In one aspect, non-profit groups like Greyhound Friends in Massachusetts should be happy with the trend happening here in the states: greyhound racing is on the decline. On the other hand, these groups, who set out to save retired race dogs from being euthanized, are in jeopardy of closing down, because there are fewer dogs to rescue.
But the truth is, while the number of greyhounds in need of being rescued are dwindling (although there are still plenty in need), thousands of other dogs are at risk of being euthanized every year. Realizing that, Greyhound Friends has decided to shift its purpose to accept all types of dog breeds from the South and Midwest, including mixed breeds.
“Greyhound racing is dwindling in this country,” said Louise Coleman, the director of Greyhound Friends. “We’re always going to be a greyhound group, but it made sense to expand our base.”
The illegalities of greyhound racing
Greyhound racing is illegal in 38 states, while five states have closed down their tracks, despite there not being a law banning the “sport.” That leaves seven states in the US that still allow greyhound racing: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia. According to Coleman, the majority of their greyhound dogs come from Florida (around 6 dogs per week) as well as from Ireland and Spain. Greyhounds can start racing at 18 months old and end their careers at around 5 years old. They can live to be 12 or 13, meaning they have many years left after they hang up their racing paws.
The Greyhound Friends shelter only houses 20 dogs, and it’s always full. Since 1983, when the non-profit began, 9,000 dogs (300 per year) have been rescued and placed in forever homes.
Since fewer and fewer states allow racing, Coleman has noticed that it requires more of an effort to get a retired greyhound, which she believes is a good thing. But the battle is far from over. The Humane Society of the US states that about 2.7 million healthy cats and dogs are euthanized each year (one every 11 seconds), for no other reason than lack of shelter space. Having the experience of working with rescued greyhounds, Greyhound Friends is the perfect candidate to help other dogs (regardless of breed) find forever homes. Theo, a 5-year-old box mix is the perfect example. At 8 weeks old, he was left at a Kentucky shelter, then transferred to Ohio. From Ohio, Greyhound Friends got a hold of him. They were able to match him with Adelia LeBlanc, and today he is a certified therapy dog.
“I’m an advocate of the philosophy ‘don’t breed or buy when shelter pets die,’” LeBlanc said.