Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Brief History of Greyhound Adoption

March 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Tale Waggers

Greyhound racing was started by people who shared a love of a breed that could outrun every other, and do it with grace and style. Greyhound coursing, first popular in England in the late 1800s, caught on in the United States around the turn of the century. Coursing greyhounds chased an artificial lure though a field while judges scored the dogs on speed, agility, appearance, and intelligence.

Coursing did not take off as a spectator sport until the invention of the motorized artificial lure. The inventor, Owen Patrick Smith, showed off his lure at the opening of the first true dog track in 1919. Located in Emeryville, California, the track was an oval ring surrounded by bleachers for the fans. 

Dog racing continued in various forms—some legal, some illegal—peaking in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. By that time it had become a major source of tax revenue for the states that permitted it. No one questioned what happened to the dogs after their racing careers, though incinerators stood in plain view near most dog tracks. Tracks employed various means of euthanasia. Lethal injection is considered the most humane, but cheaper and easier is a bullet to the head. In response to critics, track owners argued that 1) no cost-effective alternatives existed, and 2) retired racing dogs were too vicious to be converted to household pets. 

As the popularity of the “sport” increased, more small breeders entered the industry. Many loved their greyhounds and couldn’t imagine killing a three-year-old they’d raised as a puppy. In the late 1980s, the first small greyhound adoption groups sprang up around the racing industry. They were funded by the tracks, with the stipulation that they agree to stay nonpolitical. Contract agreements prevented breeders from making negative comments about greyhound breeding, racing, or wagering. 

Soon the media began carrying greyhound adoption stories. The fate of these dogs touched America’s heart. Then in 1992 a horrendous story hit the wires. The decomposed bodies of 143 greyhounds were found in an abandoned orchard in Chandler Heights, Arizona. The dogs had been shot in the head and their tattooed ears cut off to prevent identification. The thunderous public outcry shook the racing industry to its core. Stories of abuse, neglect, and inhumane methods of euthanasia hit the news. Finally, in an attempt to regain control of its public image, the industry began to take greyhound rescue seriously. The ASPCA was the first organization to receive a large grant to launch an adoption effort. 

Since the infamous massacre, greyhound adoption and advocacy groups have flourished. Many trainers now keep and care for their dogs until they find placement with a rescue group. Many groups now receive funding from the tracks, and greyhound adoption is at an all-time high. 

Greyhounds are their own best advocates. Public fondness and respect have grown in response to seeing and experiencing these animals in their neighborhoods and parks. Their regal stance and quiet charm draws people, whether dog lover or not. 

Yet even today, thousands of these beautiful animals are killed each year. For every greyhound seen walking with his new family at least ten others were deemed disposable. Who lives and who dies—those hard choices are made every day by the tireless volunteers who devote their time, money, and energy to saving these dogs. 

Greyhound racing may eventually become economically unviable. With the proliferation of casinos and the loosening of gambling restrictions in most states, attendance has decreased at dog tracks. States that allow gambling have seen a better economic return from slot machines and card rooms than dog tracks. Lawmakers pressured by public outcry have toughened gambling restrictions at the tracks and loosened up on casino gambling.


2 Responses to “A Brief History of Greyhound Adoption”
  1. Val Wolf says:

    Dear Elaine,

    Thank you for this powerful, honest look at greyhound racing. It really illuminates what really goes on in the racing industry, and brings to light that greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane.

    Greyhounds endure lives of nearly constant confinement, kept in cages barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around. While racing, many dogs suffer and die from injuries including broken legs, paralysis, and cardiac arrest. And, as you have stated, many greyhounds are euthanized every year, as the number retired from racing exceeds the number of adoptive homes.

    At racetracks across the country, greyhounds endure lives of confinement. According to industry statements, greyhounds are generally confined in their cages for approximately 20 hours per day. They live inside warehouse-style kennels in stacked cages that are barely large enough to stand up or turn around. Generally, shredded paper or carpet remnants are used as bedding.

    An undercover video recently released by GREY2K USA shows the conditions in which these gentle dogs are forced to live:

    For more information on injuries these dogs suffer, please view:

    Dogs play an important role in our lives and deserve to be protected from industries and individuals that do them harm.

    Val Wolf Board Member, GREY2K USA

    • Elaine Webster says:

      Dear Val,

      Thank you for providing these valuable links. Jesse and I will promote them everywhere we go.