Casino Inside magazine continue this edition to offers more insight into the history of racing dogs (greyhound). We invite you to know the unusual things about the history of greyhound racing.
In United States
In the United States, greyhound racing is governed by state law, which ranges from total prohibition in some states to lack of regulation in others.
The National Greyhound Association founded in 1906 strictly regulates greyhound ownership in the U.S, and has established comprehensive animal welfare guidelines based on veterinary recommendations. These guidelines cover nearly every aspect of greyhound care on the farm and at the racetrack. The American Greyhound Council conducts unannounced inspections each year on the nation’s 300 breeding farms and kennels to enforce compliance with the industry’s animal welfare guidelines. Minor violations are noted and corrected and more serious violations are addressed in hearings before the NGA’s governing body. Those found guilty of these violations can be banned from the sport for life.
Greyhounds live in climate-controlled kennels, usually on or near the tracks where they race. They are turned out several times daily for mild exercise and play, exercised on sprint paths and taken for walks.
In addition to state law and regulations, most tracks adopt their own rules, policies and procedures. In exchange for the right to race their greyhounds at the track, kennel owners must sign contracts in which they agree to abide by all track rules, including those pertaining to animal welfare. If kennel owners violate these contract clauses, they stand to lose their track privileges and even their racing licenses.
American animal protection groups oppose greyhound racing, claiming it is cruel and inhumane. The most notable opponent of greyhound racing is the non-profit organization GREY2K USA.
In South Africa
In the Republic of South Africa dogs are kept with their owners. Due to the amateur state of racing, owners are usually also the trainer and rearer of the dogs; it is very rare that a dog is kenneled with a trainer.
Racing is controlled by a partnership between the United Greyhound Racing and Breeders Society (UGRABS) and the South African Renhond Unie (SARU – South African Racing Dog Union). The studbook is kept by the South African Studbook and organization who keep studbooks for all stud animals. Racing takes place on both oval and straight tracks. Racing is technically illegal in South Africa, which is strange as any other form of animal racing, i.e. horse racing, pigeon racing and even ostrich racing is perfectly legal. Great controversy rages because the use of greyhounds to hunt wild animals is a fairly common occurrence. The supporters of dog racing believe that legal racing, as an industry similar to that of Australia of Great Britain, would cause hunting to eventually stop.
Greyhound adoption groups frequently report that the dogs from the tracks have tooth problems, the cause of which is debated. The groups often also find that the dogs carry tick-borne diseases and parasites due to the lack of proper preventative treatments. The dogs require regular vaccination to minimize outbreaks of diseases such as kennel cough.
Recently, doping has also emerged as a problem in greyhound racing. The racing industry is actively working to prevent the spread of this practice; attempts are being made to recover urine samples from all greyhounds in a race, not just the winners. Greyhounds from which samples cannot be obtained for a certain number of consecutive races are subject to being ruled off the track. Violators are subject to criminal penalties and loss of their racing licenses by state gaming commissions and a permanent ban from the National Greyhound Association. The trainer of the greyhound is at all times the “absolute insurer” of the condition of the animal. The trainer is responsible for any positive test regardless of how the banned substance has entered the greyhound’s system.
Life after racing
Generally, a greyhound’s career will end between the ages of two and six – after the dog can no longer race, or possibly when it no longer consistently places in the top four. The best dogs are kept for breeding, and there are both industry-associated adoption groups and rescue groups that work to obtain retired racing greyhounds and place them as pets. In the United Kingdom, according to the BBC, one in four retired greyhounds finds a home as a pet. In the United States, prior to the formation of adoption groups, over 20,000 retired greyhounds a year were killed; recent estimates still number in the thousands, with the industry claiming that about 90% of National Greyhound Association-registered animals either being adopted, or returned for breeding purposes (according to the industry numbers upwards of 2000 dogs are still euthanized annually in the US while anti-racing groups estimating the figure at closer to 12,000.)Opponents of greyhound racing dispute the National Greyhound Association’s claims regarding adoption statistics, pointing to statements made by NGA officials that they don’t actually know what happens to dogs when they stop racing. Other greyhounds are sold to research labs, such as Liverpool university animal training school, who have received the remains of dogs killed at Manchester’s Belle Vue stadium. A trainer in Lincolnshire was also exposed offering ‘slow’ dogs to the Liverpool school. Additionally dogs are sent to foreign racetracks such as Spain and sometimes in developing countries.
In New Zealand, around 500-600 dogs are bred each year for racing, and between 200-300 are imported from Australia. Australia’s racing industry is about 9-10 times larger than the New Zealand industry. Approximately 250 are retired annually by a charity established and largely funded by the Greyhound Racing industry in New Zealand.
Several organizations, such as British Greyhounds Retired Database, Greyhound Rescue West of England, GAGAH, Adopt-a-Greyhound and Greyhound Pets of America, and the Retired Greyhound Trust try to ensure that as many of the dogs as possible are adopted. Some of these groups also advocate better treatment of the dogs while at the track and/or the end of racing for profit. In recent years the racing industry has made significant progress in establishing programs for the adoption of retired racers. In addition to actively cooperating with private adoption groups throughout the country, many race tracks have established their own adoption programs at various tracks.
In recent years, several state governments in the United States have passed legislation to improve the treatment of racing dogs in their jurisdiction. During the 1990s, seven states banned live greyhound racing. In November 2008, Massachusetts held a vote to ban greyhound racing, which passed 56% to 44%.
Celebrity greyhound owners
A number of historical figures and celebrities have owned or raced greyhounds. Alexander the Great, Henry VIII and his consort, Anne Boleyn, and Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg Gothe all had greyhounds as companions. General George Armstrong Custer also kept greyhounds as hunters and companions, to the occasional chagrin of his wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer. More recently Al Capone, Frank Sinatra and Vinnie Jones raced greyhounds.
TV’s The Simpsons family own a greyhound named Santa’s Little Helper. They adopted him after he was discarded by his trainer for coming last in a race in the first episode of the series. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has adopted multiple retired racers. JK Rowling also adopted a greyhound.