Thursday, November 20, 2014



While the normal life span of a greyhound is 13 or more years, the average "career" of a racing greyhound is only three to five years, beginning when the dog is about 18 months old.  I've written before about the abuse suffered by greyhounds during their racing "careers", but what about those who never get to race, or  those who are "done" racing.  

Hooray.  Many are rescued and make a new life in wonderful homes.  These are the very lucky greyhounds.  Personally, I have adopted three of these wonderful dogs and they have been my best friends.

But there are many others who are not so lucky.  These greyhounds "disappear."

Large numbers of greyhounds that retire or do not win a high percentage of races are destroyed by poisoning, drowning, starvation or being shot.   

Greyhound racing only exists by over breeding and killing large numbers of dogs, and the economic viability requires that profits be valued above welfare.  In New South Wales, Australia, Gone are the Dogs reports:

...there were 90,000 greyhounds bred in a 10 year period, with only 2552 being registered as companion animals.   The CEO of Greyhound Racing NSW admits they do not have records to show what happens to greyhounds and their “best estimate” is around 3000 being killed annually in that state. We believe that this best  “best estimate” is a gross underestimate and it is more likely 6000 killed per year – just in NSW.

At the website of John Kaye, a Greens member of the NSW Parliament we find this:

 Thousands of healthy greyhounds are disappearing each year and are presumably being killed, revealing the shocking consequences of the failures of self-regulation of the racing industry. This is in addition to the often short and brutal lives of many of the greyhounds that do go on to race, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Data from the peak Australian industry body, Greyhounds Australasia, show that between 2,165 and 3,441 greyhounds are born each year but are never ‘named’. This represents between 28.3 per cent and 38.5 per cent of all greyhounds born in the state.

Dr Kaye said: “More than 28 per cent of dogs born in NSW disappear before they are given a name and access to a racetrack.

“The awful truth of this industry is that nothing is known of the fate of more than 2,200 greyhound puppies born each year in this state.  Greyhound Racing NSW’s self-regulatory processes have created a smokescreen for the deliberate killing of healthy dogs.

“They join dogs from litters that are never registered and those who are discarded after they are named because they are two slow or are injured on the track.

“Only a tiny fraction of these ‘surplus’ dogs are re-homed. Others end up dead, often after terrifying and brutal deaths.

“Greyhound Racing NSW is refusing to take responsibility for the dogs that are not re-homed even though it is their failure as regulators that allows the death toll to continue.

“It is hardly surprising that an industry regulator that tolerates the killing of thousands of healthy dogs each year has almost no regard for the welfare of the greyhounds that go on to race and retire.

“Self-regulation of the greyhound racing industry condemns thousands of greyhound pups to be raised in conditions that make them entirely unsuitable for rehoming without massive investment in intensive rehabilitation.

“The lives of most of these dogs can only be described as short and brutal.

“Greyhound Racing NSW has allowed some breeders and trainers to run factories that mass produce physically and psychologically damaged dogs.

“This is an animal welfare catastrophe and a terrible burden for those breeders, owners and trainers who do look after their dogs and treat them with kindness and respect,” Dr Kaye said.

Recently the BBC looked into what happens to ex racing dogs.

Clarissa Baldwin, chairman of the Greyhound Forum, an umbrella group of carers, also accused the GBGB of a lack of transparency over what she terms “a gap” in the figures as to what happens to greyhounds after they retire. She described getting “a runaround” from the GBGB when seeking answers.

Daniel Foggo, the BBC reporter, said he felt greyhound racing had something to hide when the GBGB failed to answer his questions.

You bet they have something to hide.

Just this week, Wexford People reported from the British Isles:

It is known that some had been sold at a greyhound auction in Limerick, and were on the way to a new life in Spain, to be used in the hunting and racing industry. Some commentators have argued that the dogs were lucky that they didn't reach Spain: hunting dogs are not treated well there, with many being brutally killed at the end of the season by being hung from trees.

The greyhounds on the ferry died inside the van that they were travelling in: their presence had not been declared to the ferry officials, and reportedly they had been crammed into cages at twice the recommended density, with two dogs per cage, rather than one. Transport of dogs in this manner is illegal, violating European regulations on the protection of animals during transport as well as the Greyhound Welfare Act 2011. The Spanish van driver was held for questioning, but was later released. Reports suggest that he will not be prosecuted, but that his transport licence has been revoked: this is considered "punishment enough".

