A greyhound dog sitting on its bed comfortably in a hourse

Understanding the background of greyhound racing.

Bred for no other purpose than to race and win, greyhounds in Australia are literally running for their lives.

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 fast 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.

A greyhound dog with muzzle on running on a race track

Racing life

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.

Adopted greyhound dog looking to camera
Two greyhounds running on a beach
Two greyhounds running on a beach

Retirement

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'

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 revealed that live baiting was 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.

A white greyhound dog sitting on grass and looking to camera
Greyhound dogs running on a race track
Greyhound dogs running on a race track

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.

Export

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 was Macau — where the Canidrome racing track did not allow any dogs to be adopted. Greyhounds Australasia (representing the State industry bodies) adopted a policy in 2014 opposing the export of greyhounds to Macau, Vietnam and other countries which do not have animal welfare laws, and yet breeders/owners/trainers continued to export dogs to these countries.

A 2015 investigation by Animals Australia in Macau and mainland China revealed Australian greyhounds living and racing in appalling conditions. At least 700 Australian greyhounds had been sent to the Canidrome alone – against industry rules – and with every export effectively a death sentence for these dogs. 179 trainers and owners were ultimately charged as a result of our evidence.

In positive news, some three years later, the Macau Canidrome officially closed its doors. It was win secured by animal protection group, Anima Macau, and supported by advocates from all around the world. A massive effort has seen the dogs who remained at the Candirome adopted into loving families all around the world.

A greyhound with placard in his neck reading

Killing healthy dogs

Prior to the media exposés, 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.

In the aftermath of such intense public and political scrutiny, greyhound breeding figures fell and adoptions increased – as more people became aware of the gentle, loving nature of these dogs.

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.

Export

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.

 

A industry in decline

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.

 

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A greyhound dog looking to camera while standing in a garden

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, to any country.
Black and white greyhound dog sitting on a beach and looking straight

What you can do to help

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
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