GREYHOUND RACING MYTHS DEBUNKED!

by Martin Roper & Dennis McKeon

"Greyhounds are overbred"  or  “An estimated 10,000 to 50,000 greyhounds are born every year ...”

There is no need to estimate how many greyhounds are whelped annually in the U.S.   In 2004, 26,262 were registered and in 2003 it was 26,277. The National Greyhound Association has published exact figures for decades.  Breeding has been on the decline for several years and 2005 whelpings are expected to be down 20 percent from last year.

“Most of those don't cut the mustard for the track.”

Most greyhounds do make it at the track. Eighty percent of all greyhounds win a Maiden race and embark on a racing career. Of the remaining 20 percent, not all are failures. Many females are retained for breeding without ever going to the track.

"20,000, 30,000, 50,000 greyhounds are killed annually"

More than 90 percent of racing greyhounds are either adopted as pets upon retirement or returned to their owners for breeding. It is estimated that more than 18,000 are adopted annually through groups and a further 5,000 are retained by their owners. Greyhound Pets of America, the world's largest adoption group, estimates that full adoption can be reached as early as 2007, an achievement few popular breeds can claim.

"They're fed 4D Meat" or  "Greyhounds are fed rotten meat"

Anti-Racing groups frequently point to the fact that racing greyhounds are fed meat from, “dead, diseased, dying or disabled” cattle as evidence of abuse because it causes so-called “Alabama Rot” that kills many greyhounds. The truth is that when meat is purchased from a reliable packing facility and handled correctly, the possibility of occurrence of E. Coli infection is extremely small and incidences of Alabama Rot are rare.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has strict rules that regulate the source of meat approved for human consumption. Animals that do not meet those restrictions are designated 4D whether or not any of the above adjectives describe the reason for being considered unfit for humans. 4D meat is the primary ingredient in most pet foods, even premium brands. Pet food is cooked which kills the E. Coli bacteria, but also alters its nutritional composition. All attempts to replicate the diets of racing dogs with cooked food have resulted in failure. Racing greyhounds simply do not perform as well on a commercial diet as on one partially composed of raw meat. Many pet owners of a variety of breeds have converted to a B.A.R.F. (Bones and Raw Food) diet similar to typical racing greyhound fare.

When handled in a safe manner, from the packing plant to the feed bowl, raw meat has proven safe and effective. Qual-Pet, the largest supplier of meat to greyhound farms and kennels, has more than 40 years’ experience in the preparation and distribution of meat. The meat is frozen immediately upon grinding and delivered frozen to its outlets. The meat is stored in freezers by farmers and trainers until it is needed and then thawed before it is mixed with other forms of feed and supplements. The E. Coli bacteria is not uncommon nor necessarily dangerous in small amounts. Indeed, the strain of E. Coli that causes Alabama Rot is found naturally in a variety of foods ranging from apples to alfalfa sprouts. Only when mishandled and allowed to multiply in meat that has not been refrigerated for a long period of time does it begin to pose a danger.

In a similar example of fear mongering, one group even attempted to mislead the public by proclaiming that greyhounds were in danger of exposure to Mad Cow Disease via 4D meat. The truth, of course, is different. All cattle raised in America, regardless of whether their meat is destined for human or pet consumption, are tracked by the USDA and after they are slaughtered samples are collected and tested for Mad Cow. Greyhounds in the U.S. have no more chance of contracting Mad Cow Disease than do humans.  

Greyhounds Are Given Performance Enhancing Drugs Greyhound racing is strictly regulated by the states where it exists. There is a state-approved vet and a state judge on premises, in addition to the track judge and other officials. Prior to weigh in, the greyhounds must pass before the judges and the vet on hand, all of whom have the option to examine and/or scratch any dog whom they feel is unfit to race for any reason.

After the race, urine samples are collected from the winner and/or the second place and last place finishers, with an additional random sample taken, depending upon the custom in the locality. Their urine is tested in independent, contracted laboratories, by means of ultra sensitive gas-chromatography. If any illegal substances are found to be present in the urine of the greyhound, the trainer is suspended and fined, and the kennel can be suspended, depending upon the decision of the judges at the hearing, which the offending parties must attend. A second offense can lead to the trainer's permanent suspension, and/or the revocation of the kennel's right to compete.

