Why Shouldn’t I Bet On A Greyhound?

greyhound racing

When people think of a greyhound the first thought that likely pops to mind is racing. Sadly, this is because the idea that this is their sole purpose has been ingrained into society for many years. Luckily, this is changing. An increase in undercover investigations and public awareness campaigns have successfully shone a light on the issues with racing greyhounds. They have also changed the way in which we see them – that these slender, muscley dogs, are really just giant lap-dogs worthy of love and compassion. While the industry is declining, it is still legal to gamble with the lives of thousands of individuals all in the name of profit. 

This article discusses the greyhound breed and the issues with the racing industry from animal welfare and human welfare perspective.

About Greyhounds

It is estimated that two out of five households have opened their homes to companion dogs. People commonly refer to them as “part of the family” or “fur-babies”, and give them unconditional love [1]. Up until recently, greyhounds weren’t seen under this same view. They were (and still are to many) seen as nothing more than a product who can be exploited for economic gain – but this idea completely strips them of their true nature.

Just because they run, does not mean they should be raced.

Everyone knows greyhounds can run – but does this really mean we should treat them as nothing more than money-making machines? Of course not. While greyhounds are an incredibly fast animal, reaching speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour [2], it does not mean their lives should be risked for money. 

Over the last few years, rescuing greyhounds has increased, as people changed their attitudes about these beautiful animals. This came with the knowledge that while greyhounds do need to be exercised regularly or be given room to do ‘zoomies’, they are actually pretty lazy creatures! Rescuers often refer to them as “giant couch potatoes”. Greyhounds are known to have short bursts of energy that they like to release, but after this, they prefer to lay around while getting lots of love [2]. 

Watch this joyful compilation of greyhounds doing zoomies:

They have feelings, just like us.

Greyhounds are sentient beings, with thoughts, feelings, and emotions – just like all dogs and animals for that matter. They also all have different personalities, likes, and dislikes. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to meet a greyhound, you would know that some are outgoing or boisterous, while others are more reserved, calm, and relaxed [2]. 

rescue greyhound sleeping
Blue cosy in beed.
Credit: Blue The Grey

The Industry

While greyhound racing is a global issue, we are going to focus on the Australian industry. In 2015, there was 300,000 greyhounds, running in 40,000 races on 64 greyhound tracks across Australia [3]. In 2017–18, horse and greyhound racing contributed approximately $1.4 billion to the Australian Gross Domestic Product [4]. Thankfully, these exploitative industries have experienced a decline over the last five years, due to a rise in animal welfare concerns. As a result, there has been a drop in attendance numbers and a rise in interest in other forms of entertainment, and other forms of gambling [5].

The Welfare Issues

Breeding

Every year, an estimated 18,000* greyhounds are born in Australia, with the goal of breeding the fastest dog [6]. The exact number is unknown as there is a lack of transparency within the industry. They fail to publish data regarding the life cycle of the greyhounds, including the number born each year, the number of named greyhounds, and the euthanasia rates [7].

The industry allows for both natural mating and artificial insemination. The latter requires a person to collect the semen from the male dog, and then use a catheter to inseminate the female. In some instances, females under surgical insemination, where she is anaesthetised and has an incision in her abdomen so her uterus can be lifted out. The semen is then injected into her uterus. It is then put back inside her and the surgery site is close [8].

One benefit of the Greyhound Code for NSW is that females are limited to two litters in an 18-month period, and no more than three without prior approval [9]. This reduces the stress breeding has on her body.

*This estimate was derived from the RSPCA, updated on December 24, 2019 [6].

Breeding greyhound
Breeder greyhound
Credit: Unknown

Training and Racing Life

At 8-16 weeks old, greyhounds begin lead training and are exposed to chasing games, verbal commands, new surfaces and environments, and travel in cars or trailers. At 16 weeks, they commence reward-based training and racing related activities, such as starting boxes, circular tracks, race-day cages, and chasing lures. This prepares them for their first race, which they can enter at just 16 months old [9]. Due to the stress of racing, many are retired by the age of two, while some last until they are five [7].

