Greyhound racing is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 dogs annually in this country. The dogs on the racetracks are trained (accounting for the deaths of 100,000 domestic rabbits and wild jack rabbits annually, though not all greyhounds are trained on 'live lure') and then given 6 opportunities to compete with other new runners in what's known as a "maiden race." If they do not win during their first 6 maiden races, they are "retired" from the sport. If they do win, they are kept on the track to race until their losses begin to outnumber their wins. Reported "disposal" methods include euthanasia by injection, starvation, gunshot, bludgeoning, abandonment, electrocution, and sale/donation to medical laboratories.

Although there are 150 independent Greyhound Rescue Operations in the country, only about one-third of racing greyhounds are adopted out as pets. As of December, 1997, there were still 48 racetracks open for live dog racing. Over 1/3 of those tracks are located in Florida.

Greyhounds make excellent pets, though adopting one is an experience that differs greatly from adopting a dog that was once someone's pet from the animal shelter, or purchasing a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder. Greyhounds frequently experience mild to extremely severe confusion when they come off the track and begin their lives anew resting on someone's couch. (Which, btw, is their favorite activity.) Many of them have never seen stairs before, and some of them are extremely reticent to walk up or down them. They are inexperienced with things most dogs (and people, I'd imagine) take for granted. Ceiling fans, refrigerators, linoleum, automobiles, glass windows -- all of these things are potential inducers of panic for the newly adopted ex-racer. However, with some patience and a good sense of humor, a retired racing greyhound can become a remarkably good addition to your family.

Greyhounds are generally quiet, lazy-ish dogs that like to curl up into balls and watch television from your couch or recliner. (Or the $200.00 dog bed you buy with their new name embroidered on it.) They are beautiful, breathtaking runners, but they don't require any more exercise than other dogs similar in size since they are not endurance athletes. These dogs are sprinters, running like a bullet out of a barrel for all of about three minutes, then exhaustedly curling up again for another several hours of daytime television. They are gorgeous animals, extremely affectionate, and many new greyhound adopters report that their dog has developed an unquestionable expression of gratitude on his face that seems to be permanent.

Through the efforts of rescue groups and animal rights folks, the number of racetracks operated in this country for greyhound racing is dwindling, while the number of greyhounds adopted into new homes is growing. So it's a good start.

For more information on adopting a racing greyhound, you can contact the GPA (Greyhound Pets of America) chapter in your state, or any one of the other 149 adoption leagues that are out there to help. Lots of good information is also available online.

My retired racing greyhound's name is Oscar.