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WHAT THE DOG RACING INDUSTRY DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW
Documented "disposal" methods have historically included:
Euthanasia- Sale / donation to medical research
Mass euthanasia- Abandonment (often muzzled)
Gunshot- Sale to racing interest in Third World countries
Abuse Cases - Tip of the Iceberg - The NGA "Round File"
Since the late 1980s when GPL began monitoring the racing industry, the documented abuse cases have collectively involved the suffering of thousands of racing greyhounds. Industry insiders say that what has been publicly uncovered doesn't begin to reveal what regularly occurs.
The fate of racing greyhounds during the first 60 years of dog racing (1920's to 1980's) was barely acknowledged in the press. It has been widely reported by a reputable source that an ice pick in the heart of the dog was a favored method of killing. A 1950's article in a national magazine stated that thousands of greyhounds were killed in a Miami decompression chamber.
Dog men have reported to GPL that they remember even during the 1980's that bodies of unprofitable dogs were regularly stacked by the dozens at the backside of the track.
The number of greyhounds that have been killed in the prime of life over the eighty-year history of dog racing in America is well over a million.
The Racing Life - Death at an Early Age
Greyhound puppies are bred on large dog farms and on a smaller scale by individuals often referred to in the industry as "backyard breeders." Large operations holding 500 or more greyhounds are commonplace.
Greyhound puppies are tattooed by three months of age.
Greyhound litters range from 1-14 puppies, though industry sources quote 6.5 to 7 pups per litter. According to industry members, puppies that don't show promise are routinely destroyed.
The majority of greyhound pups are typically sent to training farms in the South or Midwest. The dogs are often transported in trucks for days on end. According to industry members, it is not uncommon for some dogs to arrive at their final destination severely ill or dead.
There is a heavy concentration of training farms in Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
If a greyhound seems of racing caliber, it is individually registered and can be tried out to race at a commercial track at about 18 months of age.
Many greyhounds are killed without ever having raced at a commercial track. Of those who are fast enough to generate earnings, many are discarded after racing only a short time - from several weeks to several months (due to injury, non-competitiveness, etc.). Even successful racers reach their peak by 3-1/2 years of age. Most states do not race dogs beyond five years of age; very few make it that far.
The Racing System - Win or Die
Puppies are sometimes purchased from the breeder by individual investors or a syndicate. Breeders tend to maintain ownership and racing privileges of their best racing stock for themselves. After training, successful greyhounds are leased out to kennel owners at a track. Occasionally, the breeder, trainer, and kennel owner may be the same individual.
To qualify to race commercially, the dogs are entered in schooling races - usually at a "puppy" or low-grade track where young dogs ultimately race against uncompetitive older dogs. Many dogs "wash out" at this point. If successful, the dogs are entered into initial "maiden races." They are then classified to race in categories typically D backwards through to A, with A being the top grade, then down again from A to D. Dogs theoretically compete with dogs at the same performance level. However, mixed grade (T) races are not uncommon.
If a dog does not finish in the top three positions in three consecutive races, it drops a grade (can vary by track). By failing at the bottom grade, it is considered "graded off." The dog may be sent to a less competitive track, referred to in the industry as a low-rent-track.
Much of the racing system seems arbitrary - a dog's success is often tied to the kennel connections of its owner and the quality of the trainer/kennel help. Some trainers will try to improve a dog's performance, but most try to make money by getting rid of losers and bringing in fresh stock.
Once a dog has graded off at its last track placement, it is either killed locally, sent back to the farm to be "disposed of", kept for breeding, or sent to a rescue group. Rescue groups provide the cheapest means of getting rid of losers, but accommodations are often hard to come by for so many dogs. Track adoption programs, if they exist, severely limit the number of dogs allowed in the pet kennel. Kennel operators are constantly squeezed by the need to get the losers and injured out of the cages, the need to make money by filling the cages with fresh stock and the need to keep their breeder-clients happy by opening up cage space for new dogs off the farm. It is the greyhounds that pay the ultimate price for this disastrous system. While some kennel operators and trainers fight the system and try to do the best they can for the dogs, others take the easy way out and load up the kill trucks. The lives of large numbers of dogs are ended when they are sold by their owners to rabbit hunters, coyote hunters or illegal match racing operations. Sometimes a final profit is made by selling the dogs to a medical research facility or to racing interests in foreign countries.
