Frequently Asked Questions about Amendment 13 on Greyhound Racing in Florida
What does Amendment 13 actually do?
Amendment 13 passed in Florida in November 2018 to ban gambling on greyhound racing. This effectively bans racing in Florida. There are already 40 other states with this type of ban.
When does Amendment 13 take effect?
All tracks must cease racing by the end of 2020. There are 11 tracks in Florida. Five tracks are seasonal and are not currently racing as of November, so no dogs are housed there at this time. They will likely opt to not re-open and send dogs to other tracks. The year-round tracks currently plan to stay open until 2020.
So what will happen to the greyhounds at the tracks that are open?
Those greyhounds will continue to race and be available for adoption as they grade out (meaning they stop winning) have an injury or are too old to race (rules require they be retired after age 5). Those dogs are then the property of their owners, not the tracks. The owners decide to send them back to the breeding farms they came from or send them to an adoption group. There are an estimated 5000-6000 dogs racing in Florida.
What about all the young dogs on farms being prepared for racing?
Greyhound breeders will be breeding fewer dogs going forward because fewer dogs will be needed for racing. The young dogs being prepared for racing may be sent to the remaining tracks in Florida, or in other states such as Texas, Alabama, West Virginia, and Iowa. There is also a track in Tijuana Mexico where some US dog owners send their dogs to race. There are varying estimates on how many dogs are on farms. Its possible that another 5000-7000 dogs are on breeding farms.
Is now a good time to adopt a greyhound?
It’s always a good time to adopt a greyhound! Its important to do your research and find out if greyhounds are a good fit for you. We have a lot of information about greyhounds on our website.
Will adoption groups be able to handle all the new adoptable greyhounds?
There are many Greyhound Adoption groups across the United States. They were aware of the possibility of Amendment 13 passing for some time and have been working together to coordinate on collecting and transporting adoptable greyhounds. If you’d like to help your local group, please be sure they are on this list approved by the National Greyhound Racing Association. Many groups and individuals have popped up since Amendment 13 passed who have no experience in adopting or caring for greyhounds. Please refer to this list created by the NGA for groups they approve of for greyhound adoption.
Will GPA-NW be getting greyhounds from Florida?
We will get our next group of adoptable dogs in March/April next year. We just got our most recent group in October. You can see our adoptable dogs here. We have our own truck and trailer that can haul 24 dogs. But, we don’t do hauls in the winter when the only route though Colorado and Wyoming is not safe for our volunteers to drive. We also don’t like to keep hounds in our kennel over winter because we’ve had issues with the water freezing.
What are the best ways to help?
We need two things urgently – foster homes and donations. We foster all our greyhounds so they get used to home life after living in kennels at the track. The more foster homes we have, the more greyhounds we can bring into our program and the more we can adopt quickly after a successful foster period. You can learn about fostering here.
We also need donations. In order to transport greyhounds and get them ready to be adopted, we need funds for their care and medical expenses. We absorb 100% of the cost to spay/neuter each dog, get their teeth cleaned, get them up to date on vaccinations, give them flea and heartworm treatment, and take care of any medical issues they may have. More thank 85% of our total expenses annually are for veterinary costs. The rest goes to food, dog care, supplies, kennel maintenance and transport. Our other costs include insurance, utilities for the kennel, and administrative and fundraising costs. Right now we have a donation match happening – if you donate between now and December 31 2018, your donation can be matched.
In a word, routine! Life at the track is intentionally very routine so that there are few distractions or upsets for the athletes, remember a racing Greyhound is an elite athlete. The trainer handles each dog every day and gets to know each one as an individual. The Greyhounds are used to being handled and bond with their human companions. The dogs are usually fed once a day, in the morning. They eat very high protein diets, usually raw ground meat and other carbohydrates with other supplements that help them maintain their huge muscle mass and energy. They have several daily turnouts in a large exercise pen where they can relieve themselves and play with the other dogs in their kennel. They may be taken out for specific training if they need to improve their skills or rehab from an injury.
Most dogs are raced every two to three days and in between they are resting and rebuilding for the next race. While an average race is only 30 seconds long, the energy the racing Greyhound expends is huge. They can reach speeds of 45 MPH and run the 5/16 mile in 30 seconds. Most racing kennels have between 60 and 80 active dogs, both male and female. While they are resting, they stay in kennels specially made for Greyhounds. The kennels are approximately 31 inches wide by 41 inches deep and 30 inches tall and filled with bedding material that can be changed and kept clean. The dogs are kept separated so there is no accidental breeding, the females usually live in the top kennels and are taught to jump into them. Males usually live in the bottom kennels and never learn to jump. They run on specially prepared surfaces of sand that are kept soft and smooth so they can run as fast as possible without tripping or falling.
