October 21, 2009
The Facts About Greyhound Racing
There's nothing entertaining about the greyhound racing industry
Yes. Greyhound racing constitutes animal abuse because of the industry's excessive surplus breeding practices, the often cruel methods by which unwanted dogs are destroyed, the daily conditions in which many dogs are forced to live, and the killing and maiming of bait animals, such as rabbits, during training exercises. The industry exists solely for the entertainment and profit of people—often at the expense of the animals' welfare.
Every year, the industry breeds tens of thousands of greyhounds, more than it can place at racetracks. This overbreeding is motivated by the desire to produce "winning" dogs. Thousands of greyhounds at each track are disposed of yearly to bring in a "fresh" group of dogs. A dog's racing career is usually over at 3½ to 4 years of age.
If able to live out his or her full life as a companion animal, a greyhound may live 13 or more years. Unfortunately, the industry kills greyhounds at various stages in the dogs' lives because they appear to lack racing potential or are injured. Many dogs, when they are no longer profitable, are adopted into good homes through rescue groups, but thousands are not. As with any business, profit is the bottom line; as a result, greyhounds are often destroyed using the least expensive methods, including gunshot. Reports of bludgeoning, abandonment, and starvation have also surfaced. Veterinarians humanely euthanize some greyhounds.
Racing greyhounds spend the majority of their adult lives in crates or pens or in fenced enclosures. Human companionship is limited. Many enclosures are not climate-controlled, causing the dogs distress during inclement weather.
Greyhound training activities have been known to maim and kill thousands of domestic rabbits and wild jackrabbits every year. (This estimate is based on HSUS investigations into the illegal importation of rabbits as well as the use of animals in training events.) One particular event known as "coursing" involves greyhounds chasing, terrorizing and eventually killing rabbits within fenced enclosures. Some industry representatives argue that this activity enhances the dogs' racing ability because they'll develop a "taste for blood." But greyhounds are sighthounds, not bloodhounds, and their inclination to run is instigated by a moving object, not the scent of blood. The use of live lures is not permitted in at least 16 states, but such laws are difficult to enforce.
Lawmakers initially perceived racing as a way to raise needed revenue. Most were, at first, unaware of the inhumane treatment involved. The reality, however, is that state revenue generated by dog tracks amounts, on average, to far less than one percent of a state's annual income, and has been declining markedly in recent years.
With attendance at racetracks dwindling nationwide, greyhound racing is on the decline, yet it is still entrenched in a number of states. Seven states have specific bans on live greyhound racing: Idaho, Maine, North Carolina, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. All of these bans were passed in the 1990s. Forty-six tracks operate in 15 states. Nineteen of those tracks operate seasonally, and the other 27 operate year-round. Simulcasting, which is the televised transmission or reception of a live race to or from an out-of-state racetrack or off-track betting site, takes place in two other states.
During the 1990s, the greyhound racing industry's gross betting handle (total amount wagered) declined by a staggering 45 percent. State revenue from greyhound racing in the 1990s decreased by an even greater percentage. If simulcasting monies were subtracted from the bottom line, declines would have been even greater, showing that on-track betting and live racing are sharply declining sources of income and entertainment. In the past decade, 16 tracks either closed or stopped hosting live racing. While the U.S. economy experienced unprecedented growth and prosperity during that time, greyhound racing took a nosedive. Americans are clearly voting with their wallets and consciences that they do not want any part of this business.
Gaming industry* statistics paint a bleak picture: Of the entire $61.6 billion gambling market, greyhound racing held a 0.7 percent share in 2000. That's a decline of 6.65 percent, or $32.6 million, from 1999 figures.
Because of the unavoidable economic trends, many tracks have lost enthusiasm for dog racing and, instead, are concentrating on gaming. Currently, five tracks in three states (Iowa, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) have slots, but tracks everywhere are pushing state legislatures to add slot machines, video lottery terminals, and/or some other forms of gambling to prop up their flailing dog-racing operations. A recent Orlando Sentinel article detailed how the gaming industry—which includes greyhound racing—and its lobbyists have flooded Florida state legislators with contributions, despite the electorate repeatedly voting down proposals to expand gambling in the state.
The expansion of gaming at dog tracks may improve some tracks' financial problems, but it will definitely perpetuate the misery and untimely destruction of healthy, young, and adoptable greyhounds. International Gaming and Wagering Business said, "If racing is to prove the New York Times wrong and survive in America, making new fans isn't the first priority, it's the only priority. Industries that can't recruit new customers die." In almost every state where greyhound racing exists, dog tracks are pressing for tax relief or state subsidies to survive.
No. The racing industry is inherently cruel. Greyhound racing is a form of gaming in which the amount of money a dog generates determines his or her expendability. The answer for greyhounds is neither regulation nor adoption of "retired" dogs, but the elimination of the greyhound racing industry.
Greyhounds make wonderful companion animals and are loving and responsive to human contact. Unfortunately, thousands of "retired" greyhounds are not adopted each year. Many greyhound owners use adoption programs as dumping grounds when their dogs are no longer profitable. Although The Humane Society of the United States applauds the efforts of those volunteers who give their time and money to place unwanted greyhounds in loving homes, thousands of these dogs are still destroyed each year because there are not enough homes to accept them. In 2000, an estimated 19,000 greyhounds were killed.* This includes 7,600 greyhound puppies who were farm culls, and another 11,400 "retirees" who were not rescued. Other greyhounds are either sold to research labs, returned to breeding facilities to serve as breeding stock, or sent to foreign racetracks, sometimes in developing countries with appalling track conditions.
State racing commissions exist to regulate the industry, but their primary function is to protect the state's financial interests, not to enhance animal welfare practices. The racing industry is virtually self-regulated. Unlike other commercial animal enterprises—such as animal breeding, zoos, circuses, and animal transportation via airlines—greyhound racing is not governed by the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Rhode Island—1 track
West Virginia—2 tracks
The HSUS investigates industry abuses, works to educate the public about the inherent cruelty of this industry, and initiates and supports legislation to ban greyhound racing. The HSUS believes that as long as greyhound racing continues in this country, dogs bred for no other reason than to race will be needlessly put to death. We believe the dog-racing industry has a lifelong responsibility for the adoption of every dog it breeds. This population includes not only retired racers, but also thousands of industry-bred puppies who never make it to the track because they are deemed unsuitable for racing.
*As reported by Greyhound Network News and the Greyhound Protection League