Jordan Rivkin wants to change the public perception of greyhounds from bloodthirsty racing dogs to the gentle, loving pooches they really are…
Last year my girlfriend and I adopted a rescue greyhound.
We had read much about what wonderful companions greyhounds make, and with the exploitation and abuse these dogs routinely face, we wanted to play our small part in standing up for them.
Our new adoptee, Cali, was the most divine and gentle creature. Everywhere we went people were flabbergasted by her exceptionally placid and friendly disposition. With some sadness it occurred to me that the greyhound’s gentle-natured reputation had failed to precede it.
Sadly, Cali didn’t grace us with her presence for long. Not long after she entered our lives she fell ill and died, aged just 18 months. Septicemia claimed her life, quite possibly a legacy from her brief time at the hands of those who sought to exploit her.
Greyhounds occupy a rather unique space in the canine world. Despite being “man’s best friend”, they are relentlessly over bred, abused, exploited and killed, all in the name of sport.
What a “sport” it is. Run fast or die, that is the cardinal rule of greyhound racing. It’s like The Hunger Games, or a macabre version of Stephen King’s The Running Man, only for dogs.
While being fast does not guarantee “happily ever after”, what of those dogs that are simply too slow? Many are routinely shot or bludgeoned to death, while others, the lucky ones some might say, wind up at veterinary practices only to be drained of their blood before being euthanised. Yep, it gets even more grisly, only here it takes a somewhat vampire-like turn. As most greyhounds have a universal blood type, and their blood is rich in oxygen-carrying red blood cells (part of what enables them to run so fast), they make the perfect donors for blood transfusions. They are both expendable and valuable as spare parts, quite a unique combination.
Many distraught vet nurses have found themselves draining blood from unwanted greyhounds before putting them to sleep. As one vet nurse put it, “When you’re euthanising these dogs, they’re not old dogs, they’re completely healthy, and most of them are still standing there wagging their tails and licking your face while you’re actually euthanising them.”
In fact, the number of dogs that are surplus to the industry is so great that each year veterinary teaching schools are inundated with greyhound cadavers. Some vet students report that you’d be hard pressed to find a non-greyhound among the donated corpses.
This gruesome sport, now illegal in 39 of 50 US states, found itself at the centre of a NSW Upper House inquiry earlier this year. The Parliamentary inquiry heard evidence of routine doping, over breeding, animal cruelty and collusion, despite an effort to clean up the industry after another inquiry over a decade ago.
Vets also claim that the illegal practice of live baiting is still occurring in NSW. This involves the use of animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, possums, or kittens having their claws and teeth removed so that they can be chased and ultimately mauled, without the risk of injury to the dogs.
The juxtaposition between the horrors endemic within the greyhound racing industry and the nature of the dogs themselves is stark. These are gentle creatures that make excellent family pets. They are wonderful with children, rarely bark, don’t shed, don’t smell, and, despite their reputation for needing lots of room to run, they make for wonderful apartment dogs. They require little exercise and sleep about 17 hours a day.
They are essentially couch potatoes…which is perhaps why I get along with them so famously.
Postscript: If you have a moment, please take a look at the online fundraising campaign for Greyhound Rescue that I have established, an amazing non-profit organisation founded by Janet and Peter Flann. Both in their seventies, Janet and Peter work tirelessly to improve the welfare of greyhounds. They borrowed money in order to do what they could for the dogs and have since rescued and re-homed hundreds of dogs. They are supported by a fantastic network of volunteers and foster carers, and at any given time they care for about 60-70 dogs in either foster homes, kennels or at their home in North Sydney.