Greyhounds love to race -


Ashley Bradshaw 's  NZ-bred Rambo (Rambunctious)
coming second in a race at Addington in Jan2012
Most of my regular readers would by now know that I support greyhound racing (done properly, of course) and love going to the track and seeing these amazing dogs do what they love. Some of you have even joined me a few times :)
It is amazing seeing greyhounds all excited before the race, and then flying down the track to the post :) The speed they reach is truly amazing. The joy on their faces and their sparkly eyes –well that is just precious :)
I LOVE seeing a racing greyhound in full speed, charging down the track – the sight is magnificent (if you have a racing track nearby –do go and have a look!).
I often watch my Louie's race recording on a DVD – the joy I see on my (now retired) greyhound's face, while he is overtaking all the other dogs just before the winning post, cannot be replicated nor described. It has to be seen! (thank God for being able to order your greyhound races DVD from Trackside!)

The reality is, however, that some people do not support greyhound racing (both in New Zealand and overseas), or quite often do not know much about it. I was one of those people - when I adopted my Louie, I have never seen a greyhound race, even on TV! In fact, I have never even seen a greyhound at all, whether racing or retired. I did not know a single greyhound trainer then ... I thought greyhound racing was, at best, dubious and possibly inhumane practice ...How things have changed :)

GAP (Greyhounds As Pets NZ),  whom I used to volunteer for years  is supported and largely funded by New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association .

Years ago, when I was considering volunteering at GAP and was doing the research on it as well as racing industry in general, the fact that most appealed to me was that this was a rehoming programme which worked with the industry to jointly make our dogs the special dogs that they are. :)
Would these dogs run if they didn't love it? Would the people who work with the dogs work for the pittance that they do if they didn't love the dogs?
You love your dog and you can't believe his life could have been better before you. But in the back of your mind you do realize this dog is so endearing to you BECAUSE of the people who are in his past (breeders, trainers, handlers, racing kennels staff, rehoming agencies staff and volunteers etc). THEY made him that special dog.
His career (even if it was not a successful one!) and his careful breeding (for the track performance and racing) made him a pet you have today. He has been bred for performance, not for the looks. His breeder and his trainer did not care what color he was, what size he was, whether his tail was carried properly and as per breed standards, whether he had an underbite or roman nose or overbite or whatever  - he was bred to be a working dog, to run.
Greyhounds evolved and they survived because they could run fast; running and competing is in their DNA. Running is a demand that is genetically present in the greyhound. I love racing but I love greyhounds even more:  the biggest cruelty to greyhounds would be to deprive them of the one thing that makes them unique and which has assured the continuity of their amazing species.
For example, many of us have seen a young Border Collie kept as a pet, on a city section. Many of these dogs are hyper, barky, half-mad and never settling down. Why? Because they want a job –they want to be on a farm and run sheep. They want to run hundreds of kilometers a week, in a sheep dog pack, working. This is what they have been bred for and it is a demand genetically present in them. To deprive them of that is not fair – there is no quality of life in that. Yes, they might be fed, vaccinated, groomed, walked around local parks for half an hour every day – but their quality of life, all in all, is pathetic. A life of such dog as a whole, in my book, is a dog abuse in its purest form. :( (I won't even go into the issue of uncontrolled breeding of 'designer puppies' in puppy mills but also by private individuals  - we all know and have seen horrible examples of that, in pet shops and the internet).
I grew up in Europe - my father was a keen hunter and we had harrier hounds, German Shorthair Pointers, Wiszlas and Weimaraners  -I grew up with those dogs. I have gone hunting with my Dad and his mates as a teenager and I daresay I am good with a rifle. :)  Today, when I see dogs of these breeds kept in small sections, in houses, with no stimulation and no work, it is painful and devastating for me to see. Recently, I saw a Weimaraner bitch someone brought to the boarding kennels I often visit. The dog was young, and truly MAD, uncontrollable and jumpy. They had a choke collar and a Gentle Leader collar on it, as they could not control it otherwise. It was upsetting to watch. :( And it was even more upsetting to know that she was not, by any means, an exception, as 99% of young Weimaraners would act the same, when in similar situation. :(
The dozens of Weimaraner dogs I grew up with were the calmest dogs you could imagine -they went hunting at least twice a week, covering hundreds of kilometers chasing deer, boar, foxes and bears! When they got home to our kennels, they were exhausted, content, and very very calm dogs. They would rest and sleep for days. They were happy -doing what they were bred to do.We lived almost in the middle of the city and NEVER had a barking problem -our hunting dogs were too tired and too content to even think about barking!

