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Column: Racing ban not choice of greyhound adoption agencies

Times correspondent Danielle Hauser's adoption of Spunky, a former racing greyhound, has led her to becoming an advocate for greyhounds. DANIELLE HAUSER | Special to the Times
Published Sep. 28, 2018

I've grown accustomed to the questions and comments I get whenever I'm out in public with my greyhound, Spunky. Whether I'm walking him in our neighborhood or he's with us at a local brewery, people ask the same questions.

"Is that one of those racing dogs?"

"Did you rescue him?"

"Aren't they abused?"

I don't view these repetitive questions as an annoyance, but rather a chance to educate people about greyhounds. Honestly, before our family adopted our retired racing greyhound, I knew very little about greyhounds. Like most people, I assumed that they just spend their entire lives at the track racing.

Like most people, I was wrong.

This election, Amendment 13 seeks to ban pari-mutuel greyhound racing in connection with wagering in the state of Florida by December 2020. However, other gaming activities are not affected. This will allow wagering at Florida's racetracks on greyhound races which are simulcast from other venues.

To date, there are 83 adoption groups that have gone on record as being against Amendment 13. Among the 83 are local adoption groups, Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions and Greyhound Pets of America Tampa Bay, which are non-profit, volunteer based groups that work lovingly and diligently to foster and find retired greyhounds their forever homes. These groups also aim to educate the public about the lives of greyhounds on and off the track.

Greyhounds are unique dogs in many ways, but the number one thing that sets them apart from other breeds is their instinct to run. They are one of the fastest animals, running at speeds around 40 mph. For centuries, they have been used for coursing and racing in countries around the world.

Just like a Newfoundland loves to be in the water or a Bloodhound instinctively tracks a scent, Greyhounds are sight hounds that are born to run. Nobody forces them to run on the track, it's just what they love to do.

Greyhound puppies grow up on farms where they play, socialize and of course, run. Unlike other breeds, greyhounds are kept with their mother and siblings for a year.

Though greyhounds love to run, not all of them are interested in chasing the lure, so those dogs are turned over to local greyhound adoption groups who find them a forever home. Greyhounds that do qualify to race are usually between one and half and five years old.

A common misconception is that greyhounds are abused when nothing could be further from the truth. Greyhounds are the professional athletes of the canine world and are treated as such.

Kennel owners and trainers ensure that their dogs are well taken care of. The dogs are fed high quality food, have plenty of play time, exercise and human interaction. They also are under constant medical supervision. If a greyhound is injured or has lost a little speed on the track, that dog is retired from racing.

So why do so many people have misconceptions about the treatment of greyhounds?

Since greyhounds aren't available to adopt until they are older, they aren't as common in households as other breeds. Everyone has a neighbor with a Golden Retriever, but a lot of people have never even met a greyhound.

Also, muzzles and crates give the impression that greyhounds are aggressive and must be confined. Actually, greyhounds have notoriously thin skin and short fur, so muzzles are worn as a safety precaution. Crates are used to safely and comfortably house a large number of dogs.

Greyhounds have one of the best temperaments of all breeds. Their demeanor is calm, friendly and intelligent, which makes them excellent service and therapy dogs. You'll find greyhounds visiting hospitals and assisted living facilities, as well as reading with children at the library.

If greyhounds were abused and mistreated, they wouldn't so easily adapt to family life like they do, and adoption groups would have a hard time placing them in homes. Currently, the adoption rate for greyhounds is near 100 percent, with more applications than available dogs.

However, if Amendment 13 passes, it does not include any contingency plan to assist in the funding of the re-homing of over 8,000 greyhounds that will be displaced. In addition, thousands of jobs will be lost along with millions of revenue dollars.

Before the election, go visit a greyhound at a "Meet and Greet" event or take a tour of a kennel. See for yourself what greyhounds are really like. Dogs don't lie.

Danielle Hauser can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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