Years ago, greyhound race tracks were a big draw. This was a way for people to gamble legally before the riverboats came into existence. I didn’t go to the tracks because I heard about how horrible the greyhounds were treated. It broke my heart. I would hope that with time and education, treatment of these dogs would have improved, so where is greyhound racing today?
Where is Greyhound Racing Today?
THE HISTORY OF GREYHOUND RACING AND ITS POPULARITY
The history of greyhound racing began with “coursing” where the dogs pursued live rabbits. Greyhound racing began in the United States in 1912. Owen Patrick Smith invented a mechanical hare that greyhounds could chase on a track. His initial intentions were humane. Smith wanted to stop the brutal killing of rabbits. With this invention, Smith was able to open the first professional track in 1919 at Emeryville, California.
The sport quickly caught on in Britain by 1926. Brigadier-General Critchley and Sir William Gentle raised £22,000 to start the Greyhound Racing Association. Within a year there were forty tracks in operation throughout the United Kingdom.
GREYHOUND RACING APPEALED TO THE WORKING CLASS
Greyhound racing had wide appeal. Working class men were drawn by the excitement of the tracks. The opportunity for pari-mutuel betting was appealing to them. The racetracks were easily accessible since they were in urban areas. This was a good way for men to blow off steam after a hard day’s work, not to mention the possibility to make some extra money.
WHERE IS GREYHOUND RACING TODAY?
Over the years greyhound racing has become less popular due to the revelation of cruelty that goes with racing. Due to the outcry from humane groups, greyhound racing is now illegal in 40 states. Revenue from greyhound racing has dropped 70% from 2001 to 2014. Since fewer people are going to the track, dog trainers are becoming desperate. This desperation may lead to more abuse of these poor dogs.
GREYHOUND RACING TODAY HAS A DRUG PROBLEM
In greyhound racing today there are only 19 tracks in the United States compared to 60 tracks in the 1990s. What is left of the industry is overshadowed by a cloud of darkness. In July, the Washington Post reported that in Florida, where most tracks are located, there were 12 greyhounds that were found to have cocaine in their blood. Cocaine is toxic to humans much less these innocent dogs. Officials from the National Greyhound Association perform urine tests on dogs to check for doping. Any dog that doesn’t have a urine test cannot be raced.
Each dog has a trainer and the trainer is responsible for that dog. If the dog has traces of drugs in its urine, the trainer is subject to criminal penalties and loss of his state racing license. He will also be banned from racing by the National Greyhound Association.
During a four-month period, there were 18 occasions where these 12 dogs tested positive for cocaine. With no regard to the dog’s health or well-being, the main goal of dog racing for these trainers is making money.
THE HEALTH OF THE GREYHOUNDS IS A BIG CONCERN
Rescue groups have brought attention to the health of racing dogs. Many rescued greyhounds come with baggage. These poor dogs are subject to kennel cough, tooth decay, and parasites. There are requirements that the dogs have regular vaccinations and veterinary care. That costs money and the trainers are more concerned about their income. Once a dog has reached the age of four their racing career wanes. By the age of six dogs are taken off the racetrack and either kept for breeding, killed, or if they are lucky, relinquished to a rescue group.
GREYHOUND RESCUE GROUPS SAVE THOUSANDS OF LIVES
Thankfully over the years, many rescue groups have stepped in to take these “throw away” dogs and find them good homes. Before rescue groups took the retired greyhounds, there were as many as 20,000 dogs killed each year. In greyhound racing today that number has decreased to around 2000 thanks to these wonderful people.
While working with the rescue group Animals Best Friends, I’ve met and seen several of the dogs rescued here with KC REGAP (Retired Greyhounds as Pets). These people do amazing work and the dogs are so incredibly sweet and gentle. One look at their quiet demeanor and sad eyes will melt your heart. I just can’t understand treating them the way the racing industry does. People who have adopted these wonderful dogs have nothing but good things to say about them. In spite of their racing history, many seem to be cuddlers and want to be couch potatoes.
The humane community has been working since the 1980’s to end greyhound racing. GREY2K USA Worldwide has been working since 2001 to pass laws against racing and encourage adoption of greyhounds. They work to educate people, pass greyhound protection laws, and boost adoptions. Thanks to groups like KCRegap and GREY2K USA, these sweet, gentle dogs have hope for the future.