Where have all the racing dogs gone? – First they went to Florida; now many are back in Bay State

October 6, 2010

There may not be greyhound racing in Massachusetts anymore, but there are still a lot of greyhounds.

In Massachusetts, a statewide ballot question in 2008 passed by a large margin and ended dog racing here forever. Locally, tracks like Wonderland were pretty much put out of business. Others, like the Taunton track, were also put out of business.

And, for the most part, it was the welfare and well-being of the racing dogs that drove the passage of that question.

So why is it that the dogs are now being ignored by so many?

While that ballot question ended the long-standing dog racing industry in the state a few years ago, racing dogs are still coming back to Massachusetts from out-of-state in huge quantities and adoption agencies here are trying to figure out what to do with them.

It’s an example of just how a ballot question – so emotionally driven – can have such unforeseen consequences. It brings up the larger question as to whether or not such sweeping changes to government should be determined by a simple vote of the people. It’s especially timely now as voters face three important ballot questions in this November’s election.

The consequences of the 2008 Question 3 involving greyhounds are no more obvious than at the Greyhound Friends, Inc. facility in Holliston – a greyhound adoption group that worked closely with Wonderland for years until the referendum shut down the track’s racing operations.

The popular sentiment in 2008 was that by voting out greyhound racing, it would end the so-called cruel racing industry and set racing dogs free, as if it were a kind of emancipation proclamation. Television political advertisements said as much.

However, the reality is much different, and Louise Coleman – director of Greyhound Friends – said they are getting greyhound racers by the droves, and people aren’t coming to adopt them like they used to.

“One of the challenges we have to get out to the public is that just because there’s no more dog racing in Massachusetts doesn’t mean there are no more dogs,” she said during a recent interview at her facility. “If anything, there are more dogs. People are counterintuitive. They don’t understand the dogs always went to Florida…People have this image that Massachusetts racing dogs were Massachusetts dogs. There’s always been a circuit. Sometimes they went to the Midwest or Florida.”

That disconnect has been hard on Greyhound Friends, as their benefactors and funders have lost interest or gone to other causes.

“People think there are no more dogs, which does mean we have to work harder for fund-raising,” said Coleman.

Basically, after racing ended here, many trainers and kennel owners took their dogs to Florida. There are 13 tracks in Florida still in existence and dogs from Wonderland simply made the trip south.

They weren’t set free to frolic in the fields and play all day long.

They just went somewhere else to race.

Now, however, those dogs are retiring and they’re coming back to Massachusetts in droves.

“We used to get four or five dogs and now often they want to bring a lot of dogs all at once,” said Coleman. “They don’t want to bring a few of these dogs all the way up here from Florida.”

The reality of that situation is that there is rarely an open cage at the facility for incoming dogs. In the past, dogs were brought from local kennels and there was a good relationship forged between racers and adopters. Now, however, trucks bring in dogs from out of state, as the greyhound adoption movement isn’t as big in other parts of the country as it is here in Massachusetts.

Cage after cage contains dogs that are listed as coming from ‘Florida’ or ‘West Virginia,’ instead of ‘Massachusetts.’

Now, with the question two years in the background, Coleman said that the measure might not have had a lot of foresight – especially when it came to providing for the consequences of removing a long-time industry from the state.

“The whole question seemed to me to be, when the referendum was passed, it wasn’t brought to peoples’ attention that just because you stop racing doesn’t mean you don’t have more dogs,” she said. “There was no provision for the care of the dogs that are left afterward…In the abstract, people think there’s no more racing, but in reality there’s all these dogs and whose going to take care of them? It’s especially hard for us.”

Another worry is if greyhound racing disintegrates in other places. Just who will take care of all of those dogs? It’s a worry in the adoption industry that they call the potential “Greyhound Tsunami.”

“The big worry right now is that if a number of tracks down there in Florida closed all at once, there would be so many dogs coming here,” she said. “We’re worried about that right now. They call that possibility a ‘Greyhound Tsunami.’ It would be a little overwhelming. It’s kind of daunting to think about.”

Finally, there’s also the worry about the overall survival of the greyhound breed. Without greyhound racing, greyhound trainers, and upstanding kennels, adoption agency directors wonder who would actually breed greyhounds.

It’s another consequence that wasn’t explored before the vote.

“If greyhound racing goes all over the country, who is going to breed greyhounds?” asked Coleman. “The adoption movement has created a real demand for these dogs and people want them. The worst-case scenario is that the puppy mills would take them over. Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of planning in this process.”

  • James

    Does this really surprise people? Grey2K & the other extremists don’t understand any of this. The dogs they supposedly thought they were saving, they were really hurting. Not to mention the thousands of people they put out of work at the worst possible time in our economy. Greyhounds are meant to run. There’s no better care given to them than at racetracks. The trainers love their dogs as they do their own children.

