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Greyhound racing is an organized, competitive industry in which greyhound dogs are raced around a track. There are two forms of greyhound racing, track racing (normally around an oval track) and coursing. Track racing uses an artificial lure (now based on a windsock) on a track until the greyhounds cross the finish line. As with horse racing, greyhound races often allow the public to wager on the outcome. In coursing the dogs chase a lure (originally a live rabbit that could be killed by the dog).
In many countries, greyhound racing is purely amateur and for enjoyment. In other countries (particularly Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, Spain, the UK and the US), greyhound racing is part of the gambling industry, similar to although far less profitable than horse racing. There is concern in countries with greyhound gambling regarding the well-being of the dogs and the use of live-baiting. The effectiveness of industry self-regulation is often called into question. A greyhound adoption movement has arisen to assist retired racing dogs in finding homes as pets, with an estimated adoption rate of over 90% in the USA.
Modern greyhound racing has its origins in coursing. The first recorded attempt at racing greyhounds on a straight track was made beside the Welsh Harp reservoir, Hendon, England, in 1876, but this experiment did not develop. The industry emerged in its recognizable modern form, featuring circular or oval tracks, with the invention of the mechanical or artificial hare, in 1912, by an American, Owen Patrick Smith. O.P. Smith had altruistic aims for the industry to stop the killing of the jack rabbits and see "greyhound racing as we see horse racing". In 1919, Smith opened the first professional dog-racing track with stands in Emeryville, California. The certificates system[clarification needed] led the way to parimutuel betting, as quarry and on-course gambling, in the United States during the 1930s.
The oval track and mechanical hare were introduced to Britain, in 1926, by another American, Charles Munn, in association with Major Lyne-Dixson, a Canadian, who was a key figure in coursing. Finding other supporters proved to rather difficult however and with the General Strike of 1926 looming, the two men scoured the country in an attempt to find others who would join them. Eventually they met Brigadier-General Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle. Between them they raised £22,000 and like the American 'International Greyhound Racing Association' (or the I.G.R.A.), they launched the Greyhound Racing Association holding the first British meeting at Manchester's Belle Vue Stadium. The industry was successful in cities and towns throughout the U.K. - by the end of 1927, there were forty tracks operating.
The industry of greyhound racing was particularly attractive to predominantly male working-class audiences, for whom the urban locations of the tracks and the evening times of the meetings were accessible, and to patrons and owners from various social backgrounds. Betting has always been a key ingredient of greyhound racing, both through on-course bookmakers and the totalisator, first introduced in 1930. Like horse racing, it is popular to bet on the greyhound races as a form of parimutuel gambling.
Greyhound racing enjoyed its highest attendances just after the Second World War—for example, there were 34 million paying spectators in 1946. The industry experienced a decline from the early 1960s- when the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act permitted off-course cash betting. Sponsorship, limited television coverage, and the later abolition of on-course betting tax have partially offset this decline.
Commercial greyhound racing is characterized by several criteria, including legalized gambling, the existence of a regulatory structure, the physical presence of racetracks, whether the host state or subdivision shares in any gambling proceeds, fees charged by host locations, the use of professional racing kennels, the number of dogs participating in races, the existence of an official racing code, and membership in a greyhound racing federation or trade association.
In addition to the eight countries where commercial greyhound racing exists, in at least twenty-one countries dog racing occurs but has not reached a commercial stage.
Greyhound adoption groups frequently report that the dogs from the tracks have tooth problems, the cause of which is debated. The groups often also find that the dogs carry tick-borne diseases and parasites due to the lack of proper preventative treatments. The dogs require regular vaccination to minimize outbreaks of diseases such as kennel cough.
Recently[when?], doping has also emerged as a problem in greyhound racing. The racing industry is actively working to prevent the spread of this practice; attempts are being made to recover urine samples from all greyhounds in a race, not just the winners. Greyhounds from which samples cannot be obtained for a certain number of consecutive races are subject to being ruled off the track. Violators are subject to criminal penalties and loss of their racing licenses by state gaming commissions and a permanent ban from the National Greyhound Association. The trainer of the greyhound is at all times the "absolute insurer" of the condition of the animal. The trainer is responsible for any positive test regardless of how the banned substance has entered the greyhound's system.
