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.
Greyhounds Get Tattoos On Their Ears
In the United States as well as Australia, dog racing is poorly regulated. In order to try to track the various dogs, they are often tattooed with a number on their ear while they are still a puppy. Their right ears are tattooed with their date of birth, and later they are given a racing registration number on their left ear as well. Based on these numbers, the racing greyhound population is far too high to be sustainable. And it also helps to understand how many deaths and injuries there are per year. Spoiler alert: way too many.
Unfortunately, dog tattooing can lead to further abuse later. If a trainer wants to get rid of a dog without it being noticed or tracked by various organizations, they will sometimes remove the ears of the dog, then sell it to any place that wants it or will pay. If no one will pay, they may be abandoned or killed.
Greyhounds Are The Fastest Dogs In The World
There's a pretty simple reason that greyhounds are used for racing: they are crazy fast. They can run at speeds approaching 45 miles per hour, which is actually around the speed of a quarter horse! Greyhounds have a gait that is similar to a cheetah, with its feet only touching the ground 25 percent of the time, which allows them to reach speeds that surpass any other dog. Their spines are flexible, their bodies are lightweight, and they're very aerodynamic. Their circulatory system works on overdrive pretty much all the time, which means they can actually hit top speed faster than a horse.
With all this going for them, it seems to make sense that the greyhound would be an ideal animal for racing. Unfortunately, the racing life is hardly a fun and care-free one for the dogs.
They Begin Training When They Are Only A Few Months Old
The life of a racing greyhound begins just a few weeks after birth. They only remain with their mothers for about eight weeks, and during that time they are encouraged to run while playing. Then, at five months, they are put into pairs while they are leash trained, muzzle trained, and verbally trained, so that they are ready for track conditions. Once they are a year old, they are moved to a track training facility where they live and begin training constantly.
This training can consist of "live baiting," where a live animal is tied to a stick and used to get a dog to run. When the animal is caught and killed by the dog, this acts as a reward, encouraging them to get into the racing spirit. By the time they are around 15 months old, they are ready for the racing circuit. If at any point in time they are not fast enough, won't chase a lure, or have behavioral problems, they can be labeled as a "non-chaser." When this happens, the greyhound is retired and sent back for breeding purposes, given to a rescue shelter, or even simply disposed of.
Most Dogs Stop Racing Before They Are Four Years Old
Even if a dog does make it through all its training and gets to the racing circuit, its career is usually short-lived. Greyhounds hit their top speeds and running abilities within their first few years of life, and once they hit the age of three, they usually begin to decline. If injuries and other health conditions don't bring a dog down, they are still usually retired for not being fast enough around age three or four. This is especially surprising and difficult for the dog, considering that greyhounds can live for 12 or 13 years. The average lifespan of a racing dog is only about four and a half years.
Given the volume of racing dogs in circulation, this means that when a dog is retired, there is often no place for it to go. There are rescue organizations in place, including the ASPCA, RSPCA, and GREY2KUSA, that work to find homes and care for retired racing dogs, but even then, they cannot help all of them.