Update: The response to our petition to end Greyhound racing in the U.S. has exceeded our expectations—it garnered 100,000 signatures within its first week and is officially one of the top 100 active U.S. petitions on Change.org. Please help us keep the momentum going for these suffering dogs: add your name and let’s hit 200,000 signatures!
This post was originally published on February 11, 2015.
The ASPCA and Greyhound-protection group GREY2K USA yesterday released “High Stakes,” the first-ever national report to comprehensively document the current state of the Greyhound racing industry in the United States.
The eye-opening report [PDF] includes devastating data on the number of deaths (909) and injuries (11,000) suffered by racing Greyhounds from 2008 to 2014—however, these are just the verifiable, reported figures. Along with Alabama, Florida, which is home to more than half of the nation’s active dog racing tracks, does not require Greyhound injuries to be reported at all.
"People don't realize how treacherous the life of a racing Greyhound dog is—broken legs, skulls, backs, severed toes, electrocution, even cardiac arrest because of the stress," says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. "We want people to understand these aren’t dogs playing in a dog park—they are literally running for their lives."
Once their racing days are over, some dogs are killed, others are put into breeding programs, and a relatively small percentage are fortunate enough to be placed for adoption—but no one knows where the vast majority of the estimated 80,000 Greyhounds born into dog racing have ended up.
Due to declining attendance as the public grows increasingly outraged by this “sport,” gaming operations are losing tens of millions of dollars by operating racetracks. States are losing money, too, because it costs more to regulate Greyhound racing than it generates in tax revenue. “This cruel ‘sport’ continues to exploit Greyhounds despite public outcry and overwhelming financial losses,” says Perry. The seven states with active tracks are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia. By contrast, 39 states have passed outright bans on dog racing.
In conjunction with the release of High Stakes, the ASPCA and GREY2K USA are urging state legislators to bring an end to this inherently cruel sport.
You can help—please visit www.change.org/highstakes to sign our petition to the governors of the seven racing states asking them to support an end to dog racing.
By Matt Bershadker, President & CEO of the ASPCA, and Christine A. Dorchak, Esq., President of GREY2K USA Worldwide.
It’s always appalling to see animals abused and betrayed for profit, especially when the activity is legal and defended as a “sport.” That’s the reality of Greyhound racing, but the reasons this detestable industry still exists defy not just our humane values, but common sense as well.
The cruelty and trauma these dogs suffer is undeniable, and is spotlighted this month in the first-ever national report on Greyhound racing, created by GREY2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The culmination of more than 13 years of research, this report reveals systemic and shocking abuse to dogs caught up in a dying, poorly regulated industry. Greyhound racing benefits a tiny group of cruel breeders at the expense of the more than 10,000 Greyhounds that enter the racing industry each year. As our report shows, this antiquated and unpopular activity also costs taxpayers millions of dollars.
Racing Greyhounds are kept for 20 or more hours per day in warehouse-style kennels. To reduce costs, the dogs are fed raw “4-D” meat from diseased animals. Confined in stacked cages barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around, large Greyhounds can’t even stand fully erect for most of the day.
When let out of their confinement, the dogs’ health and lives are placed in even greater jeopardy. Since 2008, over 80,000 Greyhounds have been registered to race and nearly 12,000 racing-dog injuries have been documented, including more than 3,000 broken legs … plus broken necks, crushed skulls, paralysis, seizures and death by electrocution.
At least 909 racing Greyhounds died between 2008 and 2014, 758 of them from injuries. In Florida alone—which takes advantage of having no law requiring tracks to report Greyhound injury statistics—a racing dog dies, on average, every three days.
Greyhound racing continues in seven states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia—and in each one, Greyhound cruelty and neglect have been verified, including at least 27 troubling cases since 2008. Sixteen Greyhounds tested positive for cocaine during this period. One particularly gruesome situation involved a Florida kennel operator who walked away when the racing season ended, leaving 42 Greyhounds to die of starvation, some with their mouths taped shut.
