A total of 10 Greyhound racing tracks have closed in the United States since the end of 2008, displacing an estimated 500 to 1,000 Greyhounds with each closure. Add Greyhounds that have been retired from still-existing tracks across the country and you have thousands of wonderful, vibrant dogs being cared for by adoption groups as they wait to be adopted into permanent homes.
In anticipation of National Adopt-a-Greyhound Month, Yvonne Zipter of Chicago-based Greyhounds Only Adoption and Rescue, talks with Michael McCann, president of The Greyhound Project, about the Greyhound adoption awareness campaign and the future for the breed.
Yvonne Zipter: More than two dozen racetracks have closed since 2000—how many tracks are still left in this country and, if they continue to close (a situation that many, though not all, Greyhound advocates see as a good thing), what do you suspect the long-term fate of these dogs will be for the people who love them?
Michael McCann: There are twenty-three tracks, still. Thirteen of them are in Florida, and then also in West Virginia, Texas, Iowa, Alabama and Arkansas. The industry is really struggling, with so many other venues where people can spend their gambling dollars—Indian casinos, riverboats, and so on. It doesn’t look good for the industry.
Will the dogs die out, then? I had heard that American Kennel Club Greyhound bloodlines were growing thin and they were thinking of breeding them with racing dogs ...
AKC dogs are already mixed with NGA [National Greyhound Association] dogs. They are all from the same stock, from Ireland and England. They were brought over in the 1800s to reduce the rabbit population on farms. There are still some Greyhounds that are completely unregistered that hunt coyotes and rabbits. But the pet population will be dramatically reduced with these track closings. Ironically, in the 1970s the Humane Society said that Greyhounds didn’t make good pets. Shortly after that, adoption groups started popping up all over. [HSUS President John Hoyt supported the humane destruction of retired racing Greyhounds as late as 1983 in an interview with Turnout Magazine.]
I have a long list of why Greyhounds make wonderful companion animals, but what would you tell someone who isn’t familiar with retired racers—why are they such great companions?
They’re not for everyone. If you’re looking for a dog to play catch with or for your kids to roughhouse with, a Greyhound is not for you. But if you’re looking for a dog you can take walks with, and then come home and settle right down—we call them 40 mph couch potatoes—then a Greyhound might be right for you. They’re not going to run twenty miles with you—they’re sprinters. Greyhounds really can’t be trusted off leash: A loose greyhound is often a lost Greyhound. So we recommend that if they’re not in a fenced-in yard, they be on a leash.They’re quiet dogs, so if you want a watchdog, you don’t want a Greyhound. They may seem aloof at first, but once they know they can trust you, they will follow you everywhere.
As a poet and a Greyhound owner myself, I can’t help noting that National Adopt-a-Greyhound Month is also National Poetry Month—was that by design?
Well, I guess it was a coincidence, but Greyhounds are poetic dogs, so why not April?
What sorts of events are lined up for National Adopt-a-Greyhound Month and how would an individual find out what their local Greyhound adoption group has planned?
The best way to find out about events is to go to the Greyhound Project website at adopt-a-greyhound.org. You can go to a list of adoption groups there, and find one in your community. Different groups are doing different things, like some are doing meet-and-greets at local stores and some are having reunions for all of the hounds that have been adopted out. There are over 300 groups in the United States, and all of them are listed there.
And is the Greyhound Project doing anything special itself for National Adopt-a-Greyhound Month?
Our focus is on educating the public, which we do through our magazine Celebrating Greyhounds and our calendar. We also have six television commercials running at different places around the country. Right now they are running in the Midwest, the East, and the West, but you can also find them on YouTube. Cal the Greyhound, who is looking for a long-term relationship, is a popular one. You can find him on the first page of our website. There is just such a great need for homes, with all of the track closings that have happened.
And for people who don’t have an adoption group in their communities, how can they help or participate?
There are adoption groups in nearly every state, but you can also help with funding—all groups need funding to help care for the dogs until they find permanent homes. And volunteers. They all need volunteers—to help with kennel cleaning and walking dogs and to do meet-and-greets at pet stores.