|Sao Tome Shrew|
Even if a racer survives (the risks involved in racing,) the dog’s long-term prospects are grim. Hounds who never place in the money far outnumber the winners, and even the winners will start losing one day. Most of the losers are three years old or younger. Because food and care cost money, no racing kennel wants to keep them around. Since greyhound breeders produce tens of thousands of dogs ever year, it’s easy to obtain a replacement. The president of the Pensacola Greyhound Assoc. summed it up the industry attitude when he said, “That’s just a bad part of the business, unfortunately. I compare it to owning a professional sports team. If you have one of you star players who isn’t putting out, then you have to make other arrangements.”
The “arrangements” are what lie at the end of the road for hundreds of greyhounds. Some are killed legally by veterinarians hired by the dogs’ owners…then there is the other option, known within the industry as “going back to the farm.” A man named Robert Rhodes operated one such farm—eighteen acres in rural Alabama where he admitted to shooting thousands of greyhounds during his forty-year career in the racing industry. An aerial photo revealed an estimated three thousand greyhound skeletons scattered around his property. Rhodes, a security guard at a
track, said dog owners and trainers had paid him as little as ten dollars per animal to dispose of their greyhounds. Florida
Something similar happened in
. In 1992, the rotting corpses of 143 racing greyhounds were found after the bodies had been mutilated and scattered in an abandoned citrus orchard. After shooting the dogs, the killers had cut off the tattooed ears, hoping I would prevent them from being identified. Good police work led to the discovery of some of the ears, and an Arizona breeder and kennel owner was convicted for his part in the massacre. He was fined $25,000, sentenced to 30 days in jail, given 18 months probation, and ordered to perform 400 hours of community service. Compare that to the punishment of Michael Vick, the professional football player who in 2007 was convicted of animal cruelty and served a 23-month prison term for his part in a dog-fighting ring that resulted in the death of several pit bulls. The disparity in those two sentences may point to how differently ‘pets’ and ‘livestock’ are valued. Arizona
In addition to the massacre of greyhounds, there are a multitude of documented cases where greyhounds have simply disappeared. Thousands have been ‘donated’ to medical research, and many more have been transported to other countries. Advocates for the Greyhound Protection League say that 24,000 is a conservative estimate of the yearly number of greyhound killings that occurred during the racing industry’s heyday from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s.
‘If there is anyone to indict here, it’s the industry because this is what they’re doing to these animals. They misery begins the day they’re born. The misery ends when my client gets ahold (sic) of them and puts a bullet in their head(s).' That is how Robert Rhode’s attorney attempted to defend his client’s actions as late as 2003. The defense was ridiculous, but his observations about the industry were on target. A racing greyhound’s misery does begin the day the dog is born. However, owing to growing public awareness, greyhounds are being rescued and adopted in ever increasing numbers. By 2003, 18,000 retired racers were being placed with families each year. Unfortunately, that still left 7000 hounds who were needlessly put to death. While the numbers might be fewer today, the percentages haven’t necessarily improved.
Comet's Tale: How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life is available from the following booksellers http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781616200459