BOOKS: Greyhound Tales: True Stories of Rescue, Compassion & Love

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:

Greyhound Tales: True Stories of Rescue, Compassion & Love
Edited by Nora Star
c/o Nora Star (9728 Tenaya Way, Kelseyville, CA 95451), 1997. 128 pages, paperback, $15.95.

Only 10 years ago many humane
societies considered themselves successful in
fighting the ills of the greyhound racing industry
if they even got breeders and trainers to
bring culls in for death by needle, instead of
just shooting or clubbing them. The greyhound
industry reputedly killed as many as
50,000 dogs a year, mostly young and healthy
but too slow to win races. National organizations
from time to time attacked the use of rabbits
and other small animals in live lure training,
but as a whole, gambling on greyhounds
was considered too big and too dangerous a
business to tackle head-on.

Though the nationals mostly hung
back, growing numbers of concerned individuals
in the mid-to-late 1980s begged dogs
from trainers who were about to cull them,
socialized them, and placed them for adoption.
Many were soon bitterly disappointed to
find that their work gave the greyhound racing
industry a cover story for continued high-volume
breeding and culling: the pretense that
retired racing dogs easily find good homes.
The growth of greyhound rescue
also gave the American SPCA a chance to
lucratively work both sides of the fence. From
shortly after the January 1992 discovery of
124 dead greyhounds in a citrus grove near
Chandler, Arizona, until mid-1997, the
ASPCA cheerfully accepted around $270,000
from the American Greyhound Council, to
push greyhound adoptions and lend the industry
the use of a once respected name in
humane work.
Independent rescuers including
Susan Netboy, Greta Marsh, Louise
Coleman, and Scotti Devens, among many
others, meanwhile joined in regional coalitions
to wage increasingly successful campaigns
to discourage attendence at greyhound
tracks, force track closures, and even ban
greyhound racing outright in several states,
beginning with Vermont.
How many greyhounds were actually
helped by the ASPCA/AGC alliance is
unclear. AGC spokesperson Gary Guccione
said the figure was “more than 2,000,” and
boasted that “in 1997, more than 18,000 greyhounds
were adopted nationwide, according
to Joan Belle Isle of the Greyhound Project,”
without acknowledging the share achieved by
greyhound racing opponents.
The AGC cut off the grants to the
ASPCA last summer. Said Guccione, “The
decision did not arise from any dissatisfaction
with the ASPCA’s efforts.” Regardless of
whatever the alliance might have done for
individual dogs, however, it evidently did not
save the greyhound industry. Within less than
10 years, getting only token support from
national animal advocacy groups, activist
efforts have helped cut the once mighty greyhounds-and-gambling
empire in half.
Seemingly alarmed, the AGC has now hired
representation from the Issue Strategies Group,
of St. Paul, the same outfit that formed the Fur
Farm Animal Welfare Coalition on behalf of
the fur trade circa 1986 and the just plain
Animal Welfare Coaliton on behalf of dog
breeders circa 1994.
The track record of ISG executives
Marsha Kelly, Robert Buckler, and Harold