By Dr. Becker
Commercial dog racing is illegal in 40 U.S. states. Five states no longer have live racing tracks, but no laws have banned them. This includes Texas, where a long-closed racing track is scheduled to open again in November.1
In another five states, meanwhile, dog racing remains legal, despite serious ethical concerns and physical risks to the dogs, typically greyhounds. Fortunately, greyhound racing is a declining industry, with only 18 dog tracks remaining in the U.S. as of 2016.
Public perceptions regarding the use of animals for entertainment purposes, including dog racing, has changed in recent decades and fallen out of favor. More people now recognize that the practice is inhumane and are unwilling to support the industry.
As a result, the total amount gambled on greyhound racing declined by 68 percent between 2001 and 2013, according to GREY2K USA Worldwide, the world’s largest greyhound protection organization.2
Unfortunately, in some areas where live racing has ceased, patrons still gather for simulcast gambling, placing wagers remotely on races that are occurring in other states. In 2013, 75 percent of all wagers on dog races were made by simulcast, which still supports this cruel industry.3
Hundreds of Greyhounds Looking for Homes After Arizona Ends Racing
Under new legislation, the Tucson Greyhound Park in Arizona will no longer host live racing beginning at the end of 2016. A bill, that is expected to be signed into law, is slated to end live racing in Arizona, and the Tucson track is the last one in the state.
The bill will allow Tucson Greyhound Park to continue to offer simulcast betting at the track for two more years, after which it remains to be seen whether that, too, will be shut down. In the meantime, more than 400 dogs that live at the track will need to find new homes.
Greyhounds, by the way, make wonderful pets. They’re typically easygoing and affectionate with a gentle nature. And even though they’re built to run, many greyhounds are happy couch potatoes that would love nothing more than to curl up in your warm lap.
Adopting a former race dog may come with its own set of challenges, as the dog likely spent the majority of its life in a kennel (upwards of 20+ hours a day, according to GREY2K) and will be unfamiliar with life in a loving home.
This abuse and/or neglect requires patience and care to overcome. Kief Manning, whose family adopted two of the retired greyhounds from Tucson Greyhound Park, told KGUN 9 News:4
"They're really easy to take care of because they have been so regimented in their lives that it's not hard to get them on your regiment at your house, they're used to doing what they're told …
She's [one of their greyhounds], you know, transitioning from the kennel she's lived in for her first two years of her life, but she's doing really well. They've never lived in a house before so you have to introduce them to doorways and windows and refrigerators and stuff."
The Cruel Reality of Greyhound Racing
Race dogs live lives of confinement, spending the majority of their lives in cages just big enough to stand up and turn around in. Some larger dogs may not even be able to stand fully erect.
According to GREY2K, greyhound race dogs are kept “confined perpetually” except when they’re let out to compete (a few times a month) and a few times a day to relieve themselves (for a cumulative period of three to five hours a day).5
During races, the dogs often suffer serious injuries or death. Broken legs, head trauma, electrocution and broken backs are common, and many dogs die or are euthanized as a result of their injuries. Other common injuries include severed toes, spinal cord paralysis, broken necks and cardiac arrest.6
At Tucson Greyhound Park, for instance, 462 greyhound injuries were reported in 2008, 2009 and June 2013 to October 2015. At least 19 dogs died or were euthanized during that time. Overall, nearly 1,000 racing greyhounds have died since 2008 (at least 800 of which died from injuries sustained while racing).7
Not all dog tracks report injuries, and there are also training activities and unofficial races that take place, which undoubtedly contribute to more injuries that go unreported.
Meanwhile, greyhounds are bred like objects at the 300 greyhound breeding facilities and kennels in the U.S., and while a well-cared-for greyhound may live 13 years or more, racing dogs are retired after 18 months to five years. While some of the dogs may be sent to rescue groups, others are killed or sent to breeding facilities.
Together with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, GREY2K USA released the first-ever national report on greyhound racing in February 2015, which highlights more of the disturbing realities behind this “sport.”8 From 2008 to 2015, the report revealed:
- 11,722 greyhound injuries
- 909 racing greyhound deaths (with the true number likely higher)
- 27 cases of cruelty and neglect, including dogs who were starved to death, denied veterinary care or kept in poor kennel conditions
- 16 greyhounds that tested positive for cocaine
- 80,000 young greyhounds entered the racing industry
Are You Interested in Adopting a Greyhound?
You can help to stop greyhound racing first and foremost by not attending greyhound races, including by simulcast. If you have friends and family who do so, share the realities of this cruel industry with them.
You can also contact governors in states with greyhound tracks and let them know your opinion that this is animal cruelty and should be ended. On a more personal level, you can make a difference in the life of a former race dog by adopting a greyhound into your family.
Dogs are looking for homes across the U.S., but if you’re in the Arizona area you can inquire about the race dogs being retired from Tucson Greyhound Park by contacting Arizona greyhound rescues. If you’re planning to bring one of these dogs home, also be sure you’re familiar with how to rehabilitate a previously abused animal (and seek professional help if necessary).