In March of 2013, a two-year-old Greyhound was left to sit in her cage for four days after breaking her leg in a training race at the Wheeling track in West Virginia. Aspirin and a makeshift wrap were the only “treatment” she was given. Thanks to an anonymous tipster, “Kiowa Dutch Girl” was found, shaking in her cage and unable to stand, and ordered to receive medical care. Both trainers fled the jurisdiction in order to avoid criminal prosecution.
This level of wanton cruelty and disregard is reminiscent of some of the worst atrocities people commit against animals for the sake of profit—including dog fighting. But unlike dog fighting, dog racing is completely legal in these seven states.
You might assume there must be a compelling, if heartless, state or social interest that keeps Greyhound racing active in these states. But there’s none.
The public doesn’t want it. Since 2000, both the number of states with legalized racing and the number of racetracks in operation have been more than cut in half, largely because the public cannot tolerate the cruelty inherent to this activity.
The states don’t really want it. State governments often spend more to regulate the sport than they get back in revenue. In Florida—where more Greyhound races are run than in any other state—the state loses between $1 million and $3 million each year on dog racing, because regulatory costs exceed revenues.
It’s no wonder that racetrack owners—tired of losing money on costly and poorly attended races—also want out of the industry. But in most of these states, live racing mandates require racing licensees to keep the dogs running in circles, even when nobody’s watching. In Florida, for instance, 12 dog tracks lost $42 million on racing between June 2012 and November 2013. During that same time period, every Greyhound track in the state lost money on racing. These tactics are designed only to keep Greyhound racing practitioners and breeders in business, with absolutely no regard for the animals' welfare or the best interest of the public.
With racing dog breeders and trainers putting up a tough fight to protect their own interests, this abhorrent activity continues. But it can end immediately if the governors of these seven states take decisive action against animal cruelty, even when it takes place in a legal operation.
Please sign our petition to urge Governors Bentley, Ducey, Hutchinson, Scott, Branstad, Abbott and Tomblin to follow the humane lead of all other states, and put a long-overdue end to the national shame of Greyhound racing.
Stopping animal cruelty is difficult enough when it’s done in secret, but when it happens legally and out in the open, ending it can be just as challenging. A tragic case in point: Greyhound racing, a cruel and senseless “sport” that not only kills or injures thousands of dogs every year across the country, but loses money for the places that operate them. State governments are often losers too, having to spend more to regulate the sport than they get back in revenue. Florida alone lost between $1 million and $3.3 million on Greyhound racing in 2012.
So why is this abomination still in business? Because for some, Greyhound racing is still big business.
Greyhounds begin their lives on breeding farms, where only a select few actually become racing dogs. Unwanted pups, those who assessed as unfit for racing, are killed or sometimes sent to laboratories, which use them in experiments. Those chosen for the sport spend most of their lives stacked in double-decker cages in warehouse-style kennels for 20 or more hours a day. Most of the areas Greyhounds are kept are not heated or air-conditioned, causing many to suffer during severe weather temperatures. Many also suffer from fleas, ticks and internal parasites.
While this is enough for most states to turn their back on the ugly practice, Greyhound racing still exists in seven states. More than half of all active American tracks, 12 of 21, are in Florida, where a ridiculous law requires gambling institutions to maintain and run dog racing facilities. You read that right: If you want to run a gaming institution in Florida, you must, by law, race dogs as well. More about that oddity in a moment, but first know that when these dogs are sent out to race, many are actually sent to their deaths.
Making use of a recent Florida law requiring that dog track deaths be reported, the Greyhound protection group GREY2K USA, with ASPCA help, put out a report last month revealing that 74 racing Greyhounds died at 10 different racetracks in Florida over the last seven months of last year. Put another way, from June to December, a Greyhound died from a racing-related injury every three days.
