Commercial greyhound racing exists in eight countries at nearly 150 tracks worldwide. First invented in the United States, commercial racing is typically characterized by a regulating authority, state-sanctioned gambling, an industrialized breeding apparatus, a greyhound tattoo identification system, organized kennel operations, and a network of racetracks.
Dog racing is currently legal in the United States, Australia, China (in the Special Administrative Region of Macau), Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.Even within these jurisdictions, commercial racing has been outlawed in many states, most recently Arizona in the USA.
Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane
Each year, the greyhound industry worldwide breeds at least 8,000 greyhound litters for the sole purpose of gambling.This amounts to a minimum of 48,000 greyhound pups per year, including the thousands who never get named and are omitted from industry record keeping.
Though not every jurisdiction functions identically, racing greyhounds are subject to practices that are cruel and inhumane: lives of confinement, serious racing injuries, and the threat of “culling” at every stage of life.
Tens of thousands of dogs are bred for this cruel industry
The majority of racing greyhounds are bred in Ireland, Australia, and the United States, respectively. Each jurisdiction breeds thousands of greyhounds per year and supplies secondary jurisdictions with thousands of dogs as well.
Ireland reported 2,736 litters in 2013. Using the conservative estimate of six pups per litter, the industry bred approximately 16,416 greyhounds that year. In 2013, 15,576 were registered to race, both for commercial racing and hare coursing.Of these, 9,373 greyhounds remained in Ireland, and 6,203 were exported to race in the United Kingdom. Additionally, older racing greyhounds have been known to be exported to Argentina, Macau, Pakistan, and Spain — all countries where dogs are routinely killed and discarded.
Australia reported 3,006 litters in 2015. Using the conservative estimate of six pups per litter, the industry bred approximately 18,036 greyhounds that year. In 2015, only 11,732 were registered to race, a discrepancy of 6,304 dogs. Australia regularly exports greyhounds to New Zealand, having exported 813 greyhounds between 2009 and 2012. In addition, it is estimated that since 2011, Australian trainers have also exported over 1,700 dogs to mainland China, Macau, and Vietnam, jurisdictions with no animal welfare laws in place.
The United States reported 1,870 litters in 2015. Again using the conservative estimate of six pups per litter, the industry bred approximately 11,220 greyhounds in that year. In 2015, 10,422 were registered to race. The US exports both young and old dogs to Mexico, where they race at the Agua Caliente race track, often every other day, an unusually high rate by industry averages.
Greyhounds endure lives of confinement
The vast majority of commercial racing greyhounds endure lives of terrible confinement. Dogs live in warehouse-style kennels, side by side, and in jurisdictions like the US, in stacked cages. They are confined for long hours each day with bedding that ranges from carpeting and shredded newspaper to burlap sacks.
Greyhounds are “turned out” two to five times per day, depending on the jurisdiction. At the Canidrome in Macau, dogs are let out twice a day to relieve themselves but stay in their cages for upwards of twenty-three hours a day. In the United States, dogs are confined for twenty hours or more with intermittent turn outs and races about once every four days.
Kennels vary widely across jurisdictions. In Macau, the greyhound kennel compounds are fifty-year-old sparse concrete structures with metal bars or fencing to contain the dogs, two-thirds of which “would fail to meet the minimum size for a racing kennel in Australia.” In the US, there are the two standard cage sizes, 49”-36”-35” and 43”-30”-32”. The latter is barely large enough for some greyhounds to stand up or turn around.
Greyhounds suffer serious injuries while racing
At dog tracks worldwide, greyhounds routinely suffer serious injuries. However, only a few jurisdictions regularly publish injury data. The racing commissions of the American states of Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia produce injury data subject to public request, and the Australian state of New South Wales started publishing injury data in late 2015. Reported injuries include broken legs, crushed skulls, seizures, paralysis, broken backs, and death by electrocution.
