I wrote this essay – called Pro-Responsibility – back in 1999. What I didn’t understand then, and still can’t comprehend now, is how people can breed these beautiful greyhounds – or any dogs – and then not take responsibility for the lives bred.
At that time, 50,000 greyhounds were bred yearly and there were 47 race tracks. It’s 2016, and about 9500 greyhounds are bred yearly for 18 race tracks. Numbers have decreased because tracks have closed due to economic downturns and public sentiment, not because breeders have tried to limit the hounds bred. Breeders’ treatment of racing greyhounds has not changed. It is a business and if a dog is not producing then he or she is disposable.
A week does not go by when I do not get an email or a call to help find room for greyhounds whose lives are forfeit if sanctuary is not found. This plea happens to all volunteer greyhound adoption groups. There are never enough homes.
I just do not understand why this cannot change. Breeders and owners of racing greyhounds say they love their dogs; the adopters and adoption groups spend their own time and money volunteering to find homes for greyhounds because they love the dogs, but thousands of greyhounds are still dying.
To my simple mind – Dying because too many are bred, and not enough responsibility is taken by breeders and owners for the bringing of greyhound lives into this world.
If everyone involved in greyhound breeding would breed less, and would be pro-responsibility towards the lives they bring into this world, than I believe the over 300 volunteer adoption groups would not feel so overwhelmed. Anyone involved in rescue and adoption constantly feels they are not doing enough and only putting their fingers in the dike, because when a home is found for one, there are ten others to take his/her place.
It seems to me that adoption groups are taking on responsibilities which ultimately belong first with the owners and breeders.
Pro-Greyhound means to me:
If you breed or own a racing greyhound, (or any dog for that matter) then you take responsibility for the LIFE of that dog. It is your responsibility to give that life a chance at life. If you no longer want that dog in your life, then you:
You Pay to have the appropriate medical work done, and take the time and money to find that life a good home.
You Pay for the transport of the hound to an adoption group. Right now groups pay upwards of $125 per dog just to transport them to the safety of their organization.
You Pay an adoption group to get the medical work done, and to find a home (My suggestion – a minimum of $200 to offset just some of the expenses – medical, lodging, food, marketing, transport).
Putting a dog down, which you have bred, is not an option from my view of the universe.
If ALL greyhound breeders and owners acted responsibly, and the industry tells us that more and more are, then anti-racing sentiments would be left to those who truly want to stop racing as a sport.
Many greyhound adoption people feel frustrated that greyhounds are not being taken care of after they no longer earn their keep as racers, or even when they are deemed as youngsters as not good racing prospects. Adoption people pay for all the extensive medical bills, the food, the housing, the hauling and the marketing materials to find homes. In addition they spend countless volunteer hours taking in greyhounds, and finding homes for them. If the industry provided money to adoption groups for the care of ALL the greyhounds that are bred (currently this number is around 9500 a year, and includes those that never make it to the track, in addition to those who have run and are retired), then adoption people and others would embrace those industry people who take a pro-responsibility stance and care for their hounds even when they aren’t racing.
Another definite way to help with the glut of greyhounds needing homes, would be to breed fewer greyhounds. This would mean there might be homes for all. Potentially, people would be clamoring for the FEWER greyhounds who are bred, and need homes when their racing careers are over, or haven’t even started.
Setting up a program which involves less breeding, and more pro-adoption advocacy would be a whole new paradigm about the treatment of animals, and greyhounds in particular. The racing industry could really set a trend with taking a pro-greyhound stance – and get a lot of very positive media coverage for those efforts.
Until the majority of the people who breed greyhounds stop viewing them as a business where the bottom line is money made, and which includes exporting them to Mexico or China or Vietnam to race, and then to end up meat on someone’s table and take a pro-greyhound stance and take responsibility for the lives they breed, we have a long way to go to be a gentler, kinder people.
But Where Will I Get a Greyhound if Tracks Close?
In 1995, there were 47 tracks with over 50,000 greyhounds being bred yearly, and an unknown number in the tens of thousands of greyhounds dying yearly – by bullets to the head, by starving to death in deserts, by terminal surgery use by veterinarian students and at the hands of needles by vets. All because they were disposable and not earning money for the people who bred them.
What does that say about us as a society and as individuals?
If you can’t do what you were born to do, you are disposed of. In any way we like. We don’t look into your eyes and know you have a thinking, caring soul, who only wants to please, and doesn’t understand why a life lived trying to please results in death? It wasn’t 150 years ago people were enslaved. What gives us the right to do this to any living creature?
And what does it say about us, that people are now saying, “but if we close all the tracks down, we won’t have our beloved greyhounds”. What selfishness is that to worry about OUR need for a greyhound on a couch, when some are still disposed of when no longer racing if an adoption group is not notified. So would you keep the current culture of greyhound racing (breed and dispose) alive, so some of the hounds make it to your home to be loved and others still die?
If the culture of the people who breed and train and race doesn’t change to pro-greyhound, then yes, greyhound racing needs to go away. If that culture would change to care for the LIFE of a hound bred, as I wrote in 1999 – a new paradigm where breeders took responsibility for their lives, racing or not, at any age – would ensure the life of the breed, and their lives. Which – FIRST AND FOREMOST – must be the key from my view of the universe.