Incidentally, there has never been a successfully prosecuted criminal case involving a licensed greyhound professional and the use of illegal, performance enhancing or performance inhibiting drugs, in the entire history of greyhound racing in the USA.

"Their tiny crates give them only enough room to turn around" or "They spend 22 hours in a crate daily"

I often thought, when I was a trainer of racing greyhounds, and performing my daily chores of changing of shaking out and fluffing the bedding, and sweeping out and disinfecting upwards of 50 crates every morning, that there must be a better way. This is so much work. Then, after the beds are all done, and the crates are ready for their tenants to come in from turnout, to root around and happily nest in the fluffy paper, I’d have to begin the process of slitting fresh beds for the next day. There was no end to it.

Anti-racing and animal rights activists condemn the use of crates in the racing kennel, and like to refer to them as “cages”, for the negative connotation that the word conveys. Naturally, none of these people has ever been in charge of 50 or more greyhounds, and the vast majority of them have not been any closer to a racing kennel than I have to the Bunnies’ changing rooms at the Playboy Mansion.

The mythology they have developed, depicts the standard crate that is used in the racing kennel as being cramped, and too small to allow the greyhound to be even somewhat comfortable, never mind to actually stretch out. Think about that for a minute. You are the trainer of a kennel of 50 or more extremely valuable racing greyhounds. Their success at earning purses when racing, which determines your career success and what you will earn, is considerably predicated on the conditioning of their extraordinary muscles. Their accommodations must allow them to relax in time of repose, and provide ample creature comfort so that their muscles and bodies can rest, recovering from the exertions of exercise and racing performance. So naturally, in the warped and narcissistic world of the anti-racing bigot, the first thing you do, is stuff them in crates that are too small and stiflingly cramped, and which will induce anxiety, neurosis, and claustrophobia. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

I don’t recall ever working in a racing kennel where the crates were not large enough for someone my size ----and I’m 6’1’’ tall---- to crawl in, curl up, and spend the night in relative comfort, and I did so on many occasions. The standard racing kennel crate is 3’x3’x4’, which affords even the largest, rangiest greyhound free and unfettered movement, and the ability to stretch his muscles, and to lie on their backs and “roach”….. which is the terminology that retired greyhound pet owners use to describe the blissful position that greyhounds assume, on their backs, with their feet in the air.

The crates are usually arranged in a manner that allows the trainer a frontal view of all the greyhounds, as they centrally perform their daily routines of grooming, massaging, checking for injuries, whirlpooling and otherwise tending to the normal needs of active racing greyhounds. As the trainer works with his/her greyhounds, he/she can easily tell if something is amiss with anyone of their charges, because of this standard, economical crate arrangement. Any experienced trainer knows that any deviation from the norm, in the habitual behavior of their greyhounds, is cause for concern. Crating greyhounds in the traditional manner, allows the trainer to always be visually in touch with each dog in the kennel, and to observe them at all times during the normal training, caretaking routines.

"Breeders practice 'Puppy Culling'"

Most of Anti-Racing mythology is predicated on the flimsiest evidence, often based on an utter lack of knowledge of the first thing about dogs, let alone Greyhounds. One example is the belief in ?puppy culling,? the killing of young greyhounds because they do not demonstrate the ability to win at the track.

One group publishes that 7,000 to 8,000 puppies are culled annually, killed even before they are registered because they are too slow. Their numbers are based on the number of total litters bred annually, which in Greyhounds average 6.5 pups each.

For any given year they multiply the number of litters reported in Greyhound Review by 6.5 and subtract the total number of registrations. Using figures from 2000 as an example, they simply subtract 26,464 registered pups from the estimated 34,141 whelped and assume that the 7,677 unregistered pups were "culled."

What they fail to take into account is that every birth, whether stillborn or not, every puppy, whether it dies in infancy or not, is factored into that 34,141 figure. According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, overall pre-weaning puppy mortality is typically 30-45%, and the rate of stillborns is 10%. Of course, one would expect that experienced Greyhound breeders could achieve somewhat lower figures, but it is clear that well-known puppy mortality rates are not factored into AR figures at all.

