April is National Greyhound Adoption Month, so what better time to bring home a mild-mannered, sweet dog? These dogs are generally bred solely for racing, and when they outlive their usefulness, they’re dumped. Sadly, many will never know the love of a family or a good home, but dedicated rescue groups like Greyhound Adoption Center are working to save these docile pups and show you why they’re the perfect fit for your family.
About the Breed
Characterized as gentle, independent, and noble, greyhounds make great family dogs. Although they are a larger breed, they are fairly low-key.
“They are couch potatoes—not hyperactive as you might imagine,” Darren Rigg of the Greyhound Adoption Center says. “They’re good-natured, well-behaved, intelligent and intuitive—they truly do read people well and soon share a common bond.”
Greyhounds do well in apartments and condos, as long as they’re given the chance to exercise in short bursts. Of course, they can be intense when they run. Bred to run short distances, Greyhounds are known for their speed, reaching top speeds of 43 miles-per-hour. Because of their speed, the breed is largely used in the controversial racing industry.
“It is tragic they are exploited due to the fact they run fast,” Rigg adds. “They change people’s lives and bring so much joy into the home.”
Controversial Racing Industry
There are currently an estimated 300 facilities dedicated to breeding racing Greyhounds across the United States.
Racing Greyhounds are highly susceptible to injury or even death. The ASPCA authored an in-depth look at Greyhound racing in the United States, “High Stakes,” detailing the poor diet and living conditions, the use of steroids and even drugs like cocaine, neglect and cruelty, and the high likelihood of injuries while racing—more than 11,000 injuries have been documented since 2008.
One such injury occurred last year in Tijuana when racing dog Highland sustained a compound fracture so severe, he had a heart attack on the way to the hospital. Highland is now recovering after multiple surgeries and a month-long hospital stay to the tune of $20,000, one of the most expensive rehabilitative rescues in the 30-year history of the Greyhound Adoption Center.
The racing industry is legal in 11 states with active tracks in 7 states (Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, and Florida). Of the 21 tracks nationwide, 12 are in Florida. Although the industry is in decline—attendance is down 67% in Florida and 59% in Texas over a five-year period and 41 tracks have closed since 1991—there remains a large need for adoptive families, as these racing Greyhounds have nowhere to go once they outlive their usefulness to track operators.
“We’re very glad to see the U.S. Greyhound industry in rapid decline, but we’re very worried about the deluge of surplus track dogs,” Rigg says. “We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.”
Adopting a Greyhound
Most adoptable Greyhounds come straight from the track and have never lived a normal life. They are bred in commercial facilities, start racing at 18 months old, and stop racing around 3 or 4 years of age. Some are used as breeding dogs and others are sent to adoption groups—the fate of the remaining dogs is unknown, but the Executive Director of the National Greyhound Association estimated 2,000 to 3,000 were killed in 2009 alone.
These numbers bother animal advocates like Darlene White, Executive Director of the San Diego Animal Support Foundation.
“There is nothing we can do to make up for the all the unnecessary deaths, injuries, and abuse of the past, but it’s a dying industry,” White says. “Hopefully, someday, all those making money off of racing will redirect their efforts to saving the Greyhounds of the future.”
Greyhounds are generally a very healthy breed—the biggest health concerns are their bones and skin, which are very delicate. Greyhounds are most at risk of broken bones and other athletic injuries and also more susceptible to bone cancer.
Greyhounds have short coats and require very little grooming, other than baths and nail trims. Plus, greyhounds are very docile, so they get along well with other dogs, cats, and kids. They’re also very sensitive and benefit from positive, treat-based training.
The Bottom Line
Greyhounds are wonderful family dogs that often have a rough start—the vast majority are bred purely for profit, and many of these dogs don’t know the love of a family. But with the racing industry in decline, more greyhounds will be available for adoption than ever before, giving you the chance to give one of these mellow, lovable dogs a forever home.
Top photo courtesy of Greyhound Adoption Center.