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Greyhounds: Racing to the grave

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Officials responding to a complaint about a putrid smell at Florida's Ebro Greyhound Park recently found the bodies of 37 dead and decomposing dogs who had apparently starved to death--as well as five more dogs who were near death. Some of the dogs had duct tape wrapped around their necks. It appears that the owner had intentionally left the greyhounds to die when the racing season ended.

The worst part of this story is that it's not an isolated incident.

Greyhounds used in the racing industry live in misery and frequently die in misery. The clock starts ticking the day a greyhound is born. Countless greyhounds are killed each year when breeders decide that the dogs won't be fast enough to win races. Dogs have been shot, bludgeoned or simply dumped to fend for themselves. Those who make the first cut live on borrowed time: Their lives are secure only as long as they make money for their owners.

A few years ago, the bodies of 10,000 greyhounds were uncovered in a U.K. field. The "slow" but otherwise healthy dogs had been killed with a bolt gun.

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After 3,000 dead greyhounds were found in a backyard pit on his property, a security guard at a Florida track admitted that he had made money for 40 years by shooting injured or aging dogs.

And at least 140 greyhounds were presumed dead after they disappeared while in the custody of a man who had been paid to haul "losers" to greyhound adoption groups. The dogs were never accounted for and were believed to have been left in the Arizona desert.

Greyhounds are sociable dogs who enjoy lounging on the couch and who crave the love and attention of a family, but when used in racing, they spend the vast majority of their lives in cramped cages and are usually kept muzzled at all times. Although they are extremely sensitive to temperature because of their lack of body fat and their thin coats, greyhounds are forced to race in extreme conditions--ranging from subzero temperatures to sweltering heat. Trainers have been found doping greyhounds with cocaine and other drugs to mask injuries or to get them to run faster.

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Greyhounds face many risks from which they have no defense. An employee at Connecticut's Shoreline Star track used fishing line to tie a dog's tail to the starting shoot before a race as a "joke." The dog's tail was ripped off when he began running. Many greyhounds have died from heat prostration during transport from one racetrack to another. Haulers transport dozens of greyhounds in trucks that can be poorly ventilated and stifling, cramming two or three dogs in each crate. Countless dogs have also perished in kennel fires.

Sickness and injuries--including broken legs, heatstroke and heart attacks--claim the lives of many dogs. During one three-year span, almost 500 greyhounds were seriously injured while racing on Massachusetts tracks alone.

All over the world, an increasingly informed public is refusing to support an industry that treats greyhounds like garbage. Since 2001, 25 greyhound tracks have closed in the U.S. because of declining attendance. In 2010, greyhound racing was banned in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and the U.S. territory of Guam. Barbados, Haiti and Indonesia have all shuttered their once-active tracks.

People who care about dogs should continue to stay away from tracks and betting parlors. If they do, this ruthless industry will eventually be relegated to the history books once and for all.

Jennifer O'Connor is a research specialist with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;


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