The following letter is typical of a type that I receive every few weeks. Most go straight to ‘trash’ but occasionally I do feel the need to respond.
This is very much a personal response, based on my own observations and opinions. For those with deep roots in the industry, the following will be a rehash of familiar facts and arguments. Do not feel compelled to read on.
But if you feel the same as Lynda Defiglio, and are secure enough in your beliefs as not to be threatened by an alternate view, then you have nothing to fear.
The following is not written to defend or justify greyhound racing, you think as you choose. But people sharing Linda’s opinions should not expect to make sweeping statements and not find them challenged – Ed
Yes I’ve a story. My story is this. Our beautiful greyhound whom we adopted hates other dogs . She cannot cope with them at all. She is fearful of them , and as a result of this we cant let her off the lead to have a run . Which Greyhounds love to do. They love running and we wish we could let her .
It breaks my heart. And the reason she is like this ? Because she was used as a racing dog and right from the start, wasn’t socialised with other different breeds of dog. She was kept purely to race and bring in the cash for her so called owner. This is why I hate greyhound racing , and this is why I believe it should be banned.
Only 5 countries in the world still race dogs , and I am ashamed to say that the UK is one of them. One day this vile sport will no longer exist, but until then there will still be beautiful dogs exploited and used just to bring in money. Shame on all individuals involved in greyhound racing.
I wonder, Lynda, exactly what experience you are drawing on to lead to your conclusions?
Most greyhounds spend the first year of their life being reared ‘free range’, typically in large fields with their brothers and sisters.
They get plenty of good food and exercise and quite often are re-introduced to their dams who will play with them, teach them to hunt and basically be the pack animals that nature designed them to be.
Compare that to the average pet. Think particularly of the ‘puppy farm’ pet who is taken from its mother at six weeks and has never learned that it isn’t just a four legged human.
If it is lucky, it lives with another pet for company, and its owner isn’t away at work eight hours per day. Maybe it has a small garden to play in.
Either way, can you convince me that the greyhound pups are badly treated?
At between 12 months and 18 months, young greyhounds come into kennels for the first time and learn routine and the rudiments of racing.
They are taken to the track for the first time and hopefully chase the mechanical hare.
No greyhound could ever be made to chase a hare, and contrary to popular misconception, they are not chasing to kill, but for the love of it. Much as a pet dog chases after a stick or a ball.
Those that are too slow?
They are re-homed. The demand for young non-chasers even exceeds that of retired racers. There is a significant waiting list for both.
Then onto racing. I wonder whether you have ever been into a racing kennel? Better still, a racing kennel on race day?
Greyhounds absolutely love to race – contrary to a line I saw from a deluded anti recently ‘they love to run, but not race’. Really!
They will bark the kennel down if they think it will get them a trip in the van to go racing.
Greyhounds also thrive on kennel life. Yes, it is quite regimented, the same start every day, out for a wee, kennel clean, breakfast, walk, grooming, possibly gallop, physio (where necessary), teeth clean, groom, nails cut.
Lunchtime walk, feed, snooze and then possibly, the highlight of the day, off racing.
They are kennelled in pairs, for company, unless they prefer to be on their own.
Although it would be alien to a pet dog, you might even argue that it is institutionalised, but greyhounds thrive on routine.
It is sometimes portrayed by anti racers, as ‘prison life’. Personally, I think it is more akin to the life of a footballer, surrounded by your mates, being pampered and spoiled and ultimately doing something you love.
Does the break from kennels to ‘normal’ home life come as a shock?
To some – absolutely.
Some greyhounds never fully adjust. It is rare but not unknown. My parents retired their old girl, Ellie Sheba, to the sofa but she pined to go back to the kennel. She duly did, and they paid a kennel bill until the end of her days.
My own ex-racer Rushie also struggled.
She tried to jump a six foot fence on the day she arrived. She ran away after five days when a dozy deliveryman left the gate open and then tried to catch her as she ran through it. She ran wild for two nights and three days.
It probably took 18 months before a stranger could get near her. But that wasn’t because she had been badly treated, it was who she was.
“She is a bit of a diva” we were warned when we picked her up. And some! Beyonce would be unassuming by comparisions Everything had to be on Rushie’s terms. It still is.
But she wasn’t that way because she was badly treated. It was simply her personality.
Greyhounds, like people, vary considerably. Some are quiet, excitable, aggressive, timid, friendly, calm. The full gamut.
I should stress though, that Rushie is not ‘typical’. Many greyhounds are bold outgoing types. There are happy, moody, timid and mischievous types.
To this day, Rushie doesn’t like ‘change’. Put her bed in a different place, she won’t lay on it.
She shows classic anxiety features, mainly stretching and yawning, before giving in. Yesterday we had to put her food in a bowl normally used for water. She wouldn’t touch it – stretch, yawn, stretch, yawn.
‘It’s not what we do!’
You may still want to go down the ‘she was institutionalised’ route.
One thought though. She was 18 months with her breeder, two years in racing kennels and four years as a house pet.
Which part of that changed her personality? Or was she always just a bit on the spectrum? You can get a complete gamut of personality types even within a single litter.
These days, she is the quickest to the front door. It is not hard to be faster than a Golden Doodle pup or a Bulldog. But hey – the Amazon man is only really here to see her!
As for other dogs, she would run away from them. She could trust greyhounds – not too sure about the others.
More than once, she has been retrieved waiting at the front gate after running away from a close encounter. Sound familiar?
But then, her closest canine neighbour is an evil snarling Rottie who tries to jump the fence or break a window to get to her. (I wonder if he was badly treated or was simply born a pyscho?)
Over time though, she has learned to adapt. She now goes walking with the Doodle and Bulldog, still gets spooked if there is something in the field that she doesn’t recognise.
But that is just Rushie! Bless her.
I have been around greyhounds for almost 50 years and have seen all types of personalities and behaviours.
I am very sorry that you feel that yours has been maltreated. On the other hand, I wonder whether you actually understand your greyhound and have taken the time to understand her, and persevere.
‘Civvy life’ might be different, but you have no right to assume that it is better.
Two postscripts to finish. Firstly, I was telling a friend about your letter. She is a passionate animal lover with four cats and three horses – but no dogs, as voted for by the cats.
The discussion moved onto ‘animal do-gooders who think they know best’.
She tells a story that after she put a young horse out in the fields, only to find it had ripped off its muzzle.
After the second time, she realised that the muzzle had been deliberately cut off. She got through another three before a friend caught a young couple in the act of cutting off the muzzle with a knife.
They were defiant about the cruelty of the muzzle.
It was then explained to them, that the young horse suffered badly from laminitis. If he ate too much, it would kill him. Rather than leave him stuck in the stable, he was allowed into the fields – muzzled.
Secondly – you are inaccurate in the statement that ‘five countries race dogs’. I believe that there are at least 100. From Finland to Argentina.
I personally have seen racing in various countries in Continental Europe. Apart from the greyhounds, you will find Lurchers, Afghans, Salukis, Whippets (pedigree and non-pedigree), Borzois and God knows how many other breeds.
They race for the same reason that greyhounds race – because they love it! Is there any possible other explanation?
Yes – racing is more professional in some countries than others. But I am yet to encounter any greyhound who is aware that bets have been placed on it.
More important, they have an interesting and varied life, constant companionship and the best love and attention.
If you would like to learn more about other ex-racers, I recommend ‘Your Greyhounds History’ page on Facebook