greyhound rescue

The Plight of Greyhounds

Sao Tome Shrew

I don't normally use this blog to promote books (with the exception of my own,) but I recently participated in the Northern California Independent Booksellers conference in South San Francisco. One of the books I picked up was Comet's Tale: How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life, not because I rescue greyhounds, but because a dear friend does and it was her birthday. What caught my eye was the subtitle. If you've read this blog more than once, you know I believe in the healing power of our relationship with animals, and the natural world in general. Animals we adopt as pets to give them better lives frequently lead us to understand it is they who enrich ours. Animals as healers is a theme that runs throughout everything I've ever written, so I carefully read Comet's Tale before giving it to Tanya. 

I'm extrapolating here, but too often the question that arises before any consideration is giving to saving a unique habitat and the species found in it--a polar bear or Preble’s meadow jumping mouse--is what purpose does it serve? How is mankind any richer for saving a Sao Tome shrew or a Pig-nosed frog? 
Pig-nosed Frog

That should never be the question. The question should be what right do we have to destroy it? However, for those who think the former question trumps the latter, perhaps greyhounds need protection because we have thousands of veterans coming back from our wars who need help, and there's a chance they might make great service dogs.

From COMET’S TALE, by Steven D. Wolf. © 2012 by Steven D. Wolf. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. All rights reserved.

Even if a racer survives (the risks involved in racing,) the dog’s long-term prospects are grim. Hounds who never place in the money far outnumber the winners, and even the winners will start losing one day. Most of the losers are three years old or younger. Because food and care cost money, no racing kennel wants to keep them around. Since greyhound breeders produce tens of thousands of dogs ever year, it’s easy to obtain a replacement. The president of the Pensacola Greyhound Assoc. summed it up the industry attitude when he said, “That’s just a bad part of the business, unfortunately. I compare it to owning a professional sports team. If you have one of you star players who isn’t putting out, then you have to make other arrangements.”
            The “arrangements” are what lie at the end of the road for hundreds of greyhounds. Some are killed legally by veterinarians hired by the dogs’ owners…then there is the other option, known within the industry as “going back to the farm.” A man named Robert Rhodes operated one such farm—eighteen acres in rural Alabama where he admitted to shooting thousands of greyhounds during his forty-year career in the racing industry. An aerial photo revealed an estimated three thousand greyhound skeletons scattered around his property. Rhodes, a security guard at a Florida track, said dog owners and trainers had paid him as little as ten dollars per animal to dispose of their greyhounds.
            Something similar happened in Arizona. In 1992, the rotting corpses of 143 racing greyhounds were found after the bodies had been mutilated and scattered in an abandoned citrus orchard. After shooting the dogs, the killers had cut off the tattooed ears, hoping I would prevent them from being identified. Good police work led to the discovery of some of the ears, and an Arizona breeder and kennel owner was convicted for his part in the massacre. He was fined $25,000, sentenced to 30 days in jail, given 18 months probation, and ordered to perform 400 hours of community service. Compare that to the punishment of Michael Vick, the professional football player who in 2007 was convicted of animal cruelty and served a 23-month prison term for his part in a dog-fighting ring that resulted in the death of several pit bulls. The disparity in those two sentences may point to how differently ‘pets’ and ‘livestock’ are valued.
            In addition to the massacre of greyhounds, there are a multitude of documented cases where greyhounds have simply disappeared. Thousands have been ‘donated’ to medical research, and many more have been transported to other countries. Advocates for the Greyhound Protection League say that 24,000 is a conservative estimate of the yearly number of greyhound killings that occurred during the racing industry’s heyday from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s.
            ‘If there is anyone to indict here, it’s the industry because this is what they’re doing to these animals. They misery begins the day they’re born. The misery ends when my client gets ahold (sic) of them and puts a bullet in their head(s).' That is how Robert Rhode’s attorney attempted to defend his client’s actions as late as 2003. The defense was ridiculous, but his observations about the industry were on target. A racing greyhound’s misery does begin the day the dog is born. However, owing to growing public awareness, greyhounds are being rescued and adopted in ever increasing numbers. By 2003, 18,000 retired racers were being placed with families each year. Unfortunately, that still left 7000 hounds who were needlessly put to death. While the numbers might be fewer today, the percentages haven’t necessarily improved.