The greyhounds that died are symptomatic of a major problem in the Irish greyhound industry: over-production of under-performing dogs. The resulting low monetary value of unwanted greyhounds leads to the cost-cutting methods of the type used by the transporter.

There are other consequences of the low value of unwanted greyhounds. Uncaring owners sometimes just want to get rid of their dogs. Rather than going to the effort of rehoming the animals responsibly, or even paying the vet to euthanase them humanely, some people try to illegally kill the animals themselves. There have been instances of dogs being shot, beaten to death with blunt objects or drowned. One man was fined €800 in 2013 after six greyhounds were found shot to death in a quarry: apart from the fine, he received no formal sanction from the greyhound industry, and he is now back racing greyhounds as if nothing had happened.

All litters of greyhound puppies are recorded and all pups that breeders want to keep have their ears tattooed by ten weeks of age. Yet despite this tattoo identification system, many greyhounds disappear from the records every year.

Around 17000-20000 pups are born annually, with around 5000 new greyhounds being subsequently used for racing in Ireland, and over 5000 being exported to race in the UK. This leaves up to 10000 greyhounds unaccounted for: nobody knows what happens to them. If they die, and their bodies are found, their ear tattoos can be used to identify their owners. But if their bodies are hidden, or even if their ears are just cut off (as sometimes happens), nobody discovers what happened.

The lack of information about "disappeared" greyhounds contrasts with the tight control of cattle: there are over six million bulls, cows and calves in Ireland: every single one of those is accounted for from birth to death.

The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) estimates that around 1,000 of the approximately 8,000 greyhounds retiring from racing annually are not rehomed and are unaccounted for.  The Independent, UK reports:

Although the industry's governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), requires owners to register retirements and provide information on the fate of each dog, they are not obliged to provide any supporting evidence that a new home has been found. Some unwanted dogs are known to be returned to Ireland, where the majority were originally bred. 

A report to be published this week reveals that some unwanted greyhounds were sold to a university which slaughtered them and used them to teach anatomy to veterinary students. 

University College Dublin admitted buying 33 dogs last year, the report by the LACS and GREY2K USA, an American greyhound protection organisation. 

In New Zealand The Greyhound Protection League says it believes nearly 1300 dogs go missing every year.  Many believe the number is far too low.    Aaron Cross, spokesperson for the GPL says in TE Waha Nui,,

I think we are actually looking at a greater number. At one point we were giving the industry the benefit of the doubt when they took a dog out of racing for breeding.

We were writing these off as a successful re-homing. But now we are unsure about this. We think about 1295 dogs go missing every year.

We need to know how many dogs are being killed, where they are being killed and why they are being killed.

We also need independent oversight so that there is actually a body responsible for animal welfare who will take a stick to the industry when necessary.

In the USA, greyhound activists have met with increasing success in closing down race tracks.  But what happens to the dogs?

Kevin Neuman has spent many years helping greyhounds.  His organization has helped find homes for many of the gorgeous creatures.  However, he worries,

There are many ways for these dogs to disappear, to go to tracks that might be outside the country, in Mexico for example," where the dogs might be run harder and get less adequate care... 

He is right to be concerned.  As USA tracks decline, racing is growing all over the world.  Many countries are getting their dogs from U.S. breeders and tracks. 

Darren Rigg with Greyhound Adoption Center is very worried what will happen to greyhounds as more and more tracks close.  He fears there will be major dog dumps for a decade or more to come.  He told Offtrack Greyhound,

We're talking thousands and thousands of greyhounds.  All needing homes all at once.  When the Florida tracks close, which is rumored to be soon, greyhound-rescue groups and shelters will be inundated.   

Riggs like many others involved in rescuing racing greyhounds knows that while track kennel operators often say they will hold onto the dogs until someone rescues them, that does not really happen very often.  As Offtrack Greyhound writes:

What happens is the dogs disappear.  In the greyhound racing world, a few dollars a day per dog is just too high a price for a breeder or kennel operator to pay.  If rescue groups or sympathetic trainers don't get the dogs out quickly, it's too late.

I don't really have a particular article to go with all this, so I will just leave you with this from the Miami Herald.  I would also suggest you check out the website of GREY2KUSA here.


Fred Grimm

Florida allows convicted criminals to meddle in dog racing. Known animal abusers can own or train greyhounds. The state abides cheaters who pump performance-enhancing drugs and pain killers into their animals.
Not even the ghastly, now infamous discovery back in 2002 that Florida greyhound trainers were paying a farmer in Baldwin County, Alabama, $10 a head to “dispose” of aging, slow or gimpy dogs had much affect on their ability to operate in Florida.
Baldwin County authorities reported that the old farmer had admitted killing between 2,000 and 3,000 greyhounds over the years, shooting them in the head with a .22 caliber rifle, then tossing their remains into a long ditch cut across his property. “This case shows what was going on in the greyhound-racing industry in Florida,” Baldwin District Attorney David Whetstone had said. “It opens up the eyes to how sinister it was.”
But sinister didn't seem to matter all that much to the bureaucrats running the Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering. Ursula O’Donnell, one of the Florida trainers implicated in the mass extermination deal, managed to keep her license even after investigators found her signature on a check made out to the dog killer.
My colleague Mary Ellen Klas found that a long list of rogue operators have been allowed to train and own racing dogs by Florida parimutuel regulators — though the term “regulators” in that particular state agency seems to be a wild embellishment. “Abettors” might be more accurate.
Klas found records indicating one trainer had been able to obtain a license despite a conviction (and three-year prison term) for kidnapping and sexually assaulting his estranged wife. Nor did the ex-con lose his license despite recurring allegations between 2003 and 2010 that he had abused or neglected his dogs. So far he has gotten off with a $300 fine and with his license intact.
She wrote about another trainer who had been convicted of running a drug and prostitution ring (and of committing unemployment compensation fraud), who had been barred from tracks in Miami for neglecting his dogs, yet who was able to keep operating in Sarasota for another three years before the parimutuel division regulators finally jerked his license.
There were other outrageous cases. Serial animal abusers. Trainers who were caught drugging dogs numerous times. Dog trainers with organized-crime connections. Yet they were able to stave off sanctions from state regulators for years. Sometimes forever.
But the real outrage is not that the state of Florida allows twisted miscreants to work in what one might suppose would be highly regulated gaming operations but that the state still props up this shoddy, anachronistic, abusive, moribund industry.
Dog racing has fallen so much in the public esteem that the tracks could no longer survive economically without the state law requiring parimutuels with profitable poker rooms and slot machines to stage live racing. So greyhound tracks (much like the state’s equally absurd jai-alai frontons) remain open despite ever diminishing crowds.
Nationally, betting on greyhound racing (both trackside and at remote simulcast parlors) has fallen from an all-time high of $3.5 billion in 1991 to $665 million in 2012. Once, more than 50 dog tracks operated in 15 states. We're down to 21 tracks in seven states; 13 of those in Florida, where paid attendance at dog races has fallen 85 percent over the last decade. Betting on greyhound racing in Florida fell 67 percent between 1990 and 2012.
Dog racing has become such an economic absurdity that Florida now spends more on its tepid regulation — $4.1 million a year — than the state makes from its cut of the revenue – $3.3 million.
Dog track owners would be happy to either curtail or get rid of greyhound racing altogether. Last spring, Dan Adkins, who runs the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach (which, tellingly, no longer bothers to incorporate dog racing in the brand name) partnered with Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the U.S., to write an extraordinary strange-bedfellows op-ed begging the Legislature to drop the mindless, arbitrary requirement that greyhound tracks stage 90 percent of the number of races they ran back in 1997. “This mandate is bad policy and comes with a high price for greyhounds,” Adkins and Pacelle wrote. “When wagering dollars drop, so does the revenue paid to the kennel operators who provide care for the dogs. Lower revenue means there's less in the way of money to care for the dogs since the operators must cut overhead.”
They cited the mounting injuries and abuses suffered by the dogs, including a Washington County case in 2010 when a dog trainer was charged with allowing 33 greyhounds to starve to death. “We should not be forcing businesses to continue a practice that is unsustainable and not of interest to its patrons, and we should not be placing dogs in harm's way,” they wrote.
That was in March. The Legislature did not act. Nor has the governor — despite the reports that this decrepit industry harbors criminals and foments animal abuse — done much to shake his state parimutuel regulators out of their lethargy.
But the dodgy characters allowed to operate in dog racing are only peripheral players in a greater scandal. Maybe it's better described as a mystery. As in why the hell Florida insists on sustaining foul, cruel, sparsely attended, money-losing, dog-killing greyhound tracks.

Read more here:

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