I have volunteered off and on for more than a decade in the service of transitioning Greyhounds from the track to happy homes. It is a worthy cause, and one that I gladly undertake, but it is a never ending endeavor. From helping at the kennel, to running the web properties, it is a fulfilling and rewarding experience. It has also taught me a lot about the hounds, and the enterprise that creates so many greyhounds to be placed.
Like many exploitive industries, the dog racing industry has some issues. There is a lot of infrastructure to get the hounds from their litters to the track, from breeders to kennel operators, and trainers, all with an agenda. However, at the end of the day, the product, hounds racing and being bet on, is a for profit endeavor. Winners are treated well, average hounds survive, and the losers? Well, that isn’t worth thinking too much about.
The reality is that once a dog stops earning enough money at the track to cover its costs, it is expendable. If it is lucky, it will go to a local rescue group who will spay or neuter, do some health work (teeth cleaning, deworming, etc), and work them until they are fit for being a companion animal. The unlucky ones are either euthanized, or donated to veterinary schools. (Sadly, this latter fact is why there are many veterinarians who are well versed in treating Greyhounds.)
The problem is that far too many litters are bred each year. As the popularity of dog racing declines, there are fewer and fewer tracks. Yet the breeders still continue to put out litter after litter of puppies, all in search of the next champion. Since there is almost no market for purebred greyhound puppies outside of the racing kennels, this means that more and more are culled earlier in their lives – euthanized simple because they weren’t fast enough, without ever making it to the track.
I should point out that not all kennels are bad actors, there are some who genuinely look out for the welfare of their hounds. But they are a tiny minority. For most of them, it is all about the profit. It is a business after all.
I will have much more to write as time goes on.
So, if you are at all interested in adopting a former racing greyhound, look for a local rescue group. There are regional groups all throughout the US, and in many countries worldwide. The one that I work with is Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption, a great group of people, who work to rehabilitate injured hounds as well as to place as many as possible into forever homes.
To learn more about the industry, and the harsh conditions, check out Grey2K USA Worldwide, a group that has been taking the abuses of the racing industry to task. The number and virulence of the responses show how touchy the racing industry is to sunlight in their practices.
In summary, greyhounds are treated as well as any money earning asset to the racing industry, discarded when they are worn out, or not returning any value. There is a wide network of rescue groups dedicated to placing the hounds, but the work is never done. More hands, more homes, and most importantly, more money is needed to keep up. Consider volunteering at your local group, adopting one (or more) of these wonderful hounds, and contributing financial resources. It will be appreciated.