Greyhound racing begins as a gamble and for most dogs ends in tragedy. Every year in Australia, around 10,000 greyhound pups are bred in the hope of finding a quick runner. But not every dog is suited to racing. And like a lottery ticket that has failed to pay out, many dogs and pups who don't make the grade are discarded.
Prior to an explosive report into Australia's greyhound racing industry aired on ABC's Four Corners in 2015, the industry itself admitted to killing up to 17,000 healthy dogs each year — including 7,000 pups and young dogs who never even make it to the track, and thousands of dogs killed simply because they were too slow to win.
Since the report — featuring Animals Australia & Animal Liberation QLD's joint undercover investigation -- aired, greyhound breeding figures have fallen due to public pressure and subsequent Government inquiries. As more people have become aware of the gentle nature of greyhounds and the need to provide them with loving homes, adoption rates for unwanted racers have also increased. However, the figures still do not add up and many young greyhounds continue to be killed when they are no longer considered 'profitable', and on-track injuries and deaths continue at rates that have not significantly changed over the past five years.
The greyhounds who do make it to the track are put at significant risk of sustaining serious injuries, such as broken hocks or legs, or head trauma, during training and racing. Up to 200 dogs are reported injured during official races each week. 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. On average around five dogs are killed at official races each week as a result of greyhound racing.
Off the track their lives may not be much better — oftentimes being kept in tiny barren pens or kennels 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 greyhound used for racing is not fast enough to win races, their 'career' soon comes to an end. Whilst a greyhound's natural lifespan would be 12 to 14 years, many dogs have their lives cut short once they can no longer turn a profit for their owners.
Some ex-racers go into breeding programs, but even they may be killed at only five or six years old. Other, perfectly healthy dogs are handed over to university veterinary faculties where they may be experimented on, or killed for use in teaching and training.
Live baiting refers to the illegal practice of using live animals for the purpose of training greyhounds. Investigations by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland have revealed that live baiting is a routine and accepted training method used by dozens of Australian greyhound trainers.
Investigators documented piglets, possums and rabbits being tied to lures and trainers releasing dogs to chase the lure then allowing dogs to catch and maul these defenceless animals. Trainers were also documented tying live animals to leads/leashes to taunt and stimulate greyhounds into aggressive behaviour before allowing them to maul the helpless animals. The groundbreaking investigations across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were aired on ABC Four Corners on 16 February 2015.
Drugging and doping
As reported on ABC's 7.30, rumours of dogs being drugged with cocaine, caffeine and anabolic steroids have abounded within greyhound racing for years. In January 2015, WA trainer Linda Britton was suspended for 18 months after pleading guilty to doping dogs with anabolic steroids. Just days later, industry officials awarded her the title WA's No. 1 Trainer.
UPDATE: As of July 2018, the Canidrome has officially closed its doors for the last time. Thanks to the dedication of thousands of people from all over the world — including caring supporters of Grey2K USA/Worldwide, Animal Liberation Queensland, Gone Are The Dogs, Friends of the Hound, Anima and Animals Australia — not one more greyhound will race and die at the cruel Canidrome!
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. Greyhounds Australasia (representing the State industry bodies) adopted a policy in 2014 opposing export of greyhounds to Macau, Vietnam and other countries which do not have animal welfare laws, and yet breeders/owners/trainers continue to export dogs to these countries.
An industry in decline
Australia is one of only eight countries in the world with a commercial greyhound racing industry — Australia is by far the biggest. However, internationally, it is an industry in decline. In the USA, greyhound racing is now illegal in 39 states, 28 of the 49 tracks have closed since 2001 and wagering has dramatically reduced.
State governments provide millions of dollars to the greyhound racing industry — actively encouraging growth and participation through breeding incentives, appearance fees, infrastructure and race-day attraction grants and even prize money. Despite this extensive government support, the industry receives little, if any, government oversight.
Australians spend more on gambling per capita than any other country. An estimated $4 billion is wagered on greyhound racing each year in Australia. A Productivity Commission review estimated the social cost of problem gambling to be at least $4.7 billion a year. A Price Waterhouse Coopers report in NSW in 2014 concluded that the racing industry is a 'consumptive sector', and doesn't 'generate any significant productivity benefits to the rest of the economy'.
Animals Australia's position
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 calls for:
- An end to industry self-regulation and therefore the establishment of a permanent Government 'Task Force' (in each State) that has regulatory oversight of greyhound racing.
- The introduction of statutory requirements to reduce breeding and to introduce effective programs to find homes for all healthy retired racing dogs. Programs which offer financial incentives to breed more dogs should be abolished.
- State governments to cease their funding of the greyhound industry.
- All lures used in greyhound training/racing to only be artificial material and without sound.
- All training/breaking-in premises to be licensed and have CCTV installed. As part of that licence — routine/random inspections of facilities can occur at any time without notice.
- State racing authorities to use their discretionary powers to immediately suspend any trainers and owners found to be live-baiting.
- The installation of straight tracks and the reduction of the number of dogs in each race to reduce the number of deaths and injuries to dogs.
- The Federal government to enact export laws to prohibit the export of greyhounds for racing.
What you can do to help
- Never bet on greyhound racing. The Australian greyhound racing industry sadly puts profits above the wellbeing of the animals in their industry. Betting on greyhound races keeps this industry profitable.
- Take action to end barbaric 'live baiting' cruelty.
- Contrary to the general perception, greyhounds make great additions to the family. They love human company and their gentle nature and low requirement for exercise makes them suitable for almost every home. Discover more about adopting or fostering a greyhound.