Greyhound Adoption: What Went Wrong
by Judy Kody Paulsen, Founder, Greyhound Companions of New Mexico
Greyhounds love to run, but most of all, Greyhounds love to please their human companions. And to a fault, they are loyal and willing to do almost anything asked of them. Running comes naturally to Greyhounds. But living in crates for up to 22 hours a day then being stuffed into a box from which they must lunge to chase an artificial lure was not their lot in life thousands of years ago. Once considered a breed too noble to be the “property of serfs and slaves”, the Greyhound has been reduced to a mere disposable commodity.
Purchasers of racing Greyhounds often never see the dogs they buy, and sadly the ultimate destination for them is unknown to these owners. Some owners don’t have any interest in the fate of their dogs, while others carefully keep track of the dog’s journey through the system. This is no easy feat as demonstrated by a most disturbing case two years ago wherein an Iowa man assured owners he was placing their greyhounds in adoptive homes, but in actuality was selling the dogs to a cardiac-research facility. Most owners had no reason to suspect their dogs were being used in research that ultimately concluded in their demise. This man had been a reputable racing-kennel owner for years and had given his word that the retired racers were being placed into loving homes.
Is this an isolated incident or is this the tip of the iceberg? As greyhound adoption groups proliferate, so does the problem of determining their agenda. It is easy to proclaim that compassion for the animal is their driving force, but it is equally as easy to have other motives that are not immediately apparent. Owners of racers who trust that their dogs will go to responsible adoption programs have little time (and often no motivation) to investigate the groups to whom the dogs are dispersed. Wisconsin is currently the only state that requires greyhound adoption agencies to register with state regulators. In other states, all a group has to do is say, “We find homes for retired racers”, in order to have access to the surplus of racers coming off the tracks daily.
Retired racing greyhounds are sometimes exposed to worse conditions and exploitation than what they experience in the racing industry. Most retired racers are released to adoption groups reproductively intact and capable of breeding. This invites the unscrupulous to experiment with various ways to utilize the unique qualities of the racing greyhound.
Ranchers and farmers covet the retired racer as a working dog capable of controlling the coyote and rabbit population. Built for speed but fragile, they are poorly equipped to maneuver through hole-pitted, rough terrain and barbed wire fences without incurring serious injury. These coyote-hunting greyhounds often perish during the hunt, but are considered expendable since there is an unlimited supply through the racing industry. When they are no longer useful as hunters, they are either shot or left in the desert injured to fend for themselves and die a slow, agonizing death. Ranchers and farmers with a conscience will make the drive to the animal shelter to deposit the dogs they consider useless.
The fleetness of the greyhound has attracted breeders from across the board to try their luck at the “perfect” greyhound-cross. We have seen greyhounds used to produce “fast guard dogs” when crossed with breeds such as Rottweilers--but this goal often eludes the breeder when the pups take on the famous non-aggressive greyhound attitude. We know of one greyhound that was used for breeding to a sled dog in hopes that the pups would carry the sled and owner across the finish line in record time. The breeding program was abandoned and the greyhound was sold when all the pups had the typical short, thin greyhound coat; certainly not adequate protection from the extreme cold that sled teams must endure.
Regulating adoption groups is one way to decrease exploitation of greyhounds, but eliminating the source for the dogs considered useless by the racing industry is a far more effective approach. Can the dog-racing industry police its trainers, kennel owners, track veterinarians, adoption groups, etc., and ensure the safety and humane treatment of the dogs prior to, during and after their racing careers? Thus far, it seems evident that concealing abuse and neglect in the racing industry is more prevalent than providing protection for greyhounds from the unethical practices that abound as a result of pari-mutuel dog racing.
The most recent attempt by the industry to inhibit the spread of information revealing the darker side of dog racing is to repudiate any adoption group that takes an anti-racing stance. The racing industry’s retaliation is in the form of offering funding to groups who promise to make only positive comments about the racing industry--regardless of what they may witness to the contrary. Conversely, they penalize anti-racing adoption groups who are genuinely concerned for the welfare of the dogs, by denying them access to greyhounds needing homes. They have chosen instead to crowd retired racers into often sub-standard conditions with adoption groups who adhere to their vow of secrecy in exchange for funding.
Such attempts at manipulating the public’s perception of dog-racing are counter- productive to efforts to reduce the numbers of greyhounds being destroyed. Selecting only pro-racing or “neutral” adoption groups to place the surplus of retired racers significantly reduces the chances for a large percentage of greyhounds to find homes. Over-crowding of a select number of adoption groups, kennels and foster homes where the dogs may wait extended periods for an adoptive home is simply denying these dogs the loving homes they deserve as quickly as possible.
Greyhound Pets of America (GPA), which professes to be a “neutral” (being neither pro- or anti-racing) adoption organization is the nation’s largest greyhound adoption group with numerous chapters across the U.S. This organization answers to the National Greyhound Association, the governing body of pari-mutuel dog racing. GPA President, Rory Goree, in a recent speech, proposed a plan to end “unnecessary greyhound deaths” - which leads one to wonder what constitutes a necessary greyhound death. Mr. Goree states that GPA’s mission is to ensure every “adoptable” greyhound finds a loving home, but he fails to address the reason there are so many unadoptable greyhounds produced by the racing industry and what happens to them. These statements could easily be interpreted as rhetoric designed to camouflage what the racing industry appears to ignore: No matter how many greyhounds they manage to find homes for, there will always be those who die mutilated in racing accidents; suffocate during transport; lie injured to perish in crates as a result of receiving little or no veterinary attention; and the list goes on and on.
Without a doubt, there are opposing opinions and philosophies about the humaneness of greyhound racing and what to do about it, but one question should remain at the forefront: Why should any animal have to endure any suffering before it is given the chance at having a loving, adoptive home?
Ultimately, dog-racing proponents and their associates will unwittingly reveal the terrible truth about dog racing: The racing greyhound is the loser, no matter where it places at the finish line.
(Greyhound Companions of New Mexico has been in existence since 1992. The first certified 501(c)(3) greyhound rescue group in New Mexico, our mission is to not only find homes for retired racers and other greyhounds in jeopardy, but to also educate the public about the plight of the racing greyhound. For more information about Greyhound Companions of New Mexico, visit our website at www.gcnm.org.
Reprinted from the Greyhound Companions of New Mexico publication, GCNM News Spring 2004.
In the summer issue of PETroglyphs we inadvertently left out any mention of Greyhound Companions of New Mexico (www.gcnm.org) in our resource guide at the end of the “Weekend Warriors” article. There are two greyhound adoption groups active here. The difference in the groups is their position on the practices of the greyhound racing industry.
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