Life after racing
Generally, a greyhound's career will end between the ages of four and six – after the dog can no longer race, or possibly when it is no longer competitive. The best dogs are kept for breeding, and there are both industry-associated adoption groups and rescue groups that work to obtain retired racing greyhounds and place them as pets. In the United Kingdom, according to the BBC, one in four retired greyhounds finds a home as a pet. In the United States, prior to the formation of adoption groups, over 20,000 retired greyhounds a year were killed; recent estimates still number in the thousands, with the industry claiming that about 90% of National Greyhound Association-registered animals either being adopted, or returned for breeding purposes (according to the industry numbers upwards of 2000 dogs are still euthanized annually in the US while anti-racing groups estimating the figure at closer to 12,000.) Other greyhounds are sold to research labs, such as Liverpool university animal training school, who have received the remains of dogs killed at Manchester's Belle Vue stadium. A trainer in Lincolnshire was also exposed offering 'slow' dogs to the Liverpool school. Additionally dogs are sent to foreign racetracks such as Spain and sometimes in developing countries. In the North East of England a man is believed to have destroyed as many as 10,000 healthy Greyhounds with a captive bolt gun.
Several organizations, such as British Greyhounds Retired Database, Greyhound Rescue West of England, Birmingham Greyhound Protection, GAGAH, Adopt-a-Greyhound and Greyhound Pets of America, and the Retired Greyhound Trust try to ensure that as many of the dogs as possible are adopted. Some of these groups also advocate better treatment of the dogs while at the track and/or the end of racing for profit. In recent years the racing industry has made significant progress in establishing programs for the adoption of retired racers. In addition to actively cooperating with private adoption groups throughout the country, many race tracks have established their own adoption programs at various tracks.
|This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (December 2014)|
Greyhound racing has been a source of controversy in recent years. Animal protection organizations such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States are opposed to commercial greyhound racing, due to industry standard practices they say are cruel and inhumane.
The humane community has utilized the legislative process to end dog racing and improve the conditions for racing greyhounds. For example, in March 2014, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a measure that prohibited commercial greyhound racing in Colorado, making it the 39th state to outlaw the activity.
There has also been criticism of commercial racing internationally, particularly regarding the overbreeding of dogs, concealment of injury figures, high euthanasia rates and mismanagement of the UK and Irish greyhound industries. For example, an independent 2014 review of the Irish Greyhound Board criticized the body's corporate governance, its handling of animal welfare issues, and poor financial performance.
In Australia, Greyhound Racing NSW's Chief Executive Brent Hogan admitted that an estimated 3,000 greyhounds are euthanized each year in that state alone.
In February 2015 an undercover report discovered the use of 'live bait' to train dogs for racing in Australia. This is illegal in many countries, including the UK and Australia, and against the rules and regulations of the UK Animal Welfare Act 2006.
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The Australian Greyhound Racing Association (AGRA) is divided into many state governing bodies, which regulate greyhound welfare and living conditions. Some racing authorities in Australia, partly finance some of the Greyhound Adoption Groups, which house dozens of greyhounds a month.
Each Australian State and Territory has a governing greyhound racing body. Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) and Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) are the two largest authorities, governing over 40 racetracks.
The Queensland Greyhound Racing Authority (QGRA), Western Australian Greyhound Racing Authority (WAGRA), Tasmanian Greyhound Racing Authority (TGRA), Greyhound Racing South Australia (GRSA), Northern Territory Racing Authority, and the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club (CGRC), all contribute to running and monitoring of greyhound racing in Australia as it continues to grow.
Many adoption programs have been set up throughout Australia known as Greyhound Adoption Program or Greyhounds As Pets, GAP. They generally work with their Greyhound Racing Administration. Greyhounds are checked for parasites, malnourishment, or any other medical conditions by an on-course vet before being able to compete.
Greyhounds are usually bought and sold as puppies just after having been whelped or as racing dogs that have been fully trained via word of mouth on the track or via the few greyhound trading and sales platforms. In Australia the buying and selling of greyhounds is controlled and regulated by the states and territories.
A 2015 television investigation revealed widespread use of small live animals as bait, to train greyhounds to chase and kill. As a result, many in the industry have called for a complete overhaul of greyhound racing's controlling bodies in Australia.
In New Zealand, around 700 dogs are bred each year for racing (Take average from "Greyhounds Named" table), and around 500 are imported from Australia. Over 200 are retired annually by a charity established and partially funded by the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association. Many greyhounds are kept as pets or rehomed by their trainers after racing as well as a large number rehomed by other greyhound adoption organizations throughout the country. Some greyhounds are even returned to overseas owners. Greyhound racing is a NZ$75 million industry. There is some concern over the welfare of New Zealand racing greyhounds by a small Anti Racing community  that has led the racing industry to initiate its own internal inquiry into their outcomes, injuries and welfare.
In the Republic of South Africa dogs are kept with their owners. Due to the amateur state of racing, owners are usually also the trainer and rearer of the dogs; it is very rare that a dog is kenneled with a trainer.
Racing is controlled by a partnership between the United Greyhound Racing and Breeders Society (UGRABS) and the South African Renhond Unie (SARU - South African Racing Dog Union). The studbook is kept by the South African Studbook and organization who keep studbooks for all stud animals. Racing takes place on both oval and straight tracks. Racing is illegal in South Africa.
