In November 2008, Massachusetts became the latest state to ban live greyhound racing, passing The Greyhound Protection Act by statewide referendum (56% to 44%), with all tracks to be shuttered by New Years 2010. This is the latest blow to a dying industry (live racing exists in but a handful of states, with Florida, by far, the leading offender).
In seeking the ban, activists stressed the following:
Cruel Treatment: The dogs are kept confined in stacked metal cages (32″x42″x34″) for 20 hours or more each day, with shredded newspaper their only bedding (the average Greyhound stands 23″-30″ tall at the shoulder).
Devastating Injuries: There were more than 800 reported injuries since 2002 (673 were classified as serious, career-ending, critical non-fatal, fatal). Not surprisingly, 80% involved broken legs.
Public Opinion: From 2002-2007, Wonderland’s handle dropped 65%, Raynham’s 37%.
The industry countered by warning of great job loss (doubtful, for the labor department counted barely 700 jobs at all state racetracks, horse and auto included).
Greyhounds were imported to America in the late 19th Century to help farmers control jackrabbit populations. Coursing (chasing and killing live animals) events soon followed, and the first racetrack opened in 1919. The sport was very popular right after World War II but has seen a steady decline since. To be fair, there are other mitigating factors, not the least of which is a greater competition for the gambling dollar (casinos and racinos). But clearly, the public has shown an increasing distaste for the concept (the muzzling, the cruel deception of the race itself) and the sad condition of the obsolete and discarded tools (an awareness helped in no small part by the emergence of various adoption agencies).
Why, though, do we acknowledge the inherent cruelty of Greyhound racing but have yet to extend that recognition to The Sport of Kings? Why is one industry being read last rites, while another seemingly thrives? Perhaps, as man’s best friend, the dog enjoys a status not accorded to the thoroughbred. Perhaps the latter’s regal tradition makes it a far more elusive target. Or, perhaps it is simply a matter of practicality: Adopting a horse requires more money and more land. But in the end, a horse is a dog. Both can (and do) suffer for entertainment and municipal revenue. For one, at least, liberation may finally be at hand.