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.
We already knew that Greyhounds at racetracks suffer immensely. But today, Greyhound advocate group GREY2K USA released a report that shows just how bad things are for dogs forced to race in Texas.
The report, produced with funding from the ASPCA, showed that at Texas racetracks:
• Greyhounds are forced to live in confined, stacked cages, with large Greyhounds being unable to stand fully erect in their cages. • In 2012, six Greyhounds died at Gulf Greyhound Park from a form of canine influenza, often a recurring epidemic in cramped living situations. • In 2011, a Texas Greyhound trainer failed to obtain veterinary care for an injured Greyhound until two days after the injury occurred. • Greyhounds are fed 4-D meat from diseased animals to reduce costs.
The report also showed that1,507 greyhound injuries were reported at Texas racetracks from January 2008 through December 2011. Fifty-six of these injuries were fatal or required euthanasia, with the most commonly reported injury being broken legs. Other serious injuries reported included torn muscles, puncture wounds, a fractured skull and paralysis.
Frankly, we don’t see why the Texas dog racing industry doesn’t just throw in the towel—Lone Star State residents are way over dog racing. The report shows that gambling on dog racing and dog race attendance are way, way down.
Shame on Skechers: The mega-shoe company recently filmed its new Super Bowl ad at an Arizona Greyhound track. The soon-to-be-released ad features a small French Bulldog wearing Skechers sneakers and competing against Greyhounds at Tucson Greyhound Park. The small dog wins.
Unfortunately, we know the same cannot be said for racing Greyhounds. Just last month, GREY2K USA, with funding from the ASPCA, released a report detailing the horrific conditions of race dogs in Florida. Dogs are confined in small cages for 20 hours or more a day, often wearing muzzles; they are bred excessively in the quest for good runners, with the “excess” puppies killed or otherwise discarded; and they regularly endure serious and fatal injuries. You can access a copy of the report here [PDF].
Take Action! Animal lovers across the nation are demanding Skechers pull the ad or suffer a major boycott of the company. To date, nearly 50,000 advocates have already signed a petition voicing this demand. For more information and to add your name to the petition, please visit ASPCA partner organization GREY2K USA.