The American Bloodsport

Greyhound webpage: http://www.greyhound.org

Decay. It is not a bad tooth I speak of...nay, it is not a rotten molar. Rather, it is another festering, one much worse, because it transcends the non-thinking tooth, and is putridness spawned in the very heart of man. I speak of ex-racing greyhound slaughter...our New-Age Hitlerism.

"Boomer! Ciera!" my son, Christian, and daughter-in-law, Karin, call. In moments, two elegant shiny dogs appear outside the white French sliding doors that lead from the backyard into the family room of this suburban home. Still on the outdoor side of the screened panel across the opening, the dogs wait with adoring eyes and smiling mouths. They divide their attention between their two human masters. Both dogs’ tails are curved upward like the circular edge of a planet. Each tail sways back and forth in a language of happiness.

Boomer and Ciera are adopted greyhounds fortunate to have been rescued by one of the scant organizations fighting an outflanked war. The enemy is organized and powerful. The racing dog business is a root with many branches that ooze.

Greyhound racing is legal in 16 of our United States. These states are listed as follows, with the current number of active tracks following each state's name: Alabama (3); Arkansas (1); Arizona (3); Colorado (5); Connecticut (1); Florida (17); Iowa (2); Kansas (2); Massachusetts (2); New Hampshire (3); Oregon (1); Rhode Island (1); South Dakota (0); Texas (2); West Virginia (2); and Wisconsin (3).

Perhaps the thousands and millions of spectators at greyhound races each year across our nation don’t understand the cost of this sport. Or perhaps they have decided the thrill and excitement of witnessing these magnificent athletes in full stride contested one against the other for speed is worth the unmentionable price. Because I am human, I want to believe these onlookers simply don’t know what carnage is strewn in the bloody wake of their frivolous amusement at a dog track. After delving into the particulars of the dog racing business, I can never again attend a racetrack as I once did.

But what’s this I hear you say...you claim that after all, this is America...not Rome! This is not some ancient Coliseum! Not an Amphitheater crowded with toga-wearing throngs of people! These are not humans...Christians or dissenters...mauled and killed by savage animals for public entertainment! Yes, you are surely right, these are not Christians...these are not Jews...these are animals...they are greyhounds...tens of thousands of them...and they are treated ruthlessly then killed, year in and year out...but certainly not in sight of the cheering, pleasure seeking crowd.

"Hi, Sweetie," Karin croons, as she plants a kiss on Ciera’s forehead. For answer, Ciera nuzzles her long white nose against Karin’s leg, which is followed by several minutes of mutual affectionate exchange. Ciera was slow to trust. She arrived with a long scar on the side of her face. All that is known is she was "slow" at the track. Part of her racing name had the word "Shannon" to it, and there is a tattoo in her left ear because greyhound puppies must be litter registered and tattooed by three months of age. Renamed "Ciera," she finally now lays her head on a loved one’s lap. Ciera is a good-natured, quiet animal. She waits and watches, then approaches bashfully. She responds to a light hand. Tenderness wins her.

Here in America, we hide our "blood sport," while at the same time accusing other nations of barbarism for their bullfights and cockfights and pit bull fighting. In the U.S. of A., it is the age of technology, we say...of shiny hospitals...of compassion for the homeless...of computers...and super highways in communication. Yet, under the greyhound-racing banner, down in those very kennels of America, stark barbarism thrives and the dogs go hungry because they no longer win races. Skin hangs from their skeletons. Some are too weak to stand. They are covered with fleas and ticks, but the muzzles prevent them from nibbling at the insects or licking their sores. They have no water. The are stuffed too many together in crates...they live in their own excrement. By comparison, stabbing a bull in the neck in front of thousands of spectators is kind.

The few dogs that ever generate earnings (about 1 greyhound in 20) enjoy a short lived, pampered fame of a few weeks or possibly a year or more, then they are disposed of...almost always before the age of five. The winner now joins the 19 of the 20 previously killed. This math represents the history of any random 20 newborn greyhounds. In the racing business, a greyhound does not enjoy its life expectancy of 12-15 years.

The dogs race, Oh, my, they are so fleet! They are a poem...a poem on wings. Their head-bobbing flight is fluid streams. The dogs race, Oh, my, they are so fleet! It is beautiful to see their swiftness! Excellence takes one captive.

See that female greyhound being led out for the next race? To have reached even this entry level, she represents seven others that have so far been "culled", killed because they were milliseconds slower, or didn’t learn fast enough, or were a wee bit too stubborn. BANG! goes a bullet to the head. See the other racers this day or this evening? particularly the ones that lose? BANG! BANG! BANG!

In training, for the lure, it is not uncommon for a live animal to be used...maybe a cat or chicken or rabbit. As many as 100,000 small animals may die this way each year. Sometimes the animal’s legs are broken first so it will scream and keep the dogs’ attention. The sound of torture has a way of getting noticed.

But there’s money to be made. Some tracks pay $60.00 for a win. Some pay $1,000.00. How can this amount of purse money, this paltry payment, invite so much cruelty? I have to believe there is something deeper than money at work here, and that ‘something’, whatever it is, must cause the Devil and his angels to cheer.