  • Tboyd941

    Louise Coleman are you surprised ?? You were involved with Grey2k to closed us all down. You did no justice to the greyhounds by closing our work places down Then you take greyhounds in and they show up on the SPCA web site . What is this? Please Louise admit it you take in so many greyhounds pack them in like sardines and greyhound trainers are no good. What really needs to be done is your place be checked for over loading this is not fair. What your groups did to the Greyhounds was not fair.

  • Grey Hound

    It is interesting that Ms. Coleman was chosen to speak rather than representatives of the other Massachusetts adoption groups. When our tracks were closed, almost ALL of the trainers here refused to place greyhounds with her group as a result of its long-standing affiliation with animal rights extremists like Grey2K and the constant smear campaign she led against those who cared for the dogs in a state that had the strictest laws regarding racing dogs and their husbandry in the country..

    Let’s tell the real story here. Our dogs are not safe in Florida. There are no laws to protect them from elective euthanasia nor any to regulate proper care, handling, or facilities inspection. The greyhounds that make it back here are fortunate. Many of our Massachusetts racers who were sent there as a result of the ballot question will not be.

  • Lola

    Oh, James………You’re comments are truly laughable. It must have been hard for you to tpye them with a straight face. You are, in every sense of the word, an ignoramous.

  • Anonymous

    All are very good comments here. Let’s see what others have to say. This is controversial stuff and the ballot question process in general – no matter what issue – could probably use some more thought. I’m interested in hearing what everyone has to say. Grey2K has contacted the paper and will have a commentary in opposition to this story in next week’s Journal.

  • Loves greys

    So, the dogs aren’t safe from “elective euthanasia” in Florida? I thought owners and trainers loved their dogs! Why would they kill them for no reason if they “love” them?? Could it be that a non-winning hound is just a financial liability? And why did the “caring” MA owners allow their dogs to go to Florida which has little regard for the dogs’s welfare? Was someone holding a gun to the MA dog owners forcing them to send them to Florida tracks? You people are laughable. Thank God the initiative passed and that greyhound racing is a dying industry. If you wanted your dogs to be cared for, you’d make sure they went to any adoption group that found them good homes. Shame on everyone who is involved in this hideous, cruel industry.

  • Atadoffplumb

    Really? No better care than at racetracks? Raw, salmonella laden 4D meat, confinement for hours on end in small cages, forced to run in extremely hot weather in AZ and FL; rampant kennel cough and blowout; steady use of testosterone to suppress heat cycles despite drug manufacturers’ warning that this is dangerous and not appropriate; killed for breaking a leg simply because they are no longer valuable as a racer; dogs testing positive for cocaine; hundreds of dogs gone missing from the Tucson dog track. Yeah, that’s terrific, loving care, just like responsible dog owners give their poodles and pointers.

  • Banning greyhound racing saves lives. Thousands of greys each year die because they are no longer valuable to the industry – and this cycle has gone on for decades.
    To express concern for the dogs going into rescue after a state bans racing, while at the same time supporting the death of thousands each year in states where dog racing is still ‘legal’ is a huge conflict in thought and logic – to put it mildly.
    And the quote from Coleman at the end of the piece is another false choice from the industry. It equates to – ‘let us continue to kill thousands each year and engage in this cruel sport, so the breeding can go on.’
    Let’s shut down the puppy mills and greyhound racing and leave breeding to quality, licensed breeders. Where Coleman is right is in suggesting there is a demand for greyhounds and where there is a demand, the market will fill it. If people can’t rescue greyhounds, many will purchase them.
    Other dog breeds over history have gone from being exclusively so-called working breeds to predominately house pets. Look at the basset hound. I’d venture to guess a vast majority of bassets are in city or suburban homes, as opposed to hunting.

  • Banning greyhound racing saves lives. Thousands of greys each year die because they are no longer valuable to the industry – and this cycle has gone on for decades.
    To express concern for the dogs going into rescue after a state bans racing, while at the same time supporting the death of thousands each year in states where dog racing is still ‘legal’ is a huge conflict in thought and logic – to put it mildly.
    And the quote from Coleman at the end of the piece is another false choice from the industry. It equates to – ‘let us continue to kill thousands each year and engage in this cruel industry, so the breeding can go on.’
    Let’s shut down the puppy mills and greyhound racing and leave breeding to quality, licensed breeders. Where Coleman is right is in suggesting there is a demand for greyhounds and where there is a demand, the market will fill it. If people can’t rescue greyhounds, many will purchase them.
    Other dog breeds over history have gone from being exclusively so-called working breeds to predominately house pets. Look at the basset hound. I’d venture to guess a vast majority of bassets are in homes, as opposed to being used for hunting now.

