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Should Greyhound racing be banned?

- Posted by in Pet Discussion

Should Greyhound racing be banned?

Greyhound racing as we know it today developed out of traditional hare coursing and dates back to the early 1900’s when dogs first began racing the oval tracks. The industry is worth big bucks – billions, in fact. Spectators gather, place their bets, and share in the anticipation of race night just as horse enthusiasts revel in the Grand National. 'Going to the dogs' might be a popular pastime for some, but can we really class it a ‘sport’ when thousands of greyhounds are raced to death every year?

Knowing little about it myself, I thought it best to steer clear of total judgement and present only the 'facts' on modern-day racing. There will always be those that stand by the claim 'greyhounds love to run' and say that banning the sport will bring an end to the greyhound breed, create hundreds of job losses and drive the industry underground.

Agreed, there might be some truth in this, but when it comes to the longevity of the breed, greyhounds have always enjoyed a modest following and will continue to have appeal outside of racing - as domestic pets and companion animals. Greyhounds have existed since the time of the ancient Egyptians and haven't always been exploited for their natural speed. Thus, why should an end to the sport necessarily mean an end to the breed?

In an ideal world, greyhound racing would be driven by a dog's love of running, not by profit. Greyhounds would be well trained and treated off-track, appropriately kennelled and transported, shown love, affection and the everyday comforts all dogs need to thrive, fed a healthy diet free from steroids and other harmful, performance-enhancing drugs, and provided for accordingly once their racing days have ended.

For a lucky handful of greyhounds, this is their reality. However, far too few dogs experience appropriate care during and after their racing careers. Allegedly, many are brutally punished if they lose a race or under-perform, are hauled into cramped kennels and transportation crates for many hours a day, and are even forced to race with an existing injury or arthritis (10% of greyhounds begin a race with an affliction). In fact, many do not even make it onto the racetrack, either because they are deemed too weak or too slow, and are violently culled by their breeders. This is believed to be the fate for some 12,000 greyhound pups born every year.

Broken bones, dislocation, muscle rupture, heart attacks and related injuries come with the territory of racing. Because the dogs run in such close proximity to one another, at such speeds, injuries like these are unsurprising. At Manchester's Belle Vue track in May 2002, two dogs were killed when they fell and broke their necks. In the very same year, a dog named Santa Power broke its leg and was later destroyed, and another, Football Focus, died of heat exhaustion following a race.

If a dog is particularly successful on the racetrack (and, therefore, valuable to its owner), an existing injury might be treated in order for the dog to recoup and make a hasty return to the fast lane. Sometimes the dog will continue being raced on the injury until it inevitably drops. If the dog is injured beyond the point of recovery, it is usually killed outright. Greyhound Rescue Wales states that the favourite methods for killing an injured or failing dog "include battering to death, poisoning, drowning, shooting, or simply being left to starve to death in a locked shed." There have also been reported cases of dogs being injected with brake fluid or baking soda, causing them to die a slow, painful death.

Unfortunately, race fixing is also commonplace in the industry and it is not unheard of for favourite runners to be doped with cocaine to make them lose. Allegedly, hundreds of greyhounds are also shipped abroad every year, to countries such as Spain where they are 'retired.' The fate of these dogs once they reach their destination is no secret; greyhounds are often kept in appalling conditions and are routinely hanged when they are no longer useful.

Some 10-12,000 greyhounds are retired from racing every year because of minor injury, old age (3 years +) or under-performance. Sadly, the fate of these dogs is uncertain and it is feared that most end up being killed or badly neglected by their owners. Many simply disappear off the map once their racing days are numbered, with no indication as to where they have gone. Despite their long life expectancies of 12-15 years, racing greyhounds are usually retired between 2-5 years old when they are deemed 'too slow,' meaning most are still only youngsters when they are destroyed.

Thankfully, due to widespread interest in adopting retired greyhounds, many find themselves in forever homes once their racing careers have ended. However, due to the enormous number of greyhounds being retired annually, finding a home for each and every one of them is impossible. Also, due to the many misconceptions surrounding having greyhounds as pets i.e. their high exercise needs, hyperactivity and incompatibility with children, some people are reluctant to adopt them.

Thousands of dogs of many different breeds wind up in shelters every year and, unfortunately, greyhounds are not everyone's first choice. For this reason, hundreds of ex-racing greyhounds are disposed of once their purpose has been served, whether humanely or otherwise. More disturbingly, many greyhounds have their ears cut off before being abandoned or killed, in order to remove the identification number that traces the dog back to its owner.