Greyhound racing is a popular industry in Great Britain with attendances at around 3.2 million at over 5,750 meetings in 2007. There are 26 registered stadiums in Britain, and a parimutuel betting tote system with on-course and off-course betting available, with a turnover of £75,100,000.
On 24 July 1926, in front of 1,700 spectators, the first greyhound race took place at Belle Vue Stadium where seven greyhounds raced round an oval circuit to catch an electric artificial hare. This marked the first ever modern greyhound race in Great Britain.
Greyhound racing in Great Britain is regulated by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). Greyhounds are not kept at the tracks, and are instead housed in the kennels of trainers and transported to the tracks to race. Those who race on the independent circuit (known as 'flapping'), do not have this regulation.
There have been 133 regulated tracks (117 in England, 11 in Scotland and 5 in Wales) and 256 known independent tracks since 1926.
Some of the more prominent stadiums that have closed where greyhound racing has been staged in the past are as follows: White City Stadium, Walthamstow Stadium, Wembley Stadium, Harringay Stadium, West Ham Stadium, Powderhall Stadium, White City Stadium, Glasgow and Cardiff Arms Park.
In the United States, greyhound racing is governed by state law. Industry attempts at self-regulation have been criticized by humane organizations.
At American tracks greyhounds are kept in kennel compounds, in crates that are approximately three feet wide, four feet deep, and three feet high. Most kennels turn the dogs out 4 to 6 times per day. Each turnout can be from 30 to 90 minutes.
In addition to state law and regulations, most tracks adopt their own rules, policies and procedures. In exchange for the right to race their greyhounds at the track, kennel owners must sign contracts in which they agree to abide by all track rules, including those pertaining to animal welfare. If kennel owners violate these contract clauses, they stand to lose their track privileges and even their racing licenses.
In recent years, several state governments in the United States have passed legislation to improve the treatment of racing dogs in their jurisdiction. During the 1990s, seven states banned gambling on live greyhound racing. In November 2008, Massachusetts held a vote to ban greyhound racing, which passed 56% to 44%. Currently, 39 states and the territory of Guam have standing laws banning the practice, and four more states do not practice greyhound racing despite the practice not being illegal there.
Between 2001 and 2011, the total amount gambled on greyhound racing nationwide declined by 67%. In fact, gambling on dog races has declined for twenty consecutive years.
In Florida, where 12 of the 22 operational dog tracks in the US remain, the financial decline is even more significant. In the state, the amount gambled at dog tracks declined by 72% between 1990 and 2013. According to a study commissioned by the legislature, the state lost between $1 million and $3.3 million on greyhound racing in 2012.
- Genders, Roy (1981). the Encyclopaedia of Greyhound Racing. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7207-1106-1.
- "dog racing." Encyclopædia Britannica, Online Library Edition, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2012. Web. 5 Feb. 2012
- Jane Alexiadis, What's it Worth? Greyhound collection sale to benefit charity, San Jose Mercury News (Dec. 23, 2011).
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- "Inside Out - West: Monday 24th February 2003". BBC Inside Out. BBC. 2003-02-24. Archived from the original on 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- Greyhound Racing Association media kit: The referenced industry figures do not include information about unregistered litters, nor outcomes for dogs after they finished as breeding dogs. The statistics vary depending on the reporting organization. According to the Greyhound Network News one page fact sheet estimates that of the 26,600 greyhounds that were no longer racing in 2005, 45% and of them were euthanized by either groups that could not adopt them out or by the dog breeders via farm culling.
- Foggo, Daniel (May 11, 2008). "Greyhound breeder offers slow dogs to be killed for research". The Times (London).
- Foggo, Daniel (July 16, 2006). "Killing field of the dog racing industry". The Times (London).
- "Greyhound racing ban signed into law in Colorado". The Denver Post. March 10, 2014.
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- "Bord na gCon faces 'significant challenges' financially". The Irish Times. July 7, 2014.
- "About 3000 unwanted greyhound racing dogs put down each year in NSW". The Australian. November 15, 2013.
- "Greyhound racing: Piglets possums and rabbits used as live bait in secret training sessions Four Corners reveals". ABC News. February 16, 2015.
- "Australian Greyhound Racing".
- "Australian Greyhound Racing News".
- "Greyhound racing boards and stewards must resign".
- GREY2K USA
- GREY2K USA Report on Greyhound Racing in Texas (February 2013)
- "Take Action: State by State". Retrieved 2015-05-13.
- Association of Racing Commissioners International, Statistical Summaries for 2001 and 2011.
- "Annual Reports.". Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
- "Gambling Impact Study" (PDF). Spectrum Gaming Group. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
- Gwyneth Anne Thayer, Going to the Dogs: Greyhound Racing, Animal Activism, and American Popular Culture. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2013.
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