More than 900 racing greyhounds have died and more than 11,000 have been injured on the track since 2008, according to what is billed as the first-ever national report on greyhound racing.
The humane groups Grey2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) compiled the 80-page report, and are mailing it to lawmakers in an effort to pass greyhound protection legislation and bring an end to the sport, which remains legal and operational in seven states.
“Thirty-nine states have already made the humane decision to ban greyhound racing, but this cruel sport continues to exploit greyhounds despite public outcry and overwhelming financial losses from a dying industry,” Nancy Perry, senior vice president of government relations at ASPCA, said in a statement.
Twelve of the 21 greyhound tracks still operating in the United States are in Florida, even though attendance has dwindled and the races themselves lose money. A Florida law requires the dog tracks to keep races at 90 percent of their 1996 levels in order to maintain lucrative poker rooms.
“We would like to reduce the amount of dog racing we do here,” Izzy Havenick, co-owner of the Naples-Fort Myers Track and Entertainment Center, told America Tonight in December.
Havenick said the dog track loses $2.5 million a year, and he wants Florida lawmakers to change the law to make the poker rooms and greyhound racing independent of one another, a move dubbed “decoupling.” Greyhound breeders and owners oppose decoupling.
In addition to Florida, six other states operate greyhound tracks: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia.
Citing more than 600 sources, including state racing commission reports and records, veterinary journal articles, necropsy reports, National Greyhound Association documents, books and newspaper stories, the national report on greyhounds said at least 909 greyhound deaths have been documented. In Florida, a racing greyhound dies every three days, according to state records.
The report also documented 11,722 greyhound injuries, including fractured skulls, broken necks and electrocutions, and 27 cases of animal cruelty, including dogs starved to death and denied veterinary care.
Dog owners and breeders say they have a financial interest in keeping their dogs healthy and happy.
“The people that own these dogs love these dogs," said Jeff Kottkamp, a former Florida lieutenant governor who lobbies on behalf of Florida Greyhound Association. “It’s their livelihood and they take care of them.”
In addition to the deaths, injuries and abuse, the new report said dogs are kept in “warehouse-style” kennel compounds for long hours each day in cages too low to stand fully erect. The dogs are also fed “4-D” meat from diseased animals in an effort to reduce costs, the report found.
Grey2K USA is a non-profit that promotes the rescue and adoption of greyhounds. The ASPCA, also a non-profit, is North America’s oldest animal welfare organization.