Kennels

A greyhound can be kept in tiny kennels, 3.5 metres squared, (1.2m wide by 1.8m tall). The typical greyhound is 68cm to 76cm tall, meaning the cages are barely bigger than their bodies. Greyhounds who are training or racing can be kept in these confined spaces all day, only being released for training or racing and a minimum of 30 minutes of “free” exercise [9]. Those who are spelled, breeding, or retired, are allowed to stay in here for 23 hours a day.

The NSW Government’s greyhound reform, reflected in the Code, gives current greyhound owners and trainers 15 years to comply with the current barely adequate accommodation requirements [9].

greyhound kennels racing
Example of greyhound kennels.
Credit: Farm Transparency Project

The Race

The University of Sydney investigated the “Optimal greyhound track design for animal safety and welfare”, the report from Jan 2016 to 31 December 216, found that there is a clear correlation between greyhound congestion on racing tracks and injury rates [10]. This is due to the track design and the number of greyhounds racing at one time.

Greyhounds reach speeds up to 70km per hour, and their lean bodies are subjected to centrifugal and gravitational forces while they negotiate the bend on a track. They naturally lean inward while rounding a corner, but also must slow down. This creates an “interference” spot on the track and leads to collisions [11].

Despite suggestions for changing track design and reducing the number of dogs racing at once, the industry has failed to make any relevant changes. 

greyhound racing track
‘Interference’ spot on NSW racetrack.

Racing in heat

Greyhounds can legally be trained, trialled and raced in temperatures up to 38 degrees Celcius [9]. This places the dogs at risk of heat stress and can lead to dehydration, collapse and death, due to the greyhounds’ loss of ability to regulate their body temperature [12].

Meanwhile, vets regularly advise people not to walk companion animals in temperatures above 25 degrees

Injuries

The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds has analysed the steward reports from January to September. In this short time, 7,955 greyhounds have sustained an injury on Australian tracks [13]. These injuries range from abrasions to muscle soreness and tears, broken and fractured bones, concussions, bruising, internal and external bleeding, deep lacerations, dislocations, and vomiting [1415]. Although not all greyhounds will sustain an injury while racing, it is evident that it is incredibly dangerous for them.

greyhound racing injury
Greyhound falling during race.

Deaths

On Australian race tracks, approximately one greyhound dies every 1.6 days. From January to September, 172 greyhounds were killed on the tracks or died from the injuries [13]. Their injuries consisted of spinal fractures, broken necks, torn ligaments, and broken or fractured bones – the latter which could be treated but instead, deems them “useless” and results in being killed [16]. While the industry claims this is a low percentage in comparison to the number of races, from a welfare perspective, one death is too many.

greyhound racing collision
Greyhounds collide while racing in Australia.

Live Baiting

Live baiting refers to using live animals to train greyhounds to chase. While this is illegal in all states and territories in Australia, undercover investigations have shown that it does happen and is hard for the industry to monitor.

In 2014, a greyhound trainer posted an advertisement in the local newspaper asking for live hares, rabbits, and possums. He was fined $400 (later reduced to $200) for this incident and claimed to the RSPCA that he never ended up taking or buying any animals [17].

In 2015, a Four Corners exposé revealed shocking footage of live piglets, possums, and rabbits being used to “blood” greyhounds during training sessions. The footage showed the live animals being fixed to the mechanical lures and catapulted around the track, while the dogs chase and eventually maul them to death. The investigation by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation QLD showed this was routinely accepted by trainers across NSW, Victoria, and Queensland [1819].

“The screaming of terrified piglets and rabbits as they were flung around the track is spine-chilling, but equally so, was seeing trainers completely unmoved by the suffering of these animals. Those involved don’t even put suffering animals out of their agony, they just use them again and again while they remain alive.”

