Humane Society of the United States

Fact Sheet: Greyhound Racing

1. Do problems exist with greyhound racing?
Yes. Greyhound racing constitutes animal abuse because of the industry’s excessive surplus breeding practices, the often cruel methods by which unwanted dogs are disposed of, the daily conditions in which many dogs are forced to live, and the killing and maiming of bait animals, such as rabbits, during training exercises. The industry exists solely for the entertainment and profit of people – often at the expense of the animals’ welfare.

2. Where does the greyhound racing industry get dogs to race?
Every year, the industry breeds teens of thousands of greyhounds, more than it can place at race tracks. This over breeding is motivated by the incentive to produce "winning" dogs. (Hundreds of greyhounds raced at each track are disposed of yearly in order to bring in a "fresh" group of dogs.) A dog’s racing career is usually over at 3.5 to 4 years of age.

3. What is a greyhound’s life expectancy?
If able to live out his or her full life as a companion animal, a greyhound may live to be approximately 13 years old. Unfortunately, however, the industry is responsible for greyhounds being killed at various stages of the dogs’ lives because they appear to lack racing potential or are injured. Of the percentage of dogs who race, many are adopted into good homes when they are no longer profitable to the industry, but thousands are not. As with any business, profit is the bottom line; therefore, greyhounds are often disposed of by using the least expensive methods, including gunshot. Reports of bludgeoning, abandonment and starvation have also surfaced. Veterinarians humanely euthanize some greyhounds.

4. What is the daily existence of a racing dog?
Racing greyhounds spend the majority of their adult lives in crates or pens or in fenced enclosures. Human companionship is limited. Many enclosures are not climate-controlled, causing the dogs distress during inclement weather.

5. Are any other animals abused by the greyhound racing industry?
Greyhound training activities have been known to cause as many as 100,000 domestic rabbits and wild jackrabbits to be maimed and killed every year. (This figure is based on HSUS investigations into the illegal importation of rabbits as well as the use of animals in training events.) One particular event, known as "coursing," involves greyhounds chasing, terrorizing and eventually killing rabbits within fenced enclosures. Some industry representatives have argued that this activity enhances the dogs’ racing ability because they’ll develop a "taste for blood." But greyhounds are sight, not blood, hounds and their inclination to run is instigated by a moving object, not the scent of blood. The use of live lures is not permitted in at least 14 states, but such laws are difficult to enforce.

6. Why would a state legalize such cruelty?
Lawmakers perceive racing as a way to raise needed revenue. Most are initially unaware of the inhumane treatment involved. The reality, however, is that state revenue generated by dog tracks amounts on average to far less than one percent of a state’s annual income.

7. What is the status of greyhound racing?
With attendance at race tracks dwindling nationwide, greyhound racing is on the decline but still entrenched in a number of states. Seven states have specific bans on live greyhound racing: Idaho, Maine, North Carolina, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. All of these bans were passed in the 1990s. Forty-six tracks operate in 15 states. Simulcast dog racing takes place in two other states.

During the 1990s, the greyhound racing industry’s gross betting handle (total amount wagered) has declined thus far by a staggering 45% with an approximate 5-6% drop in 1998. Declines would have been steeper if simulcasting monies were removed from the numbers, showing that on-track betting and live racing are sharply declining sources of income and entertainment. In this decade, the industry has experienced the net closure of 13 tracks, approximately a 20% decline. Meanwhile in the 1990s, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has roughly quadrupled. While the U.S. economy has experienced unprecedented growth and prosperity, greyhound racing has taken a nosedive. Americans are clearly voting with their wallets and consciences that they do not want any part of this businesses.

Information supplied by the American Gaming Association shows recent greyhound racing revenues (total amount wagered less paid winnings) of $509 million represent only 1.0% of the country’s $51 billion in gaming revenues from sources that also include horse racing, jai alai, lotteries, riverboat gambling, charitable games and bingo, card rooms, bookmaking and casinos. For perspective, horse racing revenues were $3.2 billion or 6.3% of total gaming revenues in 1997. Greyhound racing accounted for an even smaller percentage of the nation’s total betting handle than its revenues, only 0.4%.