In the United States, more than 14,000 injuries were reported from January 2008 to December 2016. Of these injuries, over 1,000 resulted in death. It is important to note that Florida, home to two-thirds of American tracks, does not require injury reporting.
In Australia, only one state racing body, New South Wales, publishes injury records. These cite a total of 2,287 documented injuries from January to December 2016, 202 of which resulted in death.
Aggregate injury reporting does appear in official inquiries from time to time. The Australian state of Tasmania commissioned a report from the industry entitled “Review of Arrangements for Animal Welfare in the Tasmanian Greyhound Racing Industry.” In it, the authors state that “[Tasmanian] stewards notified 274 injuries, 14 euthanised” from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014.
Ireland, Macau, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, seven of eight states and territories in Australia, and the US states of Alabama and Florida do not publish injury data. In the UK, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain once pledged to release public greyhound injury statistics in 2017, but this was later postponed to 2018.
Death is a common fate for greyhounds
Death is an all-too-common fate for racing greyhounds. Dogs that aren’t fast enough or have sustained a severe injury are removed from the racing pool. At best, this situation can result in physical rehabilitation and adoption, but far too often owners and trainers turn to euthanasia and even unsanctioned killings as a cheap alternative.
In Australia, an internal industry memo from Greyhounds Australasia CEO Scott Parker stated that as many as 17,000 healthy greyhounds are killed each year.
In New South Wales, Australia, a 2016 Parliamentary investigation into the greyhound industry revealed evidence that suggests as many as 68,448 greyhounds had been killed over a twelve-year period because “they were considered too slow to pay their way or were unsuitable for racing.” A few days after this analysis was released, a greyhound mass grave was discovered at the Keinbah Trial Track near Cessnock. Almost 100 greyhounds had been killed there “with a blow to the head, from either a gunshot or a blunt instrument.”
In Victoria, Australia, the racing body released its Annual Report for 2015-2016 which revealed that 3,012 greyhounds had been euthanized during the year. Greyhound Racing Victoria also indicated that an even higher number had been euthanized in years prior.
In Queensland, Australia, a mass grave was discovered by the Greyhound Racing Industry Task Force in Bundaberg. Investigators discovered fifty-five greyhound skeletons of dogs which “may have been beaten to death.” Two months later, a Queensland government inquiry into greyhound racing found that the “wastage rate” within the greyhound industry was unacceptably high. The inquiry demonstrated that between 2003 and 2013 the greyhound industry produced a surplus of “7,263 (average of 660 per year) or 30 per cent of [all] greyhounds whelped.” The report described these extra greyhounds as “unaccounted for.”
In Tasmania, Australia, an industry report entitled “Review of Arrangements for Animal Welfare in the Tasmanian Greyhound Racing Industry” found that during the 2013/14 racing season and the 2014/15 racing season, 753 greyhounds were killed by both the industry and by the industry rehoming program itself.
In South Australia, Australia, Greyhound Racing SA released a media statement under pressure from the public in September 2016. In it, the CEO admitted that in the last fiscal year 2015-2016, 535 greyhounds were euthanized or died.
In New Zealand, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee assesses that as many as 300 greyhounds are euthanized each year.
In Ireland, the Greyhound Rescue Association Ireland believes an average of thirty-eight greyhounds is destroyed each month as a result of industry overbreeding. GRAI estimates the total reaches over 450 deaths per year.
In the United Kingdom, building merchant David Smith was discovered in 2006 to have killed an estimated 10,000 greyhounds in his backyard with a bolt gun. He was paid £10 per dog and buried them in a pit on his property.
In Macau, the Canidrome racetrack kills nearly 100% of its greyhounds. While management purports to have a re-homing program, the track has only released a single dog to date.
The full extent of greyhound deaths may never be known, but the current figures confirm a grim reality: thousands upon thousands of greyhounds are euthanized or destroyed each year because it is expedient for industry participants to do so.