The racing Greyhound has seen very little of what we call the everyday world of a pet, they are professional athletes and only see that world until they retire. They have never seen the inside of a house, stairs, children, cats or even any dog except other Greyhounds. For all the racing Greyhound knows, the only animals are Greyhounds and humans.
Most Greyhounds are not aggressive with each other because they have lived in large groups for their entire lives and never develop strong territorial tendencies. They will usually back away from a confrontation. There are always a few dogs that want to be the top-dog and are more aggressive toward other dogs but that is true of every breed, not just Greyhounds. Because they have been handled by humans all their lives and see people as part of their Pack, Greyhounds readily accept people as their superiors and often work hard to be cooperative and likable.
Some Greyhounds are naturally shy and fearful. Most shyness is genetic or the result of poor socialization as puppies in that critical first four months of life. This can be because of their very early experiences as puppies or just their nature. Most of these dogs don’t make it far in racing since being confident and willing to move through a pack of running dogs is essential to win. There is the possibility that the dog had some traumatic experience or abuse at some point but that is uncommon. We never turn a dog away from our program because it is shy or fearful, we work to rehabilitate those dogs and find the right home for them so they can be happy pets.
Remember that everything a racing Greyhound experiences when becoming a pet is new and may be frightening to them. Simple things like a vacuum cleaner, broom, car or even a ceiling fan. These are not necessarily signs of abuse but rather the dog’s fear of the new, unknown experiences. For some Greyhounds just walking on a smooth floor is terrifying. They have always walked or run on sand or surfaces that they can grip. Time and careful reinforcement will usually change the fearful or shy Greyhound into a couch loving, confident pet.
Greyhounds are not taught or forced to stand at the racetrack. Most of their day is spent the same way it will be when it’s in your home, sleeping. Rest is important when racing so the dog’s muscles can rebuild and the dog can maintain its energy. A trainer that forced their dogs to stand would have tired, losing racers and would not be a trainer for long. They do as they please when not racing or training and that’s usually lying in their kennel-crate sleeping.
Occasionally, we will get a puppy that can’t race for some reason or was not bred with proper documentation so it cannot race. We even get pregnant females sometimes and the puppies that come from those dogs need homes. Greyhound puppies are extremely energetic, like any puppy but more so. They are sprinters with powerful muscles so even as puppies; they are a lot to handle. When you adopt a retired racer, even a young dog, they have already been raised and trained for most things. Their personality is established and because their experiences as racing dogs are so consistent, their personalities tend to be consistent. A puppy is an unknown personality and depending how good you are at raising a dog, it may end up very different as an adult than the retired racers you know.
Once the Greyhounds arrive here to our program, they are checked carefully for any illness, injury or parasites like fleas or ticks. We give each incoming Greyhounds whatever care it needs initially, then they get a bath, grooming and a nice meal before they bed down in their kennels to rest. Usually within a week of arrival, they are settled in and ready to visit the veterinarian for an exam, vaccinations and their spay/neuter surgery. We also have the veterinarian perform a complete dental cleaning and remove any teeth that are causing the Greyhound problems. Since this is the first dental most racing Greyhounds have ever had, it can be extensive and expensive. We provide the highest level of medical care available to each Greyhound so it is ready for its life as a pet. Before the Greyhounds can move to their foster homes, they are tested with a cat to determine whether they are able to live safely with cats. We work hard to test each Greyhound and then the dogs that tested cat tolerant are sent to live in foster homes that already have a Greyhound living well with a cat. This allows the new Greyhound to learn from the current Greyhound and the foster homeowner how to leave the cats alone!
Once the Greyhound has completed its medical work, they are moved into one of our foster homes to start learning all about being a pet. Most of our foster homes are Greyhound owners so they understand the racing Greyhound and their own Greyhound will help to transition the new retiree into pet life. Surprisingly, the transition usually only takes a week or two and the new retired racing Greyhound will become a pet. They learn the basics of house training, feeding on regular dog foods and sleeping on a soft bed outside of a kennel. They also learn about slippery floors, dog doors, cats, small animals and walking on a leash.