Dog Track Ratings - Who Goes Where - Dreams of Big Money Fade Early
Greyhound tracks are not officially rated in terms of quality. But the general consensus is that they range from high-grade (about 8 tracks), to mid-grade (about 18 tracks) to low grade (about 17). The low-grade tracks are referred to as "cheap tracks".
The rating of the racetrack depends primarily upon the racing capability of the greyhounds that inhabit the kennels.
Thousands of greyhounds are bred with the hope of producing those few dogs that can make it into a top grade track and bring in the big money. For most breeders dreams of cashing in evaporate during the evaluation trials on the farm and they have to settle for getting the dogs in where ever they can.
The vast majority of greyhounds enter and leave the racing system at mid and low-grade tracks through they may be moved from venue to venue during their short careers.
Whichever track it is, the system keeps the revolving door spinning. Ten dogs in......ten dogs out. Fifty dogs in......fifty dogs out.
High Grade Tracks - Money, Money, Money
Only a select number of greyhounds are going to have the racing prowess to compete at a high level venue. Dogs with great potential may start out at this level; others may grade up from lesser tracks.
If a greyhound makes it into this elite circle, the money is good for the owner and he or she will try to keep the dog there for as long as possible. But eventually the dog's performance will decline due to injury or advancing age.
Then it's on to a mid-level track where his destiny is less secure.
Intermediate Tracks - The Revolving Door Speeds Up
Large numbers of greyhounds move in and out of these tracks on a yearly basis. Some will grade up, but the majority will eventually grade down.
Concerned greyhound owners who don't want risk the fate of their grade-offs to the vagaries of a cheap track will retire the dog at this juncture.
This is where the need to find homes for greyhounds begins to mount and the intervention of rescue groups becomes critical.
Cheap Tracks - Revolving Door In Overdrive - Painful Lives, Unceremonious Deaths - Track Owners Live Like Kings, While Kennel Workers Barely Eke Out a Living
Low-grade tracks provide an entry point for huge numbers of greyhounds with marginal racing capabilities. Consequently, they are often referred to in the industry as "puppy tracks". Many greyhounds will wash up within months; others may grade up to a mid-level venue and then return as their performance declines.
Because cheap tracks are known in the business as having readily available kill services, some dogs owners will send the dogs off for a trial run, knowing that the burden of getting rid of the animal will be shifted over to the kennel operator who is forced to accommodate in order to maintain steady supply of new stock.
Cheap tracks are also the track of last resort for owners who want to get a few more bucks out of veteran racers that can no longer compete elsewhere. Aside from the doomed two-year-olds, there is nothing sadder that to view the racing lines of a five-year-old greyhound that at one time raced Grade A at a high level track, made his owner thousands and thousands of dollars and was rewarded with a kill track at the end his career.
Rescue groups are trying to make a dent at some of these venues, but the numbers are just too overwhelming.
Track Racing Kennels - Held Hostage for Profit
The average kennel maintains around 60 dogs but often as many as 80 or more. Cheap tracks have been known to have more than 200 dogs under the care of one kennel operator and a helper. Responsible kennel trainers say that three people are required to adequately care for every 60 dogs, but this is not the standard, nor is it required. Small tracks have 10-15 kennels; larger tracks may have 20+ kennels.
Thus, an average track kennel facility (known as a "compound") with 15 kennels may easily house upwards of 1,000 dogs - plus an equal number of new dogs and unsuccessful dogs filtering in and out throughout the year.
Seasonal tracks are often low revenue facilities with low-grade dogs that might not race successfully elsewhere. To euthanize such a large number of animals can be very expensive for kennel owners. This dilemma often leaves the animals vulnerable to being killed by the cheapest means available.
Shelter/Food/Exercise/Health - "We Treat Our Athletes Better Than Most People Treat Their Pets"
Greyhounds are kept at track kennels in stacked cages 22 hours a day.
The dogs are let out two to four times a day in small turnout pens (divided by male/female). This is the only opportunity the greyhounds have to drink water, if it's made available.
