Greyhound racing: The controversy

Many of us have seen greyhound racing on T.V. or at a live event. It’s exciting and risky, much like it’s history. Racing greyhounds has been a controversial topic for sometime. Let’s find out why.

First, look at the history of greyhound racing. Dog racing dates back to as far as the Egyptian civilization. Greyhounds were a beloved breed of the Egyptians. In Egypt, there are murals depicting lavish dog races as early as 2,500 B.C. The breed traveling from Africa to Rome, Greece, and England. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Queen Elizabeth I made the first regulated races. It consisted of two dogs chasing a hare on a given track. Gambling was a part of the sport even then, with spectators making bets on the winner.

Dog racing gained momentum in England. Reaching its pinnacle in the 19th century. The sport didn’t begin in America until the 20th century. In 1919, Owen Patrick Smith and the Blue Star Amusement Company built the first U.S. racetrack in Emeryville, California. In the beginning, similar to Queen Elizabeth’s time the races involved two dogs. As the sport gained popularity, up to 8 dogs were pit against each other.

Greyhound racing was illegal for some years, until Florida lawmakers passed a bill in 1931. By 1935 there were 10 legal tracks in Florida. Oregon, Massachusetts, and Arizona soon followed.

In the early years dog racing had gained a reputation. There was talk of fixed races and involvement with the mafia. On top of illegal gambling, there was other unlawful activities rampant at racetracks. Even before its legalization, there were many who believed that greyhound racing was a contentious sport. Due to its treatment of animals and questionable gambling practices.

Today, the conversation of its legality and cruelty has reached new heights. In the 70s and 80s the sport reached success, with thousands investing in the sport, it had become a million dollar industry. It wasn’t until breeding practices came to light that the sport took on vast societal scrutiny.

Breeding farms make racing greyhounds. Of the number of greyhounds bred for racing only 30% make it to the racetrack. The rest are given away, or worse, euthanized. In 2002 there was a New York Times article telling of a Florida track that gave their dogs away to an Alabama native to be shot and buried on his farm. In 1990, an Arizona county shelter reported killing up to 500 dogs a year.

A greyhounds career in racing is not very long. Those that race are only looking at 4-6 years of real racing. During which they are subject to rigorous training and many injuries. After they retire they are given few options. They are euthanized, used for breeding, or put up for adoption.  The latter option gives these racing dogs an opportunity for a normal life.

A greyhound is known as an active dog, a lover of running. The racing sport has taken their agility and endurance and turned it into a gambler’s market of animal cruelty. Today, there are those trying to stop the sport . It declined in popularity in the early 2000’s, about 70% of tracks took a dive. Although, there are still seven states where the sport is still open for business.

So what can concerned persons do for the cause. Join the fight against legal racetracks. If you are a lover of dogs, consider adopting a retired greyhound. They make great family dogs. Also, inform others of this malpractice. Above all things, do not take part in attending racetrack events or gambling.

Greyhound racing has a long controversial history. There is one undeniable fact however, these dogs deserve a life of free running. Dogs are their own individuals, and we can all agree that we should treat them as such.