By Chrissy Spallone
Banned in most of the country, greyhound racing is hanging on by a mere thread in seven states where races are mostly patronized by smoking customers seeking an outdoor break from nearby casino games. Ironically, the same poker tables and slot machines that funnel in the tracks’ few remaining customers are responsible for stealing the bulk of their business. In 1990, Florida gamblers alone bet $1 billion on dog racing, but those numbers dwindled to $258 million by last year.
This is good news for dog lovers, who have long known of the abuse greyhounds endure during their time on the track. This abuse is such common knowledge that it appeared as a major plot point in the 1989 premier episode of The Simpsons, in which the family adopts their greyhound “Santa’s Little Helper” after his trainer abandons him for finishing last in a race. Dog racing was still quite popular then, but people were waking up to its dark side.
We know that greyhounds are as loving as any other breed, but many trainers still treat their dogs as disposable commodities, abandoning them or ending their lives when they fail to compete due to age, injury or any other factor. Sometimes, pups aren’t even given a chance on the track: breeders euthanize those deemed unfit for racing. And those that do compete suffer from being muzzled and held in cages, and from being forced to race in extreme weather conditions.
Animal rights groups have played a role in greyhound racing’s fall from grace, recently helping to ban the “sport” entirely in the state of Colorado. Hopefully, the remaining seven states that support racing will follow suit, but the industry is clearly dying out on its own. The people have spoken, and besides a few aging die-hards, most would rather gamble on cards and slots than the lives of dogs.