Can we all agree that confining dogs in small cages for 20 to 23 hours a day, almost every day, is cruel?
True, this confinement doesn’t meet legal definitions of cruelty, but, legal or not, most of us who love dogs know that this is wrong. Yet this is the way of life for the thousands of greyhounds who are forced to race in this country’s greyhound industry.
Greyhound racing only occurs in seven states, with the majority of greyhound tracks located in Florida. This week, GREY2 USA, with funding from the ASPCA, released a report detailing the horrific conditions racing greyhounds are subject to in Florida. You can access a copy of the report here [PDF].
Racing greyhounds are in their cages nearly all the time. They are fed “4-D” meat, which means meat that comes from dying, diseased, disabled and dead livestock deemed unfit for human consumption. Their owners feed them this raw meat simply because it is the cheapest available, and they don’t even bother to cook it to destroy the bacteria.
Florida does not require its greyhound racing facilities to report injuries to the public, but we have documentation of dogs with broken legs, backs and skulls; dogs who have died of seizures after racing; dogs who have died of heart attacks; and a dog who was electrocuted. Racing dogs have repeatedly tested positive for drugs such as cocaine.
While the dogs suffer every day as part of this industry, few people even seem to notice. Attendance at greyhound races has dramatically declined through the years, and tracks actually lose money on the dogs. But since Florida law won’t permit dog track owners to continue gambling operations at those tracks unless those tracks hold dog races, the races continue.
Two bills (HB 641 and SB 382) are pending in Florida that would remove the requirement that dog tracks offer live greyhound racing in order to also offer card games or slots. If you live in Florida, please contact your legislators to ask them to support this legislation.
Every year, thousands of young and healthy Greyhounds are euthanized because they are no longer deemed worthy racers. ASPCA staffer Lauren discusses adopting her Greyhound rescue, Lewis.
When my 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. Having both grown up in the country, we were partial to larger breeds. On a whim, I searched for large-breed dogs that are suitable for apartment living. Much to our surprise, Greyhounds were the most recommended! It was my understanding that these dogs required extensive exercise, but as it turns out they have two speeds—45mph and sleeping.
The Search Begins For the next three weeks, Grant and I did nothing but research everything Greyhound related! The more we learned, the more we fell in love with the breed. We eventually found a rescue group that served NYC and got in touch with a wonderful volunteer named Linda. Two weeks later, she 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!
Our Boy 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 (obsessive) 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. When we got Lewis home, he quickly conquered the stairs and felt right at home in our modest Upper East Side apartment.
Today, Lewis is the absolute love of our lives. Because of his size and gentle nature, he has also become a bit of a celebrity in our neighborhood—working his way into the hearts of everyone he meets.
A video released this week by Greyhound advocacy group Grey2K USA shows horrifying injuries incurred at the Tri-State Racetrack in Cross Lanes, West Virginia—highlighting the suffering of racing dogs across the United States.
“According to newly obtained state records, at least 3,208 greyhound injuries have been reported at this track since 2005, and nearly 200 dogs have died. Further, it’s likely that the actual number of injuries is even higher, as the state still refuses to produce several months of records,” Grey2K said in an email to supporters.
Grey2K Executive Director Carey Theil told West Virginia’s Charleston Daily Mail that "in terms of the raw number of injuries, this is the largest we have seen for a single track by far."
Though ASPCA racing specialist Ann Church called Tri-State Racetrack’s injury record “appalling,” she emphasized that the injuries were not at all uncommon. “This is what happens at all Greyhound racing tracks, and that is why we are making the end of racing a priority within the ASPCA.”
Shocking undercover video footage recently released by GREY2K USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending Greyhound racing nationwide, clearly depicts muzzled greyhounds confined to small, stacked cages in dark rooms for extended periods of time. The video, filmed in August 2010 at Arizona’s Tucson Greyhound Park, also confirms that the dogs are fed meat from diseased animals to reduce costs and are denied proper exercise and human interaction.
The Tucson Dog Protection Act, passed in 2008, mandates that dogs housed at Tucson Greyhound Park be let out of their cages for at least six hours per day and cannot be fed raw, diseased meat. The ASPCA has taken immediate action, demanding that the city of South Tucson ensure compliance with that law.
“As disturbing as this video is, it’s sadly not surprising,” says Ann Church, ASPCA Senior Director of Government Relations. “The footage only underscores what we already know: Greyhounds endure lives of terrible confinement. The ASPCA is grateful to GREY2K USA for capturing these inhumane conditions and raising awareness about the inherent cruelty of dog racing.”
In 2010, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire passed laws prohibiting Greyhound racing, and 25 Greyhound tracks have closed in the U.S. since 2001. The ASPCA urges Arizona legislators to follow suit and outlaw dog racing in their state.
“Greyhound racing is a dying industry nationwide,” says Church. “There is nothing entertaining about dog racing when you know that these animals are suffering.”
On Wednesday, April 14, the New Hampshire State Senate voted nearly unanimously to pass the Greyhound Protection Act (House Bill 630) to permanently ban the racing of Greyhounds in the Granite State. The bill had already passed the state’s House of Representatives in March, so it now goes to Governor John Lynch, who is expected to sign it into state law.
Thanks for this legislative victory are due in part to the New Hampshire-based members of the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, who sent 267 emails to their state senators urging support for the act, and to Senator Sheila Roberge, who took the Senate floor to tell the tragic story of Amber, a Greyhound who lost her life in a violent track accident. Amber was one of nearly 1,200 dogs injured while racing in New Hampshire between 2005 and 2008—these injuries included broken legs, paralysis, cardiac arrest and head trauma.
The ASPCA opposes dog racing, which is an inherently cruel form of entertainment. Racing dogs are confined for 20 hours or more a day in small cages, often wearing muzzles; they are bred excessively in the quest for good runners, with the “excess” puppies killed or otherwise discarded; they suffer from inhumane transportation as they’re shuttled from state to state for racing purposes; and they regularly endure serious and fatal injuries.
The nine states that have banned dog racing are: Maine (1993), Virginia (1995), Vermont (1995), Idaho (1996), Washington (1996), Nevada (1997), North Carolina (1998), Pennsylvania (2004) and Massachusetts (2008, effective 2010). For more information about the plight of racing Greyhounds, please visit ASPCA.org/dogracing.