In 2007, a 57 year old man named David Smith was arrested after 10,000 slaughtered greyhounds were found on his property. In what was described as a 'killing field,' Smith had buried retired but otherwise healthy dogs after shooting them with a bolt gun. The unsuspecting dogs were taken into a shed, shot in the head, and dragged into a pre-dug ditch for £20 a time.

Smith admitted that, while his activities were unprofitable, they had got a little 'out of control' in the 18 months prior to his arrest. He also claimed that the dogs were only killed because they were unsuitable for re-homing, either because they were too aggressive or too badly injured. While Smith was prosecuted for owning a landfill site without a permit, his actions were not considered inhumane and his owning a bolt gun was perfectly legal.

Although there will always be exceptions, it is evident that the greyhound racing industry has a lot to answer to. However you look at it, the statistics for over-breeding, race injuries and selective culling do not read well. For the fortunate few that end up being re-homed and shown nurturing relationships, their story has a happy ending. However, for the rest that find themselves raced into the ground, only to be killed before their 5th birthday because they are no longer profitable, their story couldn't be more tragic.

Over the past 65 years, the number of race stadiums in England has decreased from around 80 to 25, indicating the sport might actually be on its way out. While the fear of breed decline will always be there, hopefully the enduring popularity of the greyhound will win through and people will continue to have them as pets, even after the sport of racing has ended. If you have any thoughts on this discussion, please share them with us! Likewise, we would love to hear your adoption stories, so please comment below :)

Feel free to contact me directly with any further questions and/or suggestions for future blog posts: hannahd@viovet.co.uk.

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Comments

10th Oct 2014
  • Customer Since: October 2014
  • From: Leicestershire, United Kingdom

Thank you Hannah for writing this article. Having 3 retired greyhounds myself I know all too well the horrors of the race track so hopefully your information will make more people aware. Greyhounds make fantastic pets and don't require a great deal of exercise. They are sensitive souls who like nothing more than curling up somewhere safe and warm. They are funny, loyal and loving companions who deserve a chance of happiness after the track.

13th Oct 2014

YES greyhound racing should be banned!! These beautiful, graceful and elegant animals shouldn't be thrown out and disgarded because they don't make money anymore. Sighthounds are the most loving loyal dogs I have ever owned and it breaks my heart to see them treated this way. They deserve to be in a home loved and safe!

13th Oct 2014
  • Customer Since: April 2010
  • From: Dorset, United Kingdom

Greyhound racing along with all other forms of animal exploitation in this world should be banned and the people responsible for their ill treatment should be punished.

14th Oct 2014

Stop abusing and killing greyhounds! It's all for profits, enough is enough. Racing needs to be banned NOW! no excuses.

14th Oct 2014

If they treated their animals properly then everyone would be happy and it would not be a problem

14th Oct 2014

Yes its disgracefull that in this day and age animals are still used for entertainment. These wonderful dogs belong on sofas not cages. They are such a loving breed of dog and have wonderful nature and they are used and abused for profit. It needs to be banned.

14th Oct 2014

Something needs to be done, it's awful. Greyhounds are wonderful animals. I own one and she was going to be destroyed because she didn't win any races but was thankfully rescued by the wonderful Lancashire & Bellevue Retired Greyhound Trust. It always amazes me that they live such an awful life before rehoming where they aren't socialised and aren't given the care they need, yet still have such character and mild manners. They are amazing and make loving, loyal pets.
"Greyhounds love to run", that is only true when they get to choose when they run. And, as a greyhound owner, I can say that they don't always run at every opportunity! We have to really encourage our girl to run when we let her off the lead. A greyhound should run for fun, not for money and entertainment.

14th Oct 2014

ABSOLUTELY!

14th Oct 2014

Ann Holloway - nothing can make racing acceptable. It's not just how they are treated, it's the over breeding in search of the winner, what happens to the ones who don't make the grade, don't have a prey drive? It's the fact that racing itself is inherently dangerous. They should run for pleasure not money, sleep on a sofa not a in a kennel.
Nothing will ever made me think its ok. It should be banned - and as soon as possible. Rescues pick up the pieces from this sick 'sport'.

14th Oct 2014

Greyhound racing is a shoddy industry which abuses, exploits and kills thousands of these gentle creatures each year. The industry is outdated and should be banned immediately.

14th Oct 2014

Yes, Greyhound racing should be banned immediately ! My two boys, ex racers from Ireland have been mental and physical abused. It's disgusting what they do with these aristocratic, gentle creatures. I am the happiest girl on Earth because of my beautiful and tender boys. It's sad to see here in Belgium that Greyhounds from the race tracks are not so much adopted as I would wanted to.

