In the greyhound racing industry, the key to success and profitability for breeders and trainers is to have fast dogs. But only a few of the estimated 20,000 greyhound pups born each year have the athletic capabilities and top speed to become a race winner. Bred for no other purpose than to race and win, many young and healthy greyhound dogs are discarded and killed without ever making it to the racing track.
The greyhounds who do make it to the track may endure harsh training regimes and are put at significant risk of sustaining serious injuries, such as broken legs, paralysis or head trauma, during training and racing. Some even die from cardiac arrest due to the extreme physical intensity of racing. On many occasions the injuries are 'uneconomical' to treat and the owner will instead have the dog killed.
Off the track their lives may not be much better — oftentimes being kept in small pens for the majority of their lives, only released to train or race. Racing greyhounds are not commonly kept as companion animals.
Information from greyhound rescue groups also indicates that many rescued racing greyhounds have been underfed, possibly because they have been kept on a restricted diet to keep them at a lean racing weight.
Once a racing greyhound is not fast enough to win races, his career soon comes to an end. For most dogs this is around the age of three or four. The industry classifies these dogs as 'retired', but whilst a greyhound's natural lifespan would be 12 to 14 years, only a small number get to enjoy their retirement in a loving home. The vast majority are killed once they have served their (racing) purpose. Other, perfectly healthy dogs are given to University veterinary faculties where they may be killed for use in teaching and training.
The greyhound racing industry in Australia has supported some small scale adoption programs for former racing dogs. But these programs only adopt out a very limited number of dogs, with the vast majority still discarded and killed.
According to Greyhound Racing Victoria, of the 7,680 greyhound pups born in Victoria in 2006, only 320 were rehomed through the industry's adoption program. Approximately 6,500 of these dogs were killed at a young ageš, purely because they did not serve a purpose for the greyhound racing industry. More than half of the dogs who were killed never even made it to the race track.
The Australian greyhound racing industry exports hundreds of greyhounds to supply and stimulate racing industries in other countries, where most of them will also be killed after their racing days. One of the biggest markets is Macau, — where the Canidrome racing track does not allow any dogs to be adopted.
Animals Australia is opposed to greyhound racing as it places financial considerations ahead of the welfare of animals. Greyhounds in the racing industry are perceived as disposable goods and until greyhound racing is banned, these gentle dogs will continue to be confined in small pens, to suffer injuries, and to be neglected and killed.
As long as this industry is allowed to continue, Animals Australia is in favour of compulsory registration and microchipping of all greyhounds to enable tracking and reduce cases of cruel disposal of unwanted animals. The industry should be required to reduce breeding and to introduce effective programs to find homes for all healthy retired racing dogs.
Animals Australia opposes the export of greyhounds as their welfare cannot be protected in importing countries.
1 Letter Judge G.D. Lewis AM, County Court of Victoria, to Minister for Racing Rob Hulls, 1 August 2008