Hundreds of cases of cruelty and neglect have been documented around the world
The worldwide commercial racing industry has a well-documented history of animal welfare issues and abuse. These include starvation, drugging, mutilation, and abandonment.
• On December 9, 2015, ABC’s 7.30 program aired an investigation into greyhound exports from Australia to China and Vietnam in which reporters uncovered a 100% death rate for these greyhounds. Since 2001, at least 3,500 greyhounds have been exported to Macau from the Australian state of Victoria alone.
• On February 16, 2015, ABC’s Four Corners program released “Making a Killing,” a damning exposé into the widespread practice of live-baiting in Australia. Small animals like piglets, opossums and rabbits were routinely used as lures to ‘blood’ the greyhounds by some of the country’s most prominent industry participants.
• On November 3, 2014, BBC Panorama released an undercover report of race fixing in the greyhound racing industry in Great Britain. Trainer Chris Mosdall openly admitted to doping dogs to fix races, slowing them down with drugs for several races until the betting odds became highly profitable at which point he would enter them without.
• On October 27, 2014, French port authorities discovered the bodies of eleven Irish greyhounds who had suffocated in the cargo hold of the ferry Oscar Wilde. They were being exported from Ireland to Spain by way of France.
• On March 6, 2013, 3 News of New Zealand released its program “Let Me Entertain You” during which several industry participants admitted to the killing of hundreds of healthy greyhounds. The reporter also called into question the use of the word “retired” as a euphemism for “euthanized.”
• On April 10, 2012 in County Limerick, Ireland, six greyhounds were found dead, after having been shot in the head and dumped in a quarry. The dogs were traced back to their owner John Corkerey, who admitted he had arranged to destroy the dogs after a poor performance at their racing trials.
• On October 29, 2010, Florida’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering investigators reported the discovery of thirty-two grossly emaciated dead dogs and five barely alive at the Ebro dog track. Kennel operator Ronald John Williams was charged with thirty-seven counts of felony animal cruelty. The bodies of eight more dead dogs were found at Williams’s home, bringing the total up to forty.
Greyhounds test positive for serious drugs
Greyhounds routinely test positive for serious, prohibited drugs. Doping agents like cocaine, EPO, morphine, and amphetamines are found in greyhounds with alarming regularity. Though the industry often chalks up these occurrences to tainted food or the actions of a few bad apples, the doping problem runs deep in the racing culture. The Association of Racing Commissioners International, an industry group that works to promote integrity in the horse and greyhound racing business, includes nearly 900 prohibited drugs on its official control list.
Five racing countries have regulatory frameworks in place to handle drug screening — the US, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK. These industry organizations are responsible for finding and handling drug violations. According to Racing Analytical Services Limited, Macau’s Canidrome also performs drug testing, though the process, findings, and rulings, if any, are not public.
Since 2008, GREY2K USA Worldwide has obtained 419 drug-related rulings from American racetracks. Racing greyhounds have tested positive for a variety of serious drugs including cocaine and oxycodone. Additionally, greyhound trainers have themselves tested positive for cocaine and marijuana, and drug paraphernalia for both dogs and humans has been confiscated in greyhound kennels.
In the UK, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain has published hundreds of greyhound positives since 2009, forty-five alone in 2016. These include stanozolol, barbiturates, and morphine. Stanozolol is a synthetic anabolic steroid and has been banned for its performance-enhancing influence. Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants and are serious performance-affecting drugs. Morphine has been used as a masking agent in greyhounds to make dogs less aware of any injuries they may have.
In Scotland, a December 2016 newspaper investigation found that race fixing with drugs occurred with regularity at the non-registered “flapping” tracks. A trainer admitted to giving his dog valoids to slow him down, waiting a few races until the betting odds became favorable, then taking him off the drugs to result in a faster race pace.
In Ireland, the Irish Greyhound Board has posted 122 greyhound drug positives since 2013 in the form of Control Committee Reports and Adverse Analytical Findings. These include cocaine, amphetamine, and pentobarbital positives. While cocaine and amphetamine are known as dangerous performance-enhancing drugs, pentobarbital is a performance-reducing drug. In large doses, it has been used for both animal and human euthanasia and appears in nearly 25% of all IGB drug positives.