"Puppy culling" is one of the central myths in the Anti-Racing movement. It is the only way they can make their numbers work (see ?20,000 Killed?). The truth is that there is no possible reason to cull puppies in greyhounds. In show dogs, occasionally puppies with a coat color that is not to the breed standard are culled. The only time a puppy will be euthanized at a greyhound farm is when it is born so sickly or injured so badly that its survivability is in doubt and the only question is how much suffering it will endure.

A good brood prospect will cost $1,000 to more than $10,000. Breeding to a top sire adds another $1,000 to $3,000. Insemination fees start at $250. With up-front costs that start at more than $2,000, and could easily exceed $12,000, it doesn't make economic sense to cull the results. Further, pups at recent NGA auctions fetched $2,500 to more than $70,000. Why would someone deprive themselves of this income potential?

The belief in culling by the AR movement is confounding and illogical. It reveals its adherents as lacking the most fundamental understanding of the breeding and raising of Greyhounds.  

"The dogs get no personal attention"

I remember when I first met Hugh Carney, a part- owner and Racing Secretary of the the Seabook, NH racetrack, and himself a former thoroughbred trainer.

When we shook hands, he shouted out to the others present, "Now here's a man who knows how to work with his dogs!". I knew what he meant right away, and took the compliment gladly.

You see, he could tell I was a hands-on trainer, by the extreme roughness of my hands, which were that way because of the strong liniments a trainer uses to rub down and massage his greyhounds. He knew that because of his own background with horses.

Naturally, a trainer has to treat each greyhound as an individual athlete and personality, which is precisely what they are. They all have their own quirks and routines, which a smart trainer picks up on, and uses to make them more comfortable and relaxed. A trainer wants to make every greyhound in his kennel, irrespective of their abilities, feel like they are an All American caliber racer.

Their personalities develop from moment one, on the farm, where they are whelped and bred, under the auspices and multi-daily ministrations of the breeder, their families, and the farm employees. Greyhounds are usually always intimately familiar with at least a half a dozen people during their early upbringing, where they are raised in a natural "pack" situation, remaining with their mothers far longer than the whelps of any other breed.

They have constant human interaction, as any other dog would, but with more of a focus on playing "chasing" games, as they are gradually encouraged to engage in this natural behavior as often as is safely and constructively possible, right up to the time they are ready to begin racetrack preparations.

They are groomed and trained to lead and walk like any other dog, and periodically, go to see their friend the veterinarian, like any other dog.

At about a year, to 13 months of age, most are introduced to a kennel environment that is a rough simulation of the racing kennels they will enter in the not-too-distant future. They begin, also, to "school" for racing, in earnest. Bi-weekly visits to the training track are the norm, where they encounter new people and strange greyhounds.

When they are ready to begin their racing careers, they meet their new handlers, and, at the racetrack, they encounter the judges, the vet, the scale clerks, the leadouts and the public----twice a week, at most tracks.

Their racing regimen includes grooming and rubdowns the day before, the day of and the day after a race, as well as exercise in between races, if necessary. They have abundant kennel mates and kennel help with whom to interact, and seldom spend a day when they are not the center of attention for their part of it.

People come to visit the kennel all the time, often the owners of the greyhound, or other trainers....and many trainers' spouses and/or children are often involved in doing some of the kennel chores.

Greyhounds are pretty much thoroughly socialized by the time they get to the track, and almost always, when they are ready for retirement. What anti-racing groups, in their relentless and ill-conceived propaganda, often cite as "lack of socialization", is actually a matter of habituation.

All canines are creatures of habit. They like routine, and they like punctuality. Trainers learn this in the very earliest stages of their careers, if they wish to have a career.

When a racing greyhound is sent to an adoptive family, he must cope with a monumental paradigm change and upheaval in his routine, with which he has become thoroughly comfortable over the course of his racing career.

Everything he encounters in his new environment is strange to him, from the intimidating stairs he will learn to negotiate, to the couch he will soon claim as his own. The greyhound has to become habituated to his new routine and his new home environment.

The fact that greyhounds are able to, in most cases, make this quantum leap of habituation without too much difficulty, is a tribute to their high levels of socialization, and the trust they have learned to place in the humans that they had previously known.

Anti-racing ideologues commonly mistake issues of socialization with the challenges of paradigm change and habituation in their diatribes and propaganda. Whether this is a matter of complete ignorance, or of purposefully contrived disinformation, it is food for thought, either way, considering their irresponsible agenda.

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