Greyhounds are muzzled in the pens because the large number of unspayed and unneutered dogs thrust together often leads to fighting.
To minimize daily chores, some trainers elect to keep the dogs muzzled in their crates for the majority of each day.
Bedding is shredded newspaper, computer paper, thin carpet remnants or nothing.
Many tracks continue to use wooden crates - perilous for fire and difficult to clean. The wood gets soaked with urine, making sanitary conditions difficult.
In most kennels, greyhounds (often muzzled) are heavily infested with fleas and ticks. As a result, many greyhounds have been found to carry several potentially serious, but easily treatable, tick-borne diseases (Canine Ehrlichiosis, Erlichia Equi, Canine Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), any of which may affect their racing performance.
The standard industry feed is raw "4-D Meat" - the meat of diseased, dying, downed (unable to walk), or dead animals deemed as unfit by the USDA. This meat often causes severe "blowout" and dehydration, as well as skin ulcers and death from e-coli toxins, a condition known in the industry as Alabama Rot. 4-D Meat is cheap and potentially deadly.
Due to poor sanitary conditions and external parasite loads, greyhounds suffer from heavy infestations of hookworm, tapeworm, whipworm and giardia.
Female racing greyhounds are routinely administered Methyl Testosterone (an anabolic steroid), to prevent estrus (as males and females race together). Anabolic steroids are
immune suppressers and not intended for long-term administration. Inadequate regulation and lax oversight leave the door open to use of steroids in the males as well. According to industry insiders, a variety of substances can be used without detection to alter race performance.
The Perils of Racing - Death in the Fast Lane
Racing injuries are common, especially, on tracks with a poorly constructed first turn or poor racing surface due to irregular maintenance or age of construction. At any given time, an average 30% of all race dogs are on the sick and injured list. Insiders report that when the "active list" is severely reduced, injured dogs are pulled in to fill the day's race card. At that point a minor injury becomes a catastrophic, life-ending event.
For many greyhounds, the only real exercise they receive is during races. Their lack of muscle tone can lead to injury and death. Musculoskeletal injuries are commonplace.
A dog that breaks a leg is often euthanized immediately. Industry members state that broken front legs are almost never fixed.
Electrocution by the rail that powers the lure is a constant risk.
Industry standards suggest, but do not mandate, that a dog shouldn't race more than once every four days to cut back on injuries, but racing secretaries often allow dogs to race more frequently.
Trainers are often afraid to complain about poor conditions for fear they will lose their jobs.
SO, WHO IS LOOKING OUT FOR THE WELFARE OF RACING GREYHOUNDS?
Greyhound racing is a business - first and foremost; the greyhound dogs whose racing ability provides the finances needed to stay in business are regarded as a disposable commodity. Only a minority of dog owners, trainers and kennel operators put the dogs' welfare over financial gain. Those who attempt to maintain high standards of care are rarely able to stay in business because they are under constant pressure from the state, track management and the competition to conform to sub-standard conditions.
Industry propaganda claims that the dogs are well cared for since they exist to produce a profit; while this argument certainly makes sense overall it simply is not corroborated by the facts. It is evident that the prevalent mindset is: it's cheaper to cut costs on care, get rid of debilitated dogs and bring in fresh stock, often callously referred to as "fresh hides". The huge turnover of race dogs, the condition of the dogs when they are received by rescue organizations and confirmation from insiders bear out that this is indeed the modus operandi.
Everyone with access and/or authority over the welfare and the very lives of greyhound race dogs operates with an agenda contrary to the dogs' well being. State regulatory bodies have demonstrated time and again that their primary concern is the promotion of the dog racing business not the welfare of the dogs. The results of this conflict of interests have tragic consequences for the greyhounds whose talents provide them with a paycheck.
GPL's extensive research into thirty years of racing publications documents that the industry's "greyhound welfare rhetoric" didn't even exist until the early 1990's when dog racing was faced with such severe public criticism over humane issues that the very existence of the industry was threatened - about 80 years too late for hundreds of thousands of greyhounds.
Federal Government - The Feds Aren't Even In the Picture - Greyhound Racing is a State Mandated Business
Greyhound racing is a state mandated business; the federal government exercises no control beyond interstate gambling issues.