Greyhounds are gentle dogs who would usually prefer to have a snooze on the couch if given the choice between exercising or sleeping. Sadly, these dogs are primarily regarded as a commercial resource and so when they race, too often they are running for their lives. If not up to speed – literally – these gentle animals very often pay the ultimate price.
Over-breeding and wastage
The greyhound racing industry is a breeding lottery for the fastest dog, with little regulatory efforts to curb breeding numbers; in fact, there are incentives in place such as increased breeders bonuses. The over-breeding and the limited capacity for rehoming greyhounds is a key animal welfare concern.
Based on current estimates supported by research from Australian National University College of Law(1), about 17,000 greyhounds are killed in Australia (including named and unnamed dogs) each year due to under performance, being non-chasers, injuries sustained during racing or as surplus dogs at the end of their short racing careers.
A Greyhound’s racing “life”
Greyhounds sustain injuries as a result of training and racing. Steward reports regularly include musculoskeletal injuries, including serious bone fractures and other types of injuries such as seizures (due to lack of oxygen) and cardiac arrests. Injuries necessitate suspension from racing, which has financial implications for owners/trainers. Many trainers will have dogs euthanised for economic reasons, despite having treatable injuries.
Off the track, their lives aren’t any better. Greyhounds are considered working dogs in sport for the purpose of animal welfare standards and are not afforded the same legal protection as companion animals. They are kennelled for most of the time when they aren’t racing and are often kept muzzled to avoid fighting.
It is not just greyhounds who can suffer at the hands of this sport, but other animals too. Recent investigations have found that despite being illegal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, live baiting is still rife within the greyhound racing industry.
Live baiting involves using live animals as ‘bait’ for the dogs to chase, with them usually being mauled and killed or seriously injured when caught. Exposés into key individuals in the industry found all sorts of animals being used, including rabbits, guinea pigs, kittens, pigs, possums and even birds as bait. Some of them had their teeth/claws painfully removed so that they could not injure or damage the dogs.
What happens after racing?
Sarah, a lucky greyhound enjoying her retirement.
Greyhounds’ racing careers usually end some time between 3 to 5 years of age. Information about their post-racing lives is limited, and there is a similar lack of transparent information about the large number of dogs that never make it to the track. However, what is known anecdotally is that the limited post-racing options include surrender to adoption groups, rehoming via the “Greyhound as Pets” (GAP) program or, for the vast majority of dogs, euthanasia. Most dogs euthanised are aged between 3 and 5 years and advice provided from Brisbane veterinarians and veterinary nurses supports this. Some veterinarians report euthanising up to 5 healthy greyhounds daily.