Born to Run

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Paws-itive Press

Born to Run

Greyhound racing now – horse racing and polo ponies next

By Barbara Masi

Those of you who know me personally are aware of the work I do with the training and adoption of retired racing greyhounds.  They become pets and fully trained service dogs to veterans in need.  My love for the breed started 17 years ago when I adopted my first greyhound.  I knew little about the breed – about sighthounds in general – but I learned quickly.  I not only read books about the breed but also grew to know those involved in the industry.

Currently, there is a push to end greyhound racing in the state of Florida. This is not good for the state, for those involved in the industry and neither for the dogs. 

First of all – there is the income the dogs bring to the state as many people come here for entertainment and the dogs are a huge draw to tourists which fill the hotels and restaurants.  There is also the income from racing and betting on the racing.

Then there are the people involved in the industry – greyhound owners. Trainers and handlers and those who work at the tracks.  Estimated at over 3000 within the state – it would be irresponsible to end an industry and put these people out of work.  Some have been doing this all their lives and their greyhound farms are legendary.

But let’s get to the crux of the matter – the dogs themselves.  Never has there been such a beautiful athlete as the greyhound.  Graceful and muscular, these dogs are magnificence on four feet.  They are the fastest dogs in the world, and they have been bred specifically to run. 

All dogs love routine and the routine experienced by the greyhound while racing is strict and unending.  They wake up at a certain hour, go out at certain times during the day, eat at a certain time and school or race every few days once rested from the previous time.  This is a seven day a week job for the trainers – at scheduled times of each day from early morning to late at night.  Not a glamorous job with part of it being the disposal of dog poop … but one done for the love of the breed.

During the years I have been involved with the adoption of these dogs, I have been in touch with many of the owners, trainers and handlers not just in Palm Beach County but throughout the country.  All of them are devoted to the pups …. The proper care and treatment of them is a priority.  The dogs are kept in crates during part of the day and overnight – you could not have that many dogs in one place without having them each have “their own space” to rest.  And they do sleep a lot – part of being a greyhound.  Crates are large enough for them to turn around, stand up and make themselves comfortable.  Often you will find a child – perhaps the son or daughter of the trainer – curled up in the crate asleep next to one of the dogs. 

Dogs are born and bred to do certain “jobs” and those that are born to herd do best when herding – those who use noses to find people / things are best when doing that job and I could go on forever with this.  But greyhounds were born to run and they love to do so.  When we take our pets back to the Palm Beach Kennel Club they try to pull us onto the track when they hear the sound of Rusty as he leads the way.  When the former trainer / handler comes to visit the pets (even after YEARS in adoption) they remember them. 

Injuries happen to ALL breeds of dogs – whether in your backyard or at the dog park.  Many broken bones and toes, and other injuries from sharp twigs or parts of fences happen to pet dogs but the scars from stitches are mostly due to greyhound thin skin – whether after being pet out to adoption groups or perhaps they come with these bruises from the compound. 

There is a chain of custody protocol before the dog races.  When they get to the track from the compound, they are turned over to the lead outs and the state has a representative there.  Their trainers are not allowed any interaction with the dogs for a period of perhaps 2 to 5 hours.  This guarantees no interference with the pup before it goes on the track to compete.  Highly regulated once again.

There are people who believe the industry is what it was in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’swhich was less regulated than now.  The rise of the number of adoption groups and the regulations imposed by the state of Florida have improved what goes on in the industry.  Those who are against greyhound racing are against the breed of dog that the greyhound is…the breed born to run!

100 thousand retired racing greyhound pets out there can’t all be “victims” – and some are now even performing as service dogs for veterans (and others).  When one door closes – another opens for these magnificent creatures.

Think of when the government will rule against horse racing or the pride of Wellington – ponies being allowed to play polo.  You are all next – horse owners that “abuse” your animals by making them live a life of routine and then have them work for a living.