Hayley Cotton, Animal Liberation Queensland [20]

Then, in 2019, the Greyhound Racing Victoria suspended three trainers after allegedly using possums as live bait [21]. According to the RSPCA, multiple greyhound trainers including those with a high profile in the industry are directly implicated in live baiting practices, showing that it is completely impossible to stamp out this behaviour and the cruelty is entrenched in the industry [7]. When animals are treated as a product, there will always be cruelty. The practice of live-baiting also reduces the chance of the dogs’ ability to be rehomed, as they have been blooded and taught to chase and maul other animals.

Watch the Four Corners exposé below:

Drugging and Doping 

Pharmaceutical substances have been given to racing greyhounds in an attempt to improve their performance and increase their chance of winning a race. The drugs used are cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, human growth hormones, EPO, caffeine, anabolic steroids, Viagra, and arsenic. These can have serious psychological and physical effects on the greyhounds [7]. Despite being illegal random testing has found that even “top trainers” use drugs. 

The current penalties for offences like doping are inadequate and must be set higher to reflect the concerns for the greyhounds’ welfare.

Wastage and ‘Retirement’

The industry refers to those who do not race, fail to be successful or are ‘retired’ as ‘wastage’. Approximately 40% of the greyhounds bred in Australia every year are a surplus and will never even make it to the tracks [22]. Being given a name, however, does also not guarantee they will race as there is a high initial “fail rate”. Active racing greyhounds are also called wastage when they are ‘retired’ or discarded due to an injury or poor performance. Many of these individuals end up dead as a result [22].

greyhound at racktrack
Credit: Animals Uncovered
Unnecessary Euthanasia

The greyhound racing industry has incredibly low rehoming rates. Annually, thousands of greyhounds ‘disappear’ and healthy, trainable dogs are killed instead of being re-homed [23]. In 2015, the industry admitted to killing approximately 17,000 healthy greyhounds a year – 7,000 of which are puppies [24]. More recently, the Greens state it is closer to 18,000 [25]. This is because the industry views “euthanasia” as acceptable and normal practice for greyhounds who are “unsuitable for racing”. NSW’s reduced guidelines about preparing greyhounds for re-homing will likely exacerbate the killing, placing more pressure on all the volunteer non-industry rescue and re-homing organisations groups. Trainers and owners are also taking the killing into their own hands – after an RSPCA raid found a mass grave with the remains of 9 greyhounds, and more emancipated [26].

While Animal Liberation opposes racing altogether, so long as it continues, we strongly believe any greyhound euthanasia should be strictly restricted to cases where a veterinarian certifies a greyhound is suffering from an intractable condition or injury, causing significant pain, suffering or discomfort or a marked reduction in quality of life and would compromise the general welfare and well-being of the greyhound.

greyhound mass grave
Mass grave uncovered in Western Sydney.
Credit: RSPCA
Rehoming

Only a very small proportion of greyhounds are adopted annually in Australia through industry greyhound adoption programs – Greyhounds As Pets. The RSPCA estimates just 1,000 [23]. In addition to this program, a small number of greyhounds are also rescued and adopted by independent groups such as Friends of the Hound, Greyhound Rescue, Nora’s Foster Hounds, ACT Greyhound Connections, Brightside Farm Sanctuary, Racing2Rehome, Animal Welfare League, to name a few. While adoption rates have increased over the last few years, the number of unsuccessful and retired greyhounds, still exceeds the number being adopted.

The current state and territory Acts do not apply to or protect all greyhounds bred, used, and retained by the industry. Animal Liberation believes welfare protection and lifetime tracking must be guaranteed for all greyhounds. 

NSW Case Study

To give a small example of greyhounds disappearing we looked at NSW.

In NSW alone, over 97,783 greyhounds were whelped between 2004 and 2016. Based on an average life expectancy (12-15 years), 90,974 greyhounds should still be alive, yet, the Commission found that only 26,852 greyhounds are currently registered with GWIC – comprising of 6,505 greyhounds who are actively racing, 6,970 greyhounds who have been whelped but are yet to race, and 13,377 greyhounds who have been retired to industry participants [2728].