And only two months into 2014, there have already been an astounding 18 deaths at Florida Greyhound tracks. If this shocking rate of deaths continues, Florida tracks will have more than 100 Greyhound deaths by the end of the year.
Causes of Greyhound deaths included including fatal injuries suffered during or after races, and heat stroke. Fifty-one of the dead Greyhounds were under three years old; the two youngest dogs were both 17 months old. These majestic, perfectly healthy, gentle and loving animals were essentially run to death.
Of the 21 active dog tracks in the U.S., more than half (12) are in Florida. Florida law requires dog tracks to report all racing-related deaths, and an analysis of these death notifications from 2013 reveals that on average, a Greyhound died from racing-related injuries every three days in Florida last year.
With assistance from the ASPCA, Greyhound protection group GREY2K USA created a report, “The Final Lap,” that summarizes last year’s devastating deaths at Florida’s tracks. The report was released today at a joint press conference held in Tallahassee, during which ASPCA Vice President of State Affairs Ann Church and several state legislators called for the passage of a bill to protect Greyhounds.
Watch GREY2K USA’s new video on dog racing in Florida:
If you live in Florida, you can help—please visit aspca.org/FLgreyhounds to urge state lawmakers to eliminate the mandate that requires gaming facilities to hold dog races.
The life of a racing Greyhound is often short and painful. Every year, thousands of young and healthy Greyhounds are euthanized because they are no longer deemed worthy racers, but some of the lucky ones make it to Greyhound rescues. ASPCA staffer Lauren discusses adopting her Greyhound, Lewis, a racing survivor.
When my then-fiancé, Grant, and I began looking for a dog, we assumed that we would need to narrow our search to smaller breeds because of our NYC lifestyle. On a whim, I searched for large-breed dogs that are suitable for apartment living. Much to our surprise, Greyhounds were the most recommended! We fell in love with the breed.
A volunteer from an NYC Greyhound rescue visited our apartment with a spotted, male Greyhound who had recently retired from the industry. While this gentle giant had some difficulty climbing the stairs to our apartment, once inside he had no problem exploring every inch—all 400 square feet!
When Linda left that day, Grant and I looked at each other and without words knew we had found our dog. We called Linda the next day and arranged to pick him up. Being an avid Formula 1 fan, Grant decided to name our new dog Lewis after Lewis Hamilton, the race car driver. Considering his retired profession, I found it quite fitting.
Learning about Lewis
As we fell more in love with Lew, I started researching his past. Like all racing Greyhounds, Lewis has ear tattoos: his birthday and litter number on one side, his ID number on the other. I typed his ID number into a registry and learned he’d participated in 40 races and won eight. He raced until he was nearly three, which is a long career. I also learned he’d raced at Ebro Greyhound Park. He was pulled from Ebro in September 2010; in October 2010, an owner at the same track was arrested after 30 dogs died from starvation.
At the track, Lewis lived in a stacked cage, only coming out four times a day: twice to go to the bathroom and twice to train. When we met Lewis, he was fearful, really underweight and had flea dermatitis—but that’s really good shape compared to how many Greyhounds come out of the industry. It took three weeks for his personality to come out. But when it did, it was hysterical—Greyhounds are hysterical—he was lying upside down, sneaking on the couch and sneaking onto our bed. It made me think this was likely the first time his personality was allowed to shine.
Lewis made himself at home in our NYC apartment right away, but shortly before getting married, Grant and I moved to the house in the suburbs. Lew loves the new space, and he’s got a dog bed on each floor. He loves car rides—any time we go on any errands he comes along and adores it. Lew lives for the tennis ball and will jump eight feet in the air for it. He spends weekends playing in our backyard and at the neighborhood park.
Lewis loves children, and that’s why we’re really excited for him to meet his new little (human) brother or sister in the next month! We think he’ll be a great big brother. He just turned six on Earth Day. It’s cheesy, but I always say his birthday makes sense, since he’s my whole world.