are greyhounds behind gates all over the world
waiting to be rescued & set free
pro racers say: There are plenty greyhound adoption groups that can find homes for all the dogs when they're done racing.
I say: Greyhound adoption groups worldwide are inundated year after year with dogs that are surplus to the requirements of the racing industry. The vast majority of these groups are completely volunteer run i.e. people using their own time, skills & finances to rescue, rehabilitate & re-home these dogs. They receive no salary & little government funding. The trainers & owners of the dogs who make money from the dogs racing typically contribute nothing to this process, other than the dogs themselves. Sadly it is just not possible to save every dog, even the ones who are handed over as opposed to dumped or disposed of by the trainers themselves. Additionally there are a significant portion of dogs who arrive in rescue with serious physical &/or behavioural issues, which make finding suitable, safe homes for them hard & sometimes (sadly) impossible. It is not enough simply to continue to rescue greyhound after greyhound that has been purpose bred to race. The cycle of using these dogs as disposable commodities needs to end, &, just like all other breeds of dog, greyhound deserve to be born & live their whole lives as family pets. That is why adoption on its own is not enough & does not do these dogs justice.
featuring rescued ex racing greyhound Torres
waiting for his forever home