  • Ray

    I’m a dog lover, but I did not vote to end dog racing in MA. Sometimes the best answer to an issue is not black or white. But one thing is clear. Grey2K caused this problem. They had their agenda- to ‘protect’ greyhounds. They got the public to buy into their message. It was a passionate issue, and they won their battle in MA. Now they move on to other states to incite others to support their agenda. They will shut down more racing. They will cause more problems. It should be Grey2K’s responsibility to provide financing to shelters and adoption agencies that find homes for these displaced greyhounds. Anything less should be reason for the MA Attorney General to sue Grey2K for cruelty to animals!

  • Every rescue should wish that the animals they are saving will one day no longer need to be saved. Do you ever hear a Pit Bull rescue decrying a ban on dog fighting? Of course not! Perhaps Ms. Coleman is a bit conflicted.

    With all due respect to Mr. Daniel, this story was poorly researched and one-sided. Had Mr. Daniel done better research, he’d have learned that Massachusetts greyhounds were always sent to lower end tracks in other states such as Florida. It’s called ‘grading off’, and it’s intrinsic to how dog racing works. Before Question 3 passed, the dogs that reached the end of the line at tracks in Florida had little chance of rescue, because Massachusetts adoption groups were taking dogs from tracks closer to home. The Florida adoption groups have always been unable to help all of the dogs needing placement. Now rescues in the Northeast can relieve some of that pressure and take dogs that they couldn’t have helped before. How could this possibly be considered a negative?

    As dog tracks continue to close down across the country, the number of greyhounds being bred for racing declines. Nearly 40,000 greyhounds were registered to race in 1993, and less than 16,000 were registered in 2009. As the numbers of dogs coming off the track every year goes down, their chance of being rescued and re-homed goes up.

    However, the euthanasia of young, healthy adoptable greyhounds is only one sad piece of this cruel industry. As long as dog racing exists, greyhounds will have to suffer inhumane treatment. Thousands live in stacked wire cages that are barely large enough for them to stand up in and turn around. They live confined in these cages 20+ hours per day. They are fed sub-standard diets, which includes raw 4-D meat. And while racing, many dogs suffer and die from injuries including broken legs, paralysis and cardiac arrest.

    The public no longer supports this inhumane sport for good reason, and the remaining 7 racing states should follow the Bay State’s lead.

    For more information about dog racing, please visit http://www.GREY2KUSA.org

  • It should be GREY2K USA’s responsibility to re-home greyhounds that no longer race?!?

    No, Ray, it should be the people who bred these dogs and made money off of them when they raced that should take that responsibility!!

    The dog racing industry has passed the buck to greyhound rescues for years, expecting them to take these dogs in, provide medical care, foster them, rehabilitate them, and re-home them. Millions of dollars that greyhound breeders and kennel operators and racing trainers haven’t had to spend, has come from kind-hearted volunteers that couldn’t bear to think of these gentle dogs being discarded like yesterday’s trash.

    If dog racing had taken on that financial burden, it would have ended years ago. Greyhound rescue started when the plight of the greyhounds made it to the public’s eye. Thousands of these beautiful dogs are alive today that would have otherwise been murdered simply for not running fast enough.

  • Greyhounds are Greyt!

    Stopping the inherent cruelty in dog racing is not a problem – it is the right thing to do. Greyhounds will be bred as companion animals and they will continue to enjoy running and chasing other dogs and toys, but not forced to live in substandard conditions by people interested only in making a buck.

    No true dog lover would keep his pet in a cage 22 hours a day, feed their dog putrid raw meat, force them to run in as fast as possible in temperatures over 100 degrees, or have them put to death because of a fractured leg that a vet could easily fix.

    Greyhounds are wonderful dogs, gentle and lovable, and superb companions. You don’t need to support dog racing to continue to have greyhounds in the world. Poodles used to be bird dogs, terriers used to hunt rats, Portugese Water Dogs used to help fisherman, and these breeds did not disappear because these dogs no longer do that type of work. It is absurd to claim greyhounds will cease to exist if racing ends.

    Grey2K is not responsible for the welfare of racing greyhounds. The owners who claim to “love” their dogs and “care for them better than anyone” have that responsibility, and many of them choose to discard their dogs like trash when they no longer win.

  • Crvenosrce

    I agrree, to this i am a pet love i got two yorkie and two pits. ALL RESCUE… lets face it dog racing is abusing the poor animal…

  • AK_Hounds

    “[U]nforeseen consequences” ??? Certainly not ‘unforeseen’ by any thinking person. The promoters of these anti-dog, anti-racing laws certainly knew what would happen. They simply don’t care. Their concern is not, and has never been, the dogs. Their extremist agenda doesn’t take into consideration the welfare of any creature but themselves. And, they’re marching into the next state on their hit-list, bound and determined to eradicate properly-bred Greyhounds from the tracks, and ultimately from our lives. Follow the money, you’ll find a lot of answers.

