Every dog has its day. This may be true for some, however, for far too many greyhounds, this is anything but something to look forward to. While dogs have remained man’s best friend, the greyhound seems to be a breed whose faithfulness, speed and competitiveness has caused it to be severely exploited by humans. The reason is the infamously popular, but thankfully declining ”activity” known as greyhound racing.
Greyhound racing may sound like a harmless event that can be enjoyed by man and dog alike. Unfortunately, this is not true. Like horse racing, greyhound racing is also, a gamble. The only difference is that the life and welfare of these hounds are not considered as important and valuable as that of horses.
There are still a couple dozen racing tracks operating in the US alone, most of those in Florida. The worst part of the story is, hundreds of greyhounds lose their lives or get severely injured during these races every year while several thousand are deliberately killed after they retire or are deemed unfit.
The Life and Death of a Racing Greyhound
Let’s just forget about death for a while. Do you know where these greyhounds are born?
There are actually specific greyhound breeding farms where thousands of pups are born each year. Of course, thousands of new athletes each year is too much for any sport. Racing greyhounds have some specific standards and criteria they must meet. However, out of thousands born every year, only a few hundred live up to those standards. What happens to the rest?
Since they are of no use to the breeders, they are all too often either killed or sold to laboratories to carry out experiments on.
Survivors and Winners
Pups that fulfill all the criteria for becoming racing dogs are raised in conditions exactly opposite to how racing horses are kept. These poor creatures live in congested kennels, in very confined crates and stay in those crates all but a few hours out of each day. Many are muzzled constantly because the boredom can cause such behaviors as chewing/biting at the wire that make up the crates/cages. In order to keep them at a racing weight, they are deprived of proper amount of food and the food they are given is generally considered to be horrendous, mostly ground up meat that is 4D. While many kennels feed their greyhounds a quality meat and vegetable high-protein diet, the standard industry feed for the racing greyhound is raw 4-D meat. The four D’s stand for animals, primarily cattle and horses, that are dead, dying, diseased or down (disabled) at slaughter. Since 4-D meat is served raw to racing greyhounds, the health hazards to the dogs range from gastro-enteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, to food poisoning and death.
Keeping the dogs clean and free of parasites is another big issue. Since it is not possible to clean up after such a huge number of dogs at the same time, ticks, parasites and fleas are many times the only companions they live with until they are ready for a race.
Unlike celebrity human athletes, race day is anything but a day to shine for the majority of these greyhounds. Every year, a large majority of dogs are pronounced retired due to injuries suffered during a race, or if they don’t show enough progress or simply because they become too old to perform at a high level. Other than broken limbs, these dogs can also suffer cardiac arrest or even paralysis during a race. Regardless of how it happens, the dogs are now expendable and their fate from that point on is a huge question mark..
But there is Still Hope for these Hounds
Not so many years ago, a large majority of retired greyhounds were killed. However, due to rising awareness and voices against this crazy and cruel industry, many retired greyhounds are saved by rescue organizations….but because they are bred in such huge numbers, with only a few of those “making the cut” there are far too many that are “culled” and it is practically impossible to find good homes for that many hounds. The only real solution is too stop the rampant breeding of these majestic creatures by an industry who only has a use for a few of them and could care less what happens to those who show no promise of making money for them.
Thanks to many different organizations and individuals, people are being made aware of and are coming to realize the sweet, gentle disposition of greyhounds and are adopting them as they are naturally loving and faithful pets. Numerous celebrities have also taken initiatives to encourage greyhound adoptions. Trent Reznor is an owner of retired greyhounds. As one of the more visible celebrities supporting greyhound rescue and adoption, in 2011 Reznor put rare collectibles from his longtime musical project, “Nine Inch Nails”, up for auction on eBay with proceeds benefiting greyhound rescue. In addition to Reznor, other retired greyhound owners include J.K. Rowling and Bo Derek.
While there certainly is a ray of hope, we need many more people need to come forward to take these wonderful creatures out of their misery.