Needles and Jenny
adopted by Tanya Smart and Brent Wright

Guest Blog from Tanya & Mason

Needles and Genny

My friend, Tanya, and her husband, are a mini unit of Greyhound Rescue.  A visit to her house and you know how that mechanical rabbit feels.

When I first met Tanya 12 years ago, she had Sable and Genny (and Needles--their landlord.) All the greyhounds then and since have been rescues from the dog racing industry, available either because they weren't fast enough to ever race, or had been retired. Greyhounds usually retire around the age 2 or 3. There are many greyhound adoption groups nationwide, and they are meeting with success (especially in Tanya's household.)

Any large-scale animal breeding operation for profit is a tragedy. It doesn't matter if it's dogs, horses, rabbits, or kittens. It used to be standard practice to "shoot and shovel and shut up," but because the dog racing industry is participating in the relocation (re-homing, re-cycling) of adult greyhounds, many have a good chance of finding a home. Their litter mates may not have been so lucky.  GR

Sable and his lamb

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to tell you all about my new little brother.  As some of you know, my big brother, Sable, died just before Christmas and I’ve been very sad. I don’t like being an only dog. Sure, you get all the attention, but it doesn’t work if you aren’t winning and the cat doesn’t count. My humans have also been very sad and I thought they needed a distraction.

We tried to drive to the Greyhound Friends for Life place in Auburn (near Sacramento) on New Year’s Day but my female human’s truck got sick so we turned around. I thought it was sort of silly to drive all day and not get anywhere but back home. Sure, we greyhounds run in circles but there are cookies at the end. We drove back up on Thursday in my male human’s car. 

There were lots of dogs at the Greyhound Friends for Life shelter. I liked them all but some of them couldn’t be my new friends because they chase cats. I understand completely but Needles wouldn’t have if I’d brought one of them home. I visited with a pretty boy named Tango but he was so scared of my humans that it sort of scared me so I didn’t take him home. Susie didn’t like me – obviously a female dog with no taste. Foxy was really pretty and sweet and liked me but liked my humans more and that made me jealous so I didn’t bring her home either. Then this 2 year old black dog came out and told me that he really needed me to be his big brother. I had to gently remind him who was in charge when he got too close to my humans but he was appropriately respectful so we ran and played. I didn’t have to bite him once. It’s the first time I’ve ever been the alpha dog. Sable was a firm but gentle big brother to me, so I know what to do.

This dog was named U da Boi by his track people. We will all try to forget that as soon as possible.  Dr. Heather Weir (the very nice vet who brought me to my humans) rescued him from his training farm in Colorado and called him Speedy. Well, that didn’t make sense. If he was, then he’d be racing now wouldn’t he?  Besides, he’s not speedier than me. After spending a day with him my female human said that he was obviously a Moose. Since he didn’t know his name yet anyway, we renamed him. Moose is it, and a Moose he is.

My humans almost called him “Sable’s Revenge” because when we go outside, he follows me everywhere just like I did Sable. But unlike Sable, I sort of like it. I’m taller than him so I pee on his head which is fun.

Moose has had a few “issues." First of all, he’d never ridden in a car before. That scared him a lot and he tried to climb over the barrier into my Mom’s lap while we were on I80 at rush hour. This was sort of exciting. I tried to tell him it is just like running fast without working so hard but he wasn’t listening. A big storm hit as we were driving home and though we made it ok, the power went out and big trees fell down in our yard so our humans were outside a lot trying to fix things and he cried when they went out without him. He had to learn that the cat is not a squeaky toy. He’s also scared of thunderstorms. He tries to steal my food – actually he tries to steal everyone’s food – thus his name.  I don’t care if he steals my food but I’m NOT sharing the couch. He’s a little shorter than me, but is a bit bulkier and he’s really strong. He pushes through when he wants to go somewhere even if my Mom says “NO”. Thus his name again. Of course he doesn’t know his name yet and just looks puzzled when someone says “NO” as though it couldn’t possibly be him they are talking to but I’ve told him that the youngest dog gets blamed for everything. He doesn’t know much actually which is sort of fun because I get to teach him. This worries my humans for some reason.   

My mom had the hardest adjustment but she’s coming around. She really misses Sable and it was hard at first because Moose is black, too. I was sorry for that but he picked me and dogs don’t see colors. We all still miss Sable horribly and Moose is certainly not a replacement. However, when he’s following me around and I’m having to be patient with him, I imagine Sable looking down at us from the Rainbow Bridge laughing his tail off.

Mason, the author

Kopi, the most recent addition