What Happens Behind The Scenes Of Greyhound Racing Will Horrify You

Greyhounds are amazing, sweet, and undeniably fast dogs, which means they're perfectly suited for racing. That is, unless you take into account how genuinely harmful greyhound racing can be. Dog racing itself is potentially deadly for the participants, and greyhound racing dogs sometimes suffer lifelong animal abuse, or a retirement that consists of abandonment or euthanasia. These dark dog racing facts are nothing new, yet dog racing persists in Great Britain, Australia, and even the United States to this day.

For those unsure why greyhound racing is bad, you need only take a look at how the greyhounds are kept. They are kept in cages for most of their day, they are fed low-quality meat, and they rarely receive any companionship or affection. For the dogs that are abused, these conditions can be even worse.

Fortunately, more and more people are fighting to keep these dogs off the track and out of abusive situations. During the 2018 US Midterms, Florida citizens voted to ban dog racing, and racktracks are required to put their runs to a halt by December 31, 2020. 

Please be warned that this article contains descriptions of cruelty to greyhounds. But if it's hard to take in, just imagine how much harder it is for the dogs themselves.

Photo: Mamboman1 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • There Are More Than 1,000 On-Track Greyhound Injuries And Deaths Every Year

    There Are More Than 1,000 On-Track Greyhound Injuries And Deaths Every Year
    Photo: Matt Schumitz / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Even if a dog is not abused off the track, some of the biggest dangers happen on the track. Greyhound racing is inherently dangerous for the animal, based on how the sport is set up. All the dogs race without lanes and in difficult conditions including mud, rain and extreme heat. They can be electrocuted if they try to bite some of the track equipment. With all this happening, not just a few, but hundreds of dogs suffer injuries and even death in front of spectators each year. In the United States, between 2008 and 2015, more than 3,000 dogs suffered injuries such as broken legs, crushed skulls, broken spines, paralysis, and even electrocution. 

    In Australia, where greyhound racing is still popular, these statistics are even worse. In New South Wales alone, there are more than 2,000 racing greyhound injuries on the track per year, and more than 150 deaths. On the continent overall, four to five racing dogs die on the track each week. The races themselves are just set up in a way that is seriously dangerous to the dogs.

  • Greyhounds Are Sometimes Given Illegal Drugs

    Natural speed is never enough for some owners. Between 2008 and 2015, 16 greyhounds tested positive for cocaine in the United States racing circuit. There may be many more dogs that have been drugged, and were simply not tested.

    In Australia, the problem is even more prevalent, with hundreds of animals being given illegal drugs. Dogs are given chemicals meant to make them faster and more energetic, including Viagra, amphetamines, anabolic steroids, and more. These can potentially kill the dog, and are even illegal in the racing world. However, penalties for trainers and owners caught doing this to their dogs in Australia have been pretty lackadaisical. Usually, the penalties consist of disqualifications of the dogs, suspensions, and fines, but are sometimes simply warnings not to do it again.

  • Some Retired Racing Dogs And "Non-Chasers" Are Used In Medical Experiments

    When a dog is retired, some organizations step in to help, by re-homing the dogs or getting them to a safe shelter. But because the numbers of racing greyhounds are so high, that is generally not a possibility. Four out of five racing greyhounds in Australia are not re-homed, meaning that up to 10,000 puppies and adults are euthanized or abandoned. 

    The other thing that is sometimes done with retired greyhounds is that they are sold for experimentation. Some puppies have been sold for scientific experimentation in the United states, but the problem is even greater in Australia, where racing is more widespread. The University of Melbourne's dental school buys ex-racing greyhounds for dental experiments and practice for students. The animals are kept alive for several months, then they are killed, and their jaws are removed for study. In all, nearly 6,000 dogs are used for experiments in Australia each year, for surgeries, observation, and even death. In Victoria, at least one hundred of the dogs were killed after testing, rather than rehomed at all.

  • Greyhounds Are Sometimes Fed Diseased Meat

    Greyhounds Are Sometimes Fed Diseased Meat
    Photo: Muffet / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Yet another horrifying condition racing dogs are subjected to is poor-quality food. Racing dogs are often given what is known in animal cruelty prevention circles as "4-D" meat, which is meat taken from dying, diseased, disabled, and dead livestock. This meat is unfit for humans: the USDA actually requires that charcoal be added to the meat in order to keep people from eating it.

    When a racing greyhound is fed 4-D meat, the dog eats it raw, which exposes it to pathogenic microorganisms. This type of bad meat once made 72 dogs at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club sick, and even killed one. This meat can also pass diseases among the animals, since it is not kept in sanitary conditions, and the dogs are so tightly packed together. So, why not cook the meat before feeding it to the dogs? Apparently cooked meat can negatively impact racing performance, so some owners and trainers are more willing to risk the health of their dogs instead.

  • When A Greyhound Retires, It Often Simply Vanishes

    While racing tracks, owners, and trainers are supposed to keep account of what happens to the dogs once they retire, this is generally not the case. This case was perhaps most obvious in the UK, where greyhound racing still continues. The League Against Cruel Sports published estimates on how many dogs vanished, despite being registered during racing, and the results were grim. LACS estimated that around 1,000 of the 8,000 greyhounds that retired from racing in a year were not only never rehomed, but they were completely unaccounted for.

    Although the GBGB, which governs greyhound racing in the UK, requires owners to register their dogs and account for them, owners do not have to give any evidence that a new home has been found. They just have to say that the dog has been rehomed. In Australia and the United States, racing greyhound births are not well recorded, so it's impossible to know exactly how many simply disappeared to labs or euthanasia. 

  • There Have Been Arrests For Dogs That Were Starved To Death

    Although most trainers and owners that abuse greyhounds are never discovered or investigated, a few have been brought to justice. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there were "2,200 state disciplinary rulings" against "regulatory failures" on the part of racing facilities, trainers, and owners between 2008 and 2013. This indicates that the self-regulating attempts the industry has made have been pretty ineffective. On top of that, there were 27 cases of greyhound cruelty and neglect, including dogs that were starved to death, denied veterinary care, or were found in abysmal conditions. Although the majority of trainers and owners do not treat their dogs this way, the number is high enough to cause alarm.

    In one particularly horrifying case in 2017, at least 20 greyhounds were found dead under a trainer's care. The Florida trainer John Williams was arrested, and 32 emaciated, abused greyhounds were removed from his care. Some were found with duct tape around their necks. Williams was later charged with 37 counts of animal cruelty.