14th Oct 2014

BAN IT NOW. !! THE POOR DOGS CANNOT SPEAK UP FOR THEM SELVES. THE TREATMENT OF THESE LOVING ANIMALS IS CRUEL AND MUST BE STOPPED

14th Oct 2014

YES, greyhound racing should be banned

14th Oct 2014

Yes, it should be banned. These lovely dogs should not be allowed to be treated so badly. I have had my first rescued racer for 3 weeks now and he is a lovely dog!

14th Oct 2014

Dear Hannah, thank you for writing this article which I hope those not involved in greyhound rescue will read and see the reality behind this 'sport'. I have three ex-racers. They are the sweetest, laziest, most affectionate of dogs and to win their trust and earn their love was the most rewarding of experiences. I can't recommend rehoming an ex-racer highly enough! And yes, greyhound racing should be banned immediately. It is an industry, a business that, like all businesses, is there to make money, and the greyhounds pay the ultimate price with their lives. Thank you again for such a well written and informative article.

14th Oct 2014

YES. Ban this horrific outdated bloodsport.

14th Oct 2014

Excellent article Hannah. As the owner of two rescued 'failed' racers I know all too well what excellent pets they make, along with the horrors of the racing industry. Sadly, while the GBGB remains self regulated, obtaining accurate injury, death and rehoming stats is often impossible. The industry is one that will never be for the benefit of the dogs because it is driven by profit. When money is the motivation, animal welfare becomes secondary. The '"but the dogs love to race" argument used by pro racers is frankly laughable and shows what little understanding of the breed they have. It is undeniable that greyhounds get enormous pleasure from running, but in a collaborative way. When they are trained to race competitively, for a lure that they will never catch, the whole activity is altered to one of danger and frustration. This article helps to explain more on this subject and can be found on the Italian rehoming and anti racing group Pet Levrieri.
"The racing industry claims that racing makes greyhounds happy, because the dogs are just doing what nature intended them for. So by that line of thinking, those who race them are doing them a favour. Equally, some people who race their dogs in amateur races also say the same thing. The difference being that, according to them, the absence of betting makes amateur racing not just acceptable but fun for the dogs.
None of this is actually true.
The trainers themselves tell us that: “Puppies do not learn to run around a greyhound track all by themselves. While it is natural for them to chase live quarry across a field, chasing a dummy hare often needs plenty of tuition.” (from Training and Racing the Greyhound by Darren Morris)
The verb used here by the trainer, ‘to chase’, is not synonymous with ‘to prey on’.
‘To prey on’ during hunting is a completely different thing, a much more elaborate and complex art made up of specific stages with a beginning, a process and a conclusion. So chasing after a dummy hare is not the same thing as chasing after a live animal and certainly not hunting it.
So running is different from chasing and it’s different from hunting. These three modes of behaviour can sometimes overlap but they are not the same thing.
Greyhounds are predators, and their predatory sequence is as follows:
To locate – to chase – to bite to catch – to bite to kill – to dissect – to consume.
Running is just one of these stages, and when preying on quarry the aim is to catch the prey and kill it. In other words, the predatory instinct of greyhounds only gratifies and satisfies them on condition that at the very least they catch the prey.
The point here is that when one’s motivation to do something is continuously stimulated but never satisfied, one becomes frustrated.
Imagine that you really love doing something, like going for a nice swim in the sea, for instance. Now imagine that someone takes you to the beach and leads you up to the shore…the sea is right there, it’s so inviting, you are about to dive in, but then…you are taken away. If you had to do this over and over, time after time…there is no doubt that you would be frustrated.
Greyhounds on tracks run and run, but they never catch the hare. Worse still, once the race is over the dummy suddenly disappears and they are stopped, put on a leash and moved off as if they were parcels. Fooled and duped, basically. Frustrated twice over.
But track racing is unnatural for at least two more reasons: the first and most fundamental one, is because as hunters greyhounds do not compete but collaborate with each other. Hunting is a collaboration between members of the same social group, and it requires strategies and synergy.
Racing and training for racing means turning greyhounds into something that they are not, suppressing their natural sociability in order to develop an unnatural competitiveness. So basically their true nature is distorted. Anyone who has had the chance to observe greyhounds’ extraordinary ability to socialise among themselves, despite the interference of man, knows exactly what we are talking about.
The second reason is the actual way of running: those who have had the pleasure of watching a greyhound running free will have noticed the difference between this way of running and running on a race track. On the one hand, running in a free zig-zag formation with an expression of sheer joy, on the other, running in a rectilinear motion with a tense and rigid expression.
Therefore, to claim that running on a racetrack makes a greyhound happy, and to claim that it gives him the chance to express his true nature, is a huge mystification.
It is possible to give greyhounds the chance to express their motivational drive, thus making them feel satisfied and fulfilled, as long as it is done as a game.
We will be exploring this topic further."