In New Zealand, the Racing Integrity Unit found twenty-three greyhound drug positives from 2014 to 2016. According to New Zealand’s Judicial Control Authority, some of these positives were morphine. Additionally, two greyhound trainers tested positive for cannabis.
In Australia, each state and territory has a regulatory agency. These agencies have reported hundreds of greyhound drug positives since 2008. In Queensland, greyhounds have tested positive for amphetamine, morphine, and pentobarbitone, a fast-acting barbiturate. In New South Wales, greyhounds have tested positive for EPO, amphetamine, and codeine. In Victoria, eight greyhounds tested positive for codeine and morphine in 2016. In Tasmania, greyhounds have tested positive for caffeine and cobalt. In South Australia, greyhounds have tested positive for amphetamine and cobalt. In the Australian Capital Territory, a greyhound tested positive for cocaine in 2010.
Additionally, greyhounds in Australia test positive for unusual drugs. In Queensland, a greyhound tested positive for Desvenlafaxine, a drug normally used to treat depression and which isn’t used at all in veterinary medicine. In Western Australia, a greyhound tested positive for Fertagyl, a drug normally used in cows to control oestrus cycles.
Gambling on greyhounds is declining
Greyhound wagering is on the decline in Ireland, Macau, and the US. Total wagering, also known as the handle or turnover, is an industry metric that gauges public interest in a particular gambling sector. In the last ten years, wagering on greyhound racing in these three countries has diminished by hundreds of millions of dollars.
In Ireland, the Irish Greyhound Board reported €23,446,799 in total racing turnover in 2015, a decline of 63.05% since 2006.
In Macau, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported MOP 335,000,000 ($41,888,000) in total wagering in 2016, a decrease of 79.81% since 2010.
In the United States, the Association of Racing Commissioners International reported $586,608,932 in total handle in 2014, a reduction of 83.24% since its peak in 1991.
Greyhound racing is a dying industry
The greyhound racing industry is dying. Around the world, dozens of tracks have closed and continue to close. Fewer than 150 commercial tracks currently exist, and more are slated to close in the near future. This decline is the result of increased public awareness that dog racing is cruel and inhumane coupled with competition from other, faster forms of gambling associated with the rise of internet and phone gambling.
Since GREY2K USA Worldwide began its US campaign in 2001, thirty American dog tracks have closed or ceased live racing. Most recently, Arizona became the fortieth state to outlaw dog racing outright.
Once numbering over 100, Australia’s tracks have continued to close. Today, the country has sixty-five greyhound tracks, the most recent one closing in December 2016.
New Zealand once operated thirteen tracks and now maintains only seven.
The UK once had at least seventy-seven licensed tracks. Now only thirty-four operate there, with two tracks set to close in 2018. In London itself, once the home of over thirty greyhound stadiums, the last track at Plough Lane held its final race in March 2017. Wimbledon will now be used as a soccer stadium.
In China, the Canidrome has been ordered to move or close by the Macau government. This is the only legal dog track in the entire country.
Greyhound racing and its attendant cruelties violate the values of our world community and should be prohibited.
Last updated May 24, 2017. This article is updated from time to time and the updates can be found here. Please refer to this link for the bibliography and original pictures.
About GREY2K USA Worldwide
Formed in 2001 by attorney Christine Dorchak, lobbyist Carey Theil and veterinarian Dr. Jill Hopfenbeck, GREY2K USA Worldwide works to pass stronger greyhound protections laws and to end the cruelty of dog racing on both national and international levels. The non-profit organization also promotes the rescue and adoption of greyhounds acrsso the globe. For more information, contact President Christine Dorchak at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.GREY2KUSA.org or on facebook at www.facebook.com/GREY2KUSA.