Today, in New Zealand, when I see a half-mad young Weimaraner on a lead, with an owner who boasts he/she gives it 'at least 45minutes walk EVERY day' , I despair :( A few times I even cried, marveling at human selfishness and delusion.... :(
Dog trainers and so-called 'dog-behaviorists' make a killing advising such owners on their dogs, once the situation gets out of control...but the whole thing is so simple: these dogs want to do what they were bred to do ....and their owners cannot give them that. Simple. And so sad and so unfair.
For me, it is too upsetting to even think of my greyhound Louie, famous "Charlston State", being deprived from and not having had his stellar career. It would be true definition of dog abuse. He would have not been the content, wise, amazing dog that he is today.
Yes, maybe your retired racing greyhound has had some racing injuries – my Louie has got a dropped gracillis muscle for example. It is a minor injury that happens quite often, both to greyhounds and other dog breeds. The difference is that racing greyhound is vet-checked after the race (and before the race, for that matter) and injury is recorded and treated. Many pet dogs of many breeds sustain similar injuries, but as they are minor, a few days rest often sorts out the problem and their owners are often unaware that their dog ever had a gracillis injury.
It is a funny coincidence – but our greyhound Lucy, who has never raced, has the same injury as Louie (dropped gracillis). She has never been at the track –she dropped her gracillis at 1yr old, running in a paddock at her trainer's place (she was immediately retired).
Injuries can sometimes be more serious, like a broken hock for example. But again, we need to look at the numbers, as they tell an interesting story:
In NZ, every week, there are at least 8 racing meetings (quite often more, but lets make it only 8 for the sake of simplifying the calculations), each having usually 12 races (some have 11, and some up to 17 races per meeting, but lets say it is 12 as a lowest average).
Each race has 8 dogs in it.
So we are looking at 8 boxes x 12 races (per meeting) x 8 meetings per week – 768 dogs racing every week. So that makes almost 40,000 starts a year.
Out of these, according to current statistics, 50 dogs on average end up with a broken hock or a similar, career ending injury. This is 0.1% percent of 40,000 starts  - it is an incredibly low percentage.
I daresay this percentage is negligible to a percentage of pet dogs who get run over by cars or end up in all sorts of trouble while exploring parks/forests/ etc and generally running around. Just ask your vet, who is always busy treating all sorts of pet dogs injuries  
At the end of the day, it is about quality of life and genetic demand: when I take my Louie (almost 9 yrs old now) to the greyhound racing track, he goes MAD (in a good way!) . His eyes sparkle and he gets so excited that his teeth chatter! J
He is all ready to go and race – no matter what it takes, and when he misses out, he does not understand why and gets very sad :(
After a couple of experiences like this -I have stopped taking Louie to the greyhound racing track -it is just too upsetting for me not being able to let him chase the lure and race.

See this video below of my beautiful Louie (Charlston State) winning a race named in his honour, on Cambridge raceway in 2005. He is in striped rug, number 2, and at the start, he actually jumps into the box on his own - yearning to GO! :) These dogs love it -they live for this:

Louie still gallops like a lunatic across parks and beaches -but for him, it just is not like racing itself.  He does not care about injuries or anything like that, despite being a wuss that he is J Louie is still so competitive and keen to race -he would gladly go and literally break all his legs just to win one race just once more! :) I keep explaining to him that he cannot compete against 2yr - 3yr old greyhounds, but he does not care, and keeps racing EVERY single one of our foster greyhounds, whenever he gets a chance :) I have fostered over 90 ex-racers by now, and each and every one of them LOVED the thrill of the race.
Connor (Know Question) enjoying the race 
Ex-racing greyhound is a VERY different dog from a show greyhound, or greyhound who was bred just for pet market.
I have seen a few show greyhounds in New Zealand and initially, I did a double take, wondering whether they were in fact greyhounds , or some other breed I have not ever seen before. They had different temperaments and very different look from our ex-racers. These show greyhounds looked like giant whippets, with TINY heads. The show breeding has made them have MASSIVE bodies, low ends (they carry themselves like whippets do), tails worn like a whippet, tight between their legs, and for some reason, their heads are tiny, very very narrow,  and don’t really match the body. I don’t know the details but the whole look is bizarre, and it saddens me to see it (I do wonder how genetic selection was done…). These greyhounds have never done what they have been bred for …yes, maybe they have been taken good care of, being pets all their life, but they have NEVER had a chance to do what their ancestors were bred to do. And for me, that is a tragedy. :( 
Show greyhounds are by no means the only ones that end up like this – many working dog breeds look nothing like their ancestors, and as a result of selective breeding for exaggerated features (flat muzzle, low back end etc) are more often than not  ridden with genetic faults that really affect their quality of life. L
Greyhound racing (and associated breeding of greyhounds for that purpose), to my opinion is the lifeline for this amazing breed; the lifeline which will save the breed for becoming yet another disfigured and genetic-faults ridden dog breed that was bred for show/pet market.
So, if you know anyone who is against greyhound racing per se or is backing fundamentalist USA-based groups like Grey2K or similar or handing out anti racing propaganda... do not believe the hype and often fictional 'facts' that they present: look at your pet, do your research on the breed (and other breeds and their history, especially in modern times), quality of life, numbers, and other points I touched upon above, and make your own opinion.
Abby (Patricia Sherry) watching one of her races on DVD
 (yes, that is her on the screen :))
There is also a local person, who has an anti-racing Facebook page called "Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand" and actually refers to himself as 'us'. He is the sole member of this 'organization' though, and most of his statements are pure fantasy. He preys on animal lovers from all over the world to 'join his cause' - people who of course think the cause they are joining is well-intentioned, without being aware of this person's background and the fact that he is delusional individual who mostly spreads selective truths and incorrect statistics, besides being a self-confessed cyber-terrorist. He often states that he was a 'GAP NZ Volunteer' however he conveniently forgets to state this relationship ended sourly and since then he has frequently criticized GAP publicly.
If this person ever bullies or threatens you because you support racing dogs , do call the police. A number of people, including myself, have done that.