14th Oct 2014

Yes it should be closed down poor dogs

14th Oct 2014

YES BAN IT! Greyhound racing is cruel, not just because the tracks themselves are inherently dangerous for the dogs, but because the majority of racing dogs are kept in appalling conditions and treated very badly too.

14th Oct 2014

All true words, Greyhound Industry ignores all this including the people supposed to protect them from this suffering ie GBGB. They receive money from the betting industry to help home ex racers and bring to book the rogues in the industry. Their record on both these subjects is pathetic, as if they ban trainers and owners they would not get funding, so the high paid executives hide the truth. Only the independent rescues around the country who get no funding from the industry are the ones who really care for the welfare of Greyhounds. Also there are un regulated flapping tracks that don't get any checks done, they need to be closed also.

14th Oct 2014

The sport of greyhound racing should deffinately be banned, the amount of cruelty all for the sake of money is disgusting. I notice The Mirror newspaper ran a story on it last week and I believe the Panorama TV programme are doing an investigation at the moment, the more people that know about what really goes on the better.

14th Oct 2014

Ban it!

14th Oct 2014

One big fat YES! Or a long slender yes..! It should be banned. Your article was brilliant and says it all. I'd just like to add that the strength of feeling about this rotten industry is immense. People are passionate about the cause to end greyhound racing, and to raise awareness of the heinous behind-the-scenes activities that they try to hide from the public.

14th Oct 2014

Yes, without a doubt, greyhound racing should be banned!

14th Oct 2014

This has to stop!
There is no place in a modern society for ANY animal abuse, be it fox hunting, dog racing or drugs testing.
We do not need entertainment from the mistreatment of animals and never have!

14th Oct 2014

Dear Hannah, thank you for such a well written article, the greyhound racing industry must be banned, the people involved have for the most part no love for the dogs and see them only as money makers. I have a failed racer myself, he was starved, hit over the head fracturing his skull, then had his ears cut off followed by being thrown from a moving vehicle causing road burn to his legs and abdomen. He now suffers from epilepsy as a result of the head trauma yet he remains the most affectionate, loving, lazy dog you could ever wish to meet. They make wonderful pets and I have found him to be great with the smallest of children. The sooner greyhound racing is banned and these wonderful dogs live the life they should the better.

15th Oct 2014

Yes, it should be banned, as should horse racing, circuses, zoos, and all other forms of animal abuse in the name of *entertainment*.

15th Oct 2014

Yes, please end this archaic form of entertainment.
I have two retired racers, one retired after breaking her leg, but being a top dog was spared. The other retired when the betting syndicate which owned him broke down and the trainer wasn't paid. These are lucky dogs. Thousands over bred in Ireland don't make it beyond puppy school because they don't make the grade.
The u k betting industry supports dog racing with peanuts. The donation to the RGT barely scratches the surface and branches gave to do massive amounts of fund raising all the time.
The gambling industry depends on cheap dogs from Ireland to supply the afternoon racing (BAGS) service. The odds in these races are so short it's pathetic. Few people attend and the races are piped directly to betting shops and online for hardened gamblers to feed their addiction.
The UK government don't care, the tax revenues from off course batting is lucrative. The only legislation regarding greyhounds that seems to be applied is that of waste disposal of bodies. Mass murderers of greyhounds arent prosecuted, just their breaches of waste disposal.
Greyhounds are fantastic pet dogs. They are gentle, quiet, funny, elegant and need very little exercise. They will chase a squirrel a cat or a bunny at the first opportunity... So would most dogs.
Please try to adopt one of the thousands waiting for a forever home.

15th Oct 2014

yes. ban it.

16th Oct 2014

We have two retired racers, they are the most brilliant pets, BAN racing now and bring as much light on the misuse of these wonderful animals as is possible. Public opinion must be focused on their plight and the miserable lives that most of them lead during their racing careers. Shame those that perpetrate this cruel sport and educate the general pubic so that they understand what is advertised as fun is in fact an appalling blood sport.

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