  • Wendymerendini

    You are a fool and no nothing about the Greyhound. They LOVE to run – they run for the sheer joy of running. I live with Greys I know them – you as a Yorkie person have no clue.
    Do you really think that racing kenneling stave and abuse these dogs? How stupid can you be? Do you really think an abused dog is going to run at their best? As you are Greyhound clueless I will tell you – they will not. If drug these dogs to run they will not run at there best – so, that is also an urban myth.

    Get a clue – The idea here is to win races – fit, healthy happy dogs win. It was stupid to shut down racing. It was clueless people like you who know nothing about dogs and know nothing about Greyhounds who are a hazard – not racing kennels.

  • Wendymerendini

    Oh Please! Do you have a dog? Do you know what a Greyhound is? Well, I do. I live with Greyhounds – running is their favorite thing to do – they absolutely love it.

    A raw diet is the best way to feed your dog, did you know that? Did you know that well adjusted dogs will sleep for most of the day? Did you know that Sighthounds (Greyhounds are Sighthounds) are not a hyper breed, they like to lay around. Give them and hour of exercise and that will suit for the day. Racing kennels exercise their dogs.

    Kennel Cough? Give me a break! Your little Fido can pick that up at the local dog park! I am sure racing kennels do their best to keep it in check, but did you know there are 18 varieties of Kennel Cough? There is a vaccine for only three of those.

    I would wonder that cocaine increases the speed of a Grey – I think the kennels employing this are beyond the pale. Not only is it illegal – it can be very harmful for the dog. I think the thinking here is flawed. Just because the the Grey’s heartbeat and excitability is increased does not mean that their speed will increase. Shame Shame Shame.

    As far as missing – are you suggesting they are putting the dogs down? Heck, look at horse racing if you want to see real horrors.

  • Wendymerendini

    You do know that Greyhounds were not bred originally to race around a track… they were bred to chase down live game. And many Greys do just that -open field hunt. Oh – we do not encourage the chasing of other dogs…

    By the way there are Portuguese Water dogs and Standard Poodles out there being used in the field. Terriers are still doing their job in many farms and homes keeping the vermin down.

    Greyhounds do make wonderful pets. They are calm, sweet, gentle and quiet dogs – we call them 40 mile an hour couch potatoes.

  • Dr Rosset

    Your hype is simply not true, having worked as a vet these dogs are tested and no dog can win with drugs in their systems. As for temperature these dogs were bred from desert dogs and are use to a wide range of temperatures. This misinformation is what led the public to believe the lies of the animal rights fanatics as the public doesn’t know the truth about how these dogs love to race or how they were cared for before and after their racing into retirement. Now you have a problem you won’t admit that what you did was wrong and you bring out the tired old lies used to put people out of work and to decimate the greyhound kennels in Mass.

  • Robert

    Just goes to show you that Christine Dorcheck and her radical ilk could not care less about the greyhounds. They only want to force their illogical agenda on the public. She’s fine as long as unsuspecting individuals continue to line her pockets with “donations”. Good job, Christine.

  • Robert

    “Substandard conditions”? Trust me, Greyhounds are treated much better by their trainers that your mother is by you.

  • Robert

    Jan, you continue to spread your lies wherever you post. You’ve never been in a racing kennel, and you do not know. Grey2k lies. They have no interest in saving Greyhounds. Their only concern is generating “donations” to line their pockets. They steal $500,000 from unsuspecting individuals, and do nothing to help Greyhounds.

  • Ken

    I have heard all of the stories about abuse of greyhounds. As the adopter of three greyhounds, I know what wonderful and gentle creatures they are. I was all against greyhound racing until I recently visited a greyhound track in St. Petersburg, Florida. That experience changed my mind. I personally saw that the dogs were well cared for and the handlers were gentle and caring with the dogs. I saw that the dogs were eager to race and the track has an excellent and well run program for adopting greyhounds. Contrary to what I have been told by Grey2k, the kennels in which the dogs live were clean and they appeared to be no different from kennels I have seen in veterinarians’ offices and the local animal welfare organization. Grey2k claimed that the dogs were eager to race only because they had been drugged. To me they behaved no differently than our retired racers did when we let them out in the enclosed area to chase squirrels. I worry that if organizations like Grey2k get their way, the breed will go to puppy mills, commercial breeders and show dog enthusiasts. The breed will then be destroyed and the wonderful creatures which adopters have come to love will no longer exist.

  • Elaine Summerhill

    And now, Coleman has destroyed 2 healthy greyhounds because they’d been there too long. They were taking up space that other dogs could occupy, dogs that are easier to adopt out.


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