The image of fast and agile greyhounds racing hides an industry that relies heavily on profit. Just like horse racing, the public is misled into thinking that the animal is doing what it loves to do best- to run. However, there are people involved within the industry that abuse the animal in the hope of making a lot of money. The animal is seen as a means of making money for the people involved in their ownership, training and industry. Unfortunately, the animal is seen as being primarily a commodity- something that is a way of making money and like all other practices that rely on animals for profit, there are often cruel practices involved. It is not a ‘sport’ but a gaming industry in which the amount of money a dog generates determines his or her expendability.
Apart from the animal cruelty issue, the greyhound racing industry also involves corrupt conduct and bribery involving officials, in particular those of the Greyhound Racing Authority (NSW). A report by the I.C.A.C (Independence Commission Against Corruption) details the level of corruption.
How do they make them race?
Greyhounds are naturally docile and gentle creatures. Trainers use a variety of tricks to make them aggressive for the racing track. Although it is illegal under the Prevention’s to Cruelty to Animals Act to use live bait to train a dog to run faster, there is no enforced body to check whether live lures are used. Many trainers believe that live lures is essential to teach their dogs to chase mechanical lures at race time. Live lures include such animals as chickens, rabbits, and cats. An event known as “coursing” involves greyhounds chasing, terrorizing and eventually killing smaller animals within fenced enclosures. Greyhounds do not need this “taste for blood” as they are not blood hounds, but primarily a sight dog.
There has also been evidence that some injured dogs have been injected with illegal drugs to mask injuries whilst others are pumped with illegal performance enhancing drugs such as amphetamines and anabolic steroids.
Although the people involved claim that they “love their dogs”, they only “love” those dogs that perform the best and make them money. The image of greyhound racing as being a wholesome, family-orientated sport masks cruelty, mistreatment, and experimentation.
What happens to those that don’t make the grade?
Greyhounds used for racing rarely reach over the age of five years old. If able to live as a companion animal, a greyhound may live 13 years or more. A significant number of dogs do not even end up racing. Many are either not fast enough or prone to continual injury forced upon them by continual training. If they do remain injury-free some may have an average of 70 starts in their short career. Greyhounds suffer a variety of injuries from foot pad abrasions, ligament strains and leg fractures, to broken bones and broken toes. Due to their need to be muzzled, they are prevented from protecting themselves from irritating insects and licking their own sores. Due to the long periods of kenneling and confinement greyhounds have been known to suffer from dehydration and heat stroke. The continual stress placed on their body can also lead to heart attacks.
The industry kills greyhounds at various ages in the dogs’ lives because they are no longer profitable, either from injury or lack of racing potential. Only some greyhounds are euthanized by veterinarians involved in the industry. Many even end up abandoned at local animal shelters and pounds. Others are left to languish on private properties. Documented RSPCA cases have even uncovered many horrific cases of greyhounds that have been disposed of by drowning, shooting, beating , or being buried alive.
For a list of various reports, cruelty cases and actions surrounding greyhound racing in Australia, www.greyhoundaction.org.uk/igreyhound.html
Due to the Australian greyhound industry not wanting the public to know how many greyhounds are bred and raced, they don’t keep records of the number of dogs killed. It has been estimated that for every one greyhound that has reached racing entry level represents seven others that have been “culled”.
Greyhounds as experimental subjects
Due to the ‘genetic purity’ of the breed, discarded greyhounds are often used as experimental subjects in many vivisection and research facilities at universities and veterinary schools. Many heart and lung experiments are carried out on greyhounds. Although it is no longer legal in NSW for council pounds to supply dogs to research laboratories, the endless supply of greyhounds is available, since the owners surrender them over directly.
The buck does not stop here
Australia is part of an international push to promote greyhound racing in Asia. Many dogs are exported to China for racing, with a lot of people in Australia profiting from the export. There is an unknown number of Australian bred greyhounds that are sent each year to race in China, and more recently in Vietnam and Korea. Due to very poor animal welfare laws in these countries, most dogs would be transported, housed and raced under terrible conditions. Undercover investigations have shown greyhounds have been tortured, skinned alive and murdered. Furthermore, due to dogs being part of their accepted diet, especially in rural areas, many, if not most, dogs would end up slaughtered for human consumption.
Furthermore, the greyhound industry refuses to be even partly responsible for the greyhounds, especially those sent to Asia.
"Greyhounds Australasia is not responsible for racing or welfare, our office if you like, is the glue that brings all the authorities in Australia and NZ together. We facilitate actions in relation to all facets of greyhound racing, but don't have any regulatory controls." - Greyhounds Australasia ( www.galtd.org.au )
In Australia there are only a few adoption groups dedicated to greyhounds. Despite GAP (Greyhound Adoption Programme) being seen as a 'rescue agency" of sorts for greyhounds, this programme is funded by the various Greyhound Racing Bodies from each state and territory. However, there are are other groups, such as Friends of the Hound which primarily focusses on the rescue and rehoming of these beautiful animals, and work independent from the racing sector. Despite an increase in public awareness that greyhound racing is a cruel practice, there are no retirement sanctuaries available for those thousands of greyhounds no longer needed by the greyhound racing industry.
What Can You Do?
- As a secondary student you are legally not allowed to gamble. However, once you are of age to gamble on racing animals, then the choice is clear - do not gamble on racing animals. By doing so you are indirectly supporting the cruelty.
- Tell others, especially those adults who do gamble, about the hidden cruelty involved. Unfortunately, due to the glamorized image portrayed by the greyhound racing industry, many people do not know of the hidden cruelty involved.
- Run a campaign at your school to help raise awareness and funds for the greyhound adoption group in your state. NSW students go here: www.friendsofthehound.org.au
Write to the Minister of Gaming and Racing in your state and demanding that the Minister be accountable for the cruelty involved in the Greyhound Racing Industry.
Support legislative measures that would require breeders and trainers to contribute towards a fund to support shelters and adoption services.Next Article: Things people add to their property that really don’t add value