While some of the remaining dogs would have been rehomed, exported interstate or to other countries, retained by their owners as pets or breeders, or died of natural or accidental causes, evidence indicates that between 50% to 70+% of those whelped, were deliberately killed simply because they never were, or no longer were, capable of being competitive racing greyhounds. This means that between 2004 and 2016, between 48,891 and 68,448 dogs were killed because they were considered too slow to pay their way or were unsuitable for racing [26].

Rescue greyhound.
Credit: Arsineh Houspian

Blooding Greyhounds and Experiments

Other investigations have found that unwanted greyhounds are being used for their blood or are experimented on. In 2013, veterinary nurses came forward saying they were forced to drain dogs’ blood and then kill them. Why? To help with the treatment of other dogs. Greyhounds have a somewhat universal blood-type meaning their blood can be used for transfusions for other companion dogs [29]. 

“Often they will be just absolutely bled to death and euthanised, put in a body bag and put in the freezer and taken away for incineration… It’s absolutely routine. No-one would bat an eyelid at that being the reality.”

Selena Cottrell-Dormerm, Queensland vet nurse [30]

In 2016, an investigation by Humane Research Australia revealed that greyhounds are used for experiments and as testers. Dogs had their hearts removed and reinserted while they were still alive, and their gums peeled off and teeth pulled out before being killed. Others had their blood drained triggering a haemorrhage to induce a kidney disorder [20]. Human Research Australia has countless other investigations proving it still happens today, you can read them here.

While these stories are a few years old, no laws have changed meaning greyhounds are still being subjected to these horrible treatments.

greyhound donating blood
Rescue greyhound donating blood in the US.
Credit: Kiichiro Sato

Live Export

Since 2015, 1,801 Australian greyhounds have been also sold to overseas buyers across the globe. Some common destinations are New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong, and China [31]. Once the greyhounds are exported, they are no longer protected by Australian laws and are vulnerable to poor animal welfare conditions with a lack of legal protection. Long-distance travel causes them to suffer from stress and injuries. It also has the potential for them to enter the dog meat trade [6].

Human Health

Gambling

Research has repeatedly proven that gambling addictions can result in high levels of anger and conflict, low levels of clear and effective communication, less engagement, a lack of commitment and support, and less participation in social activities.

Kids Exposed to Cruelty

Despite being a gambling industry, it is somehow allowed to present itself as ‘family-friendly’ event, encouraging parents to bring their children to watch the races. There are two major issues with this, one, it exposes children to gambling, and two, it normalises the abuse of other living beings. Studies have found that exposing kids to gambling results in a greater chance of developing a problem later in life [3233]. The high prevalence of injuries and death is far from “fun”. It is simply normalising animal abuse, exploitation, and a disregard for other living beings at a young age. 

kids at greyhound racing
Greyhound Racing Victoria “School Holiday Campaign”

Government Support

Did you know that your tax money is being used to prop up this cruel industry? The Australian government artificially inflates prize money, gives pay incentives for breeding, props up clubs and builds unwanted tracks. The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds put together a summary of the money trail here

government support greyhound racing
Image by The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds [Money Trail]

What Can I Do?

It is evident that the racing industry puts profits over the greyhounds’ wellbeing. It denies them their natural instincts, causing physical and mental suffering, while it is also responsible for thousands of injuries and deaths. If the people in the industry truly loved their greyhounds, they would not risk their lives for money. Ultimately, far too many greyhounds are suffering in the name of entertainment. Help us stop the cruelty by:

  1. Pledging to never bet on an animals life again,
  2. Sharing this information with your friends and family,
  3. Writing to your local premier, asking them to support a greyhound racing ban.
  4. Support the Greens campaign to ban Greyhound racing,
  5. Volunteer at a local rescue group. The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds has put together a comprehensive list of the greyhound rescue groups across Australia, here.

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