Greyhounds, a dog breed whose lineage dates back to 2900 B.C., have been prized over the centuries for their keen eyesight, speed and elegance.
Sadly, today’s greyhounds are bred primarily for racing — an inhumane and exploitive industry. Among the abuses are over-breeding to produce a few winning dogs, kenneling in warehouses without heat or cooling systems, traveling in unventilated trucks and being double-stacked in cramped cages at racetracks.
Physical trauma due to racing includes broken bones, cardiac arrest and spinal cord damage. Then there are performance-enhancing drugs. In the end, greyhounds that do not meet the industry’s standards or fail to win are usually killed, often brutally.
Thanks to the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and GREY2K USA, greyhound racing is illegal in 38 states, including California. Unfortunately, it exists in seven states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, West Virginia). Five states (Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon and Wisconsin) no longer have live racing but have not actually banned it.
Fortunately, greyhound rescues exist and one, Greyhound Friends for Life, is in Auburn. This nonprofit advocacy group is dedicated to finding loving, qualified homes for rescued greyhounds. Most of their greyhounds are 2- to 4-year-old retired racers who make wonderful pets.
Greyhounds are friendly, stable dogs that thrive on human companionship, so transitioning from racetrack to home doesn’t take long. A safe, warm and loving home with a soft bed, good-quality food and annual veterinary care is all that is needed. House training is fairly easy since racers are accustomed to being taken out of their crate periodically to relieve themselves.
Greyhounds are sprinters, not long-distance runners, so daily walks with occasional runs in fenced areas are sufficient. However, greyhounds must not be off-leash in open areas because they might see something far away and run until lost.
To learn more and to help re-home retired racers, go to www.greyhoundfriendsforlife.org.
Happy Tails: Ann and Richard Friedman began adopting greyhounds four years ago.
Ann writes, “We had lost our two prior dogs, one of which was a golden retriever, the other a beautiful hound we adopted from a local shelter. After some research, and acknowledging that we didn’t want a puppy or more fur for Richard to vacuum, we settled on a retired greyhound. We applied to Greyhound Friends for Life, passed the home/yard inspection, and ordered a large kennel. Juliette was our first adoption.
“As with all retired racers, Juliette had to learn how to be a dog. She learned how to use the dog door the first day and never had an accident in the house. She was frightened of most things outside but with encouragement and coaxing has blossomed into a full-blown and at times, a very goofy dog. Juliette is 8 years old now, gray muzzled, but loving, silly and spunky as can be. She is also the most affectionate dog we’ve ever had.”
This summer the Friedmans decided to adopt Jake from Greyhound Friends for Life — a handsome 70-pound, red-fawn 4-year old racer from Alabama where he had run 243 races.
Ann reports, “At night Jake now sleeps in his crate with the door open. Juliette usually arranges a blanket and sleeps just outside the open door. … A lot of credit goes to Juliette for helping to train Jake. He does follow her lead in many things and I think it helps that she is so affectionate. She rarely feels the need to scold him at all now. All in all, we continue to make good progress. Inside this big red fawn lug is a wonderful boy.”
— Evelyn Dale of Davis is a volunteer and advocate for shelter animal welfare. Her column is published monthly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org