A Letter From Tom.

A while ago I received an email from a young lad living in Australia. He was very concerned because he had been surfing the internet and had come across a website called Greyhound Racing Sucks. He had also visited Greyhound Muses and so he wrote to me to ask why these people were saying that Greyhound racing sucks. He told me that his aunt had Greyhounds and the implication was clear that she raced them, so why were the people on this website saying that Greyhound racing wasn't very nice? Was his aunt doing something wrong?

Below is the email that I sent back to the boy. We will call him Tom for the purpose of this story, though that is not his real name. Please feel free to use all or any part of the text to inform the young about the horrors of Greyhound racing. They are the next generation of Greyhound lovers, ------ or abusers.

Hello Tom,

I'm so pleased that you like Greyhounds. As you say, they are the best dogs ever, your Aunty is very lucky to have so many. My wife and I have six Greyhounds and one Lurcher here at home with us. (A Lurcher is a Greyhound crossed with some other breed, usually a Collie but it can be anything). If you visit my web site www.greyhoundmuses.com you can see some pictures of our dogs, just click on the button on the left called "Our dogs". If you look at these pictures you will see that they are on the furniture and the beds and wherever they want to go. Sometimes they take up all the good chairs and couches and Marilyn, my wife and I, sit on hard dining chairs. We don't mind that at all Tom because we love our dogs and we want them to be comfortable and happy.

You and I who love Greyhounds know that they should be treated with kindness and love and not exploited. That word, (exploited) means to be made to do something for the pleasure or gain of someone else, even if you don't really want to do it yourself. People who race Greyhounds are exploiting them. Now, as I don't know you very well, I don't know how much you know about Greyhound racing. You might even know someone who races their Greyhounds, (your Aunty even). You may therefore be surprised or shocked with what I have just said, but please read a bit more.

If you have ever seen a Greyhound race you probably think that the dogs are happy chasing after the mechanical hare and that they really enjoy it. To a large extent you would be right to think that. I am sure that in their own mind they do quite enjoy running and they are not bothered if someone is making a lot of money out of them. The trouble is though Tom, they very often get hurt and injured when they are running. As you probably know yourself, most competitive sports carry a substantial risk of injury. Football, motor racing, boxing. I'm sure you can think of many more. The difference is though Tom, if you decide to play those sports you know the risks for yourself and you make your own decision. No one forces you to play if you don't want to. Greyhounds don't have that choice. They don't know that they can hurt themselves and even if they did know that, they don't have the option to decide not to race. The track that Greyhounds race on is oval in shape. It's not round. Oval means that there is quite a long, straight part where they can build up a lot of speed, and then there is a sharp corner where the track starts to turn. Many Greyhounds are going too fast at this turn and it is one of the places where a lot of injuries happen.

Secondly, what happens to these lovely dogs when they are too old to race anymore? Do you know that a Greyhound is usually retired from racing at 3 to 4 years old. Some might make it to 5 but there are not many of those. Now a Greyhound can live to be 15 or 16 years old quite easily. When they leave the track they have at least another 10 years life but sadly Tom, very few are allowed to have that life. When I said that they are "retired" from racing it would be lovely to think that they go to nice homes to live out the rest of a long lifetime wouldn't it? Unfortunately, when you start to think about the numbers involved, you can see why this cannot happen. I don't want to bore you with arithmetic but please bear with me whilst I explain this point.

I live in England UK and it is estimated that about 30,000 Greyhounds a year are bred in Ireland and England to replace the ones leaving the industry. Not all of these puppies will be considered suitable for racing by their breeders. They will be killed at birth or soon after. Of the ones remaining some will fail their racing trials so they too will be killed. Maybe a few of the ones who fail will be considered good enough to race in spain where the requirements are not as high. These poor souls are the real unfortunates. Conditions in spain are terrible and they have really drawn the short straw. Animals have very few, if any, rights in spain. By the way Tom, my word processor programme keeps trying to correct my spelling of the word spain by asking me to use a capital "S", but it is not a mistake on my part and I intend it to stay the way it is spelt. That place does not warrant a capital letter to begin its name. After all this filtering, the dogs that pass their trials are sold to "owners" to begin their racing career. They race for 3, 4 or 5 years if they don't kill or injure themselves before then, and so we are back to "what happens to them now?"

Tom, there is no way that all the "retiring" Greyhounds are going to be able to find a home, so of course they will be killed. The "lucky" ones will be "put to sleep" by a vet. The unlucky ones whose owners won't pay the vets fees for this? Well, it's not my intention to upset you more than is necessary for you to see why Greyhound racing is so bad, so I won't go any further on this point. If you look at my web site you will be able to find out for yourself some of the things that go on.

Well, this has turned into quite a long letter hasn't it Tom? But it's not something that can be explained quickly. The web site you mentioned, www.greyhoundracingsucks.com is an American site and I know that the problem there is similar to here in England, though they don't have as many racing tracks as we do in England. The people who run that site are trying to educate the public about what is going on in the Greyhound racing world and they have a very difficult job to do. The ones who want Greyhound racing to continue have a lot of money to fight with. There are not only the Greyhound "owners" but also the betting shop owners, and they make a great deal of money out of racing. They don't care at all what happens to the dogs when they finish racing, all they care about is their money.

Finally Tom, I want to tell you that it is not my intention to upset your Aunty if she races her Greyhounds. Even among the racing fraternity I have met a few genuine people who do care about their dogs and keep them as pets when they stop racing. I am presuming and hoping that your Aunty is one of these. I hope this has been of some help and insight to you.

John Ratcliffe.

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