8. How is the greyhound racing industry fighting back?
Because of the unavoidable trends in the economic data for greyhound racing, many tracks have lost enthusiasm for promoting dog racing and, instead, are concentrating on gaming. Currently, five tracks in three states have slots at the tracks (Iowa, Rhode Island and West Virginia) but tracks everywhere are pushing their state legislatures to add slot machines, video lottery terminals and/or some other form of gambling to prop up their flailing dog-racing operations. An Orlando Sentinel article in February 1999 detailed how the gambling industry and its lobbyists – which includes greyhound racing – have flooded Florida state legislators with contributions, despite the Florida electorate’s repeated defeats of expanded gambling in the state.

The expansion of gaming oat dog tracks may possibly improve some track’s financial problems but it will definitely perpetuate the misery and untimely destruction of healthy, young and adoptable greyhound dogs. A recent Wall Street Journal headline read: "Casino Gambling Leaves Greyhound Racing in the Dirt." In 1998, International Gaming and Wagering Business said, "If racing is to provide the New York Times wrong and survive in America, making new fans isn’t the first priority, it’s the only priority. Industries that can’t recruit new customers die." In almost every state where greyhound racing exists, dog tracks are pressing for tax relief of state subsidies to survive.

Meanwhile, the greyhound racing industry’s public relations strategy comprises trying to confuse Americans into believing that humane organizations are extremist animal rights organizations that have failed greyhounds by spending time and money publicly addressing the thousands of dog deaths for which the industry is annually responsible, as well as the horrific living conditions that greyhounds sometimes face. The HSUS, however, believes that devoting funds to humane education (for example, promoting the message of spaying and neutering pets) represents one of the best practical applications of the old proverb that says "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

9. Could the greyhound racing industry ever be operated in a humane manner?
No. The racing industry in inherently cruel. Greyhound racing is a form of gaming in which the amount of money a dog generates determines his or her expendability. The answer of greyhounds is neither regulation of dog racing nor adoption of "retired" dogs, but elimination of the greyhound racing industry.

10. Aren’t "retired greyhounds adopted? What happens to those who aren’t adopted?
Greyhounds make wonderful companion animals and are loving and responsive to human contact. Unfortunately, thousands of "retired" greyhounds are not adopted each year. Many greyhound owners who own their greyhounds solely as financial investments use adoption programs as dumping grounds when the dogs are no longer profitable. Although the HSUS applauds the efforts of those volunteers who give their time and money to place unwanted greyhounds in loving homes through greyhound adoption programs, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 surplus greyhounds are destroyed each year because the industry no longer wants them and there re not enough homes to accept them. Many other greyhounds are either sold to research labs, returned to breeding facilities to serve as breeding stock or sent to foreign racetracks, sometimes in developing countries.

11. Who oversees the racing industry and aren’t there laws to protect greyhounds?
State racing commissions exist to regulate the industry, but their primary function is to protect the state’s financial interests, not to enhance animal welfare practices. The racing industry is virtually self-regulated. Unlike other commercial animal enterprises – such as commercial animal breeding, zoos, circuses, and animal transportation via airlines – greyhound racing is not governed by the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture.

12. In what states is dog racing legal and how many tracks exist in each state?

Rhode Island 1
South Dakota 0
Texas 3
West Virginia 2
New Hampshire
Wisconsin 2

13. What is The HSUS doing to help solve this problem?
The HSUS investigates industry abuses, works to educate the public about the inherent cruelty of this industry, and initiates and supports legislation to ban greyhound racing. The HSUS believes that as long as greyhound racing continues in this country, dogs bred for no other reason than to race will be needlessly put to death, simply because the industry views them as liabilities that can’t make money at the track. That is, unless the dog-racing industry itself ensures – through its own funding – the adoption of every dog it breeds. This population includes not only retired racers, but also thousands of industry-bred puppies who never make it to the track because they are deemed unacceptable for racing.

For more information on greyhound racing, please contact The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, (202) 452-1100
May 1999

Return to the main news page