By Dr. Becker
Despite rampant inhumane treatment and the growing acknowledgment that racing dogs for entertainment is ethically unacceptable, 19 greyhound tracks still operate in the U.S. Of them, 12 are in Florida — a state currently at the center of a greyhound doping controversy. Since 2008, the Washington Post reported, 62 greyhounds have tested positive for cocaine in Florida.1
This included 12 that tested positive 18 different times over a four-month period in 2017 alone. In one disturbing example, a greyhound named Flicka tested positive at least six times before the state suspended the trainer’s license — the same trainer who worked with all the cocaine-positive dogs. Regulators typically stop disciplinary action at the trainer level, but there are also kennel owners (who hire the trainers) and track owners (which often lease space to kennel owners) to take into account.
“To me, this looks like race-fixing,” Carey Theil, executive director of greyhound advocacy group GREY2K USA Worldwide, told the Post. “There does seem to be a correlation between dogs testing positive and performance … The two fastest times of her (Flicka’s) career are two races she tested positive.”2 Sadly, cocaine is only one type of drug that’s turned up in the dogs’ systems. Anabolic steroids and even industrial solvents have also been detected, as GREY2K noted:3
“In recent years, greyhounds have repeatedly tested positive for cocaine and other drugs. In December 2013, a greyhound named Rude Reuben tested positive for cocaine at Mardi Gras Racetrack in Florida. In January 2011, a local television station reported that seven greyhounds had recently tested positive for cocaine at Daytona Beach Kennel Club.
In December 2009 a greyhound trainer was fined $50 after a dog named Kiowa Fly Lucia tested positive for cocaine at Mobile Greyhound Park in Alabama. In yet another case, a greyhound named Scotty Smalls tested positive for cocaine at Orange Park in Jacksonville, Florida in January 2010. In 2014 and 2015 alone, GREY2K USA documented 81drug violations in all seven racing states.”
As Greyhound Racing Declines, Are Trainers Getting More Desperate to Earn Profits?
The fact that any greyhound racing still exists is a tragedy, but the industry is at least on a steady decline. In the early 1990s, the industry brought in $3 billion in bets annually, which dropped by 70 percent from 2001 to 2004.
The dwindling profits could be encouraging trainers to drug their dogs in an attempt to enhance their performance. Theil told the Post, “I do think that as the industry declines, animal welfare issues become a greater problem. There’s less money for the dogs’ care and more incentive to cheat.”4
Although there is no evidence that giving greyhounds cocaine will make them faster, it could lead to high blood pressure, seizures, rapid heartbeat or death. Aside from drugs, racing dogs face a host of other abuses and neglects as well. They’re typically fed a diet of 4-D meat, for instance, which is meat from dying, diseased, disabled and dead livestock, adulterated with charcoal to discourage human consumption.5
Worse, according to GREY 2K, 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). 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. And even if inhumane treatment or drugging is uncovered, “In Florida, regulators are slow to act on disciplinary matters,” GREY 2K noted. Meanwhile, greyhounds are bred like objects and discarded 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.
Support Greyhounds, Not Greyhound Racing
It’s important to note that a number of states still allow simulcast gambling to occur, in which gamblers can place bets on dog races even when no active dog tracks exist in the community. In fact, in 2014, more than 75 percent of all dog race wagers were made by simulcast or advanced-deposit wagering.8 Please understand that this, too, supports the dog racing industry and encourages the races to continue. In addition to not supporting dog racing of any kind, you can get involved by helping retired greyhounds in need.
In August 2017, a Valparaiso, Indiana rescue group announced it would need to find homes (both foster homes and forever homes) for 400 greyhounds because of the closing of Mobile Greyhound Park in Alabama. Greyhounds are easygoing, sweet animals who are patient and gentle with other dogs and children. Many even get along with cats.
Dogs who have been used to the racing circuit with lots of noise and traveling may need patience to transition into a household, but they make excellent and affectionate family pets. 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).