"Boomer!" my son cautions. Boomer has sniffed the butter paper wrapper near the edge of the white tile counter where Karin is baking a caramel chocolate arrangement, affectionately called "Congo Bars" by we family members who relish the treat. Boomer shifts his attention and focuses his golden eyes on his master...how they beseech! Boomer, who had "Robbie" as part of his racing name, was fast, very fast. Somehow he broke his toe...we don’t know how...and that toe was amputated which caused "Robbie" to limp and effectively ended his racing career. Boomer was the first to be adopted and has been greatly loved from the start. Now, here by the sweet butter smell, Boomer’s interest has returned to the tempting wrapper. His tail begins

to swing. "Boomer!" my son repeats. "Come here!" Smiling, and at a trot, Boomer responds. Once he reaches my son’s knees, Christian slides to the carpet where he and Boomer hug and play-wrestle together. Anyone who loves dogs can clearly imagine this scene of shared affectionate tumbling between a dog and his master.

Between 25,000 and 50,000 greyhounds are destroyed every year. Euthanasia; mass euthanasia; gunshot; starvation; bludgeoning; sale/donation to medical research; abandonment (usually muzzled); sale to racing interests in third world countries; electrocution...these are the disposals of choice. This is the payback for these docile, even-tempered, gentle, devoted, loving animals. Hear the legacy:

"51 greyhounds died of extreme heat exposure."

"65 greyhounds, many near death from starvation, were discovered at a greyhound breeding farm."

"12 racing greyhounds were illegally sold to the University of Arizona."

"Bloodied and mutilated greyhounds were shown in footage exposing the flow of excess greyhounds into labs at Colorado State University."

"37 greyhounds were discovered dead and another 141 starving."

"Losing greyhounds at an Idaho dog track were electrocuted or shipped out of state to be shot according to five trainers."

"Ten severely emaciated greyhounds were found near death, abandoned in a padlocked kennel."

"28 dogs too slow to race competitively in the United States were sold to a South American businessman to introduce greyhound racing in Brazil."

"The decomposing bodies of 143 greyhounds shot in the head were discovered by farm workers in an abandoned fruit grove" (these dogs’ left ears had been cut off so their tattoo numbers couldn’t identify them).

"200 former U.S. racing greyhounds awaiting shipment to race in Venezuela were found starving in their own waste."

"101 sick, skeletal greyhounds were carried out of a greyhound kennel."

"Greyhounds were discovered in different stages of dehydration and malnutrition in unsanitary kennels at the Key West, Florida track compound."

"35 greyhounds were discovered abandoned in their crates at the Key West kennel compound."

"Rancid meat infested with flies and maggots."

"The bodies of 35 greyhounds were found three weeks after the dogs had died of starvation."

"Two Arizona dog dealers fraudulently sold at least 600 greyhounds to several research facilities."

And this? All this is but one shared snowflake atop a massive iceberg, an iceberg made of frozen hearts...and anyone who buys a ticket to a dog race, unwittingly enlarges this lethal submerged beast. It is a Titanic night when the dogs race.

Karin and Ciera join us in the family room. I don’t know who among you has ever put their hands on a thoroughbred’s neck or back or flank. I can tell you it is a joy. There is health to that feeling. Ciera is white, but her eyes are outlined in black, so much so, they resemble ancient Egyptian women’s eye makeup. Coincidentally, these dogs date back to the time of the Pharaohs of Egypt. In fact, they are the first documented breed of dog. Even then they raced for the King’s pleasure, but they were also used in earnest for hunting game. Their beauty, throughout time, is unparalleled. Porcelain suits their form.

I am filled to see my son and daughter-in-law and Boomer and Ciera in a happy heap on the carpeted floor watching TV like the family they are. Yet, somewhere in a laboratory there is a stack of greyhound dogs’ severed heads. Hideous expressions of death are fixed on their faces. These are "research" animals. One shipment of greyhounds to Letterman’s Hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco was canceled because of outraged animal lovers. I believe those dogs were scheduled to have their legs broken so repair rates and methods could be studied. Two years ago when I broke my foot, I don’t think my automatically mending bones had ever heard the word "greyhound" nor would they have heeded test results from the breaking of greyhound bones. But unfortunately, most ex-racing dogs do reach their intended research labs. Some dogs are broken apart, put back together, then flash frozen to death and shipped somewhere else to be thawed out and taken apart once more.

Retired citizens unite with these retirees! Anyone who loves dogs, hear!

Running for the purse...running for the purse...the cheering crowd and all this running for the purse...all this dominion...control...greed...sensual lights, elegant dining and champagne even, above some tracks...perhaps a violin...and below, down on the track, the dogs running for their lives. We, who have been given dominion over the earth and the creatures in it, who can say what we are unless it is by what we do? All this running for the purse, this Emperor’s Clothes that proves us.

The passage we together share ends where it ends regardless of our identity with any particular ideology. Shakespeare told us a Rose smells just as sweet by any other name. It doesn’t matter what we call this time of ours on earth, it ends where it ends, because the Unknown is unchangeably what the Unknown is. And my heart tells me if I were a State government I would not take the up to 7% cut from dog racing because it is evil money. My heart tells me to be outraged and make sure there is one more empty seat in the stands above the pounding race. My heart tells me this is the right way to think and feel, both for now, and for the day of the Unknown.

For more information, call: 800-G-HOUNDS.

They need homes.

Copyright ? 1999 by Sherri Jilek. All Rights Reserved.
May be used in unchanged form if accompanied by this copyright message.

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