We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do… Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace. ~Albert Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization
A Dying Industry
In November 2008, when the citizens of Massachusetts voted in favor of legislation to phase out greyhound racing by 2010, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) President and CEO Wayne Pacelle stated that this action “…marks the demise of an industry that exploits dogs for entertainment and profit.” On November 12, 2009 at atown hall meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, Mr. Pacelle commented that, despite Florida’s position as the number-one greyhound racing state in the U.S. with more than 1/3 of all tracks in the country, “The good news is this is a dying industry” and that HSUS is strategically “working to decouple racing and other forms of gambling”.
The first greyhound track in the U.S. opened in Hialeah, Florida in 1926 and within two decades, dog racing had become South Florida’s biggest tourist attraction. Today, although dog racing is illegal in 34 states, the greyhound industry breeds tens of thousands of dogs each year, adding to the pet overpopulation problem for the sake of profit.
Profit with a Price
On average, racetracks keep over a thousand dogs in warehouse-style kennels, confined in small crates up to 20 hours a day, often muzzled, with little human contact. Transportation between tracks can lead to dehydration, exhaustion and even death as dogs are hauled in cramped conditions, often in unventilated aluminum trailers or rental vans. According to Care of the Racing Greyhound, an industry handbook, the primary sources for meat used to feed greyhounds in the U.S. are “…abattoirs that have commercial products of 4-D meat for Greyhounds,” adding, “The ‘D’ stands for dying, diseased, disabled and dead livestock … this meat is used because it is the most economically feasible at this time.” This is surely no way to treat “man’s best friend.”
Did you know…?
• Greyhounds have only one coat of hair, making them virtually shed-free, odorless and less likely to trigger allergies. Their gentle demeanor makes them great pets
• Greyhounds are less likely than other breeds to have many of the common ailments associated with purebred dogs
• Greyhounds can see for up to a half-mile, can spot a black cat in the dark at 300 yards and have peripheral vision of up to 270 degrees.
• Greyhounds are the only breed of dog mentioned by name in the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31). They also appear in the writings of Shakespeare and Chaucer
• Greyhounds were so esteemed in medieval England, the law allowed only noblemen to own them
In recent years, numerous incidences of greyhound cruelty, abuse and neglect have been well-documented in the media. Grey2K USA, a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending greyhound cruelty, states, “Thousands of dogs are seriously injured each year at commercial racetracks, including dogs that suffer broken legs, cardiac arrest, spinal cord paralysis and broken necks.” The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) reports, “When greyhounds do not run profitably, due to injury or age, they are of little use to the racing industry… The ‘fortunate’ ones are killed humanely. It is common for losing dogs to be shot, abandoned, or even sold for medical experimentation.” In 1992, prompted to action after the discovery of a “killing field” in Chandler Heights, Arizona where nearly 150 racing greyhounds had been shot, killed and later mutilated in order to prevent identification, Joan Eidinger began publishing Greyhound Network News. According to GreyhoundNetworkNews.org, Ms. Eidinger estimates that approximately 600,000 greyhounds were killed between 1986 and 2006. In 2002, a former Florida dog track employee named Robert Rhodes was charged with animal cruelty when the remains of 3,000 greyhounds were found on his property in Lillian, Alabama. Rhodes admitted that, for over 40 years, he profited from shooting dogs to death at the request of racing dog owners, sometimes earning $10 per kill. The Greyhound Protection Leaguereports, “Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone described the grisly crime scene as a ‘Dachau for dogs.’”
Racing dog owners have demonstrated that they will go to any length to win races. Grey2K USA has found that some racing dogs are given performance-enhancing drugs. They report, “In 2002, Wisconsin state officials secretly filmed a greyhound trainer injecting 11 dogs before races with a foreign substance they believed to be boldenone, an anabolic steroid derived from testosterone. In a separate case, 119 dogs tested positive for cocaine at Florida racetracks between 2001 and 2003.”
Help and Hope
Once revered as royalty by the ancient Egyptians (greyhounds were pictured on the peacock feather fans in King Tut’s tomb) but now used as slaves by the gambling industry, greyhounds deserve better. Numerous organizations throughout the U.S. are working tirelessly to end the cruelty, and you can help.
Through theGreyhound Project, Adopt-A-Greyhound.org provides a world-wide directory listing hundreds of organizations, such as South Florida-basedFriends of Greyhounds, that engage in rescue and adoption of retired racers. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offers helpful information on their website and suggests writing letters to the editors of local newspapers to educate the public. ARFF suggests avoiding greyhound tracks and spreading information to friends, family and coworkers, urging them to follow suit.
Fittingly and finally, an industry responsible for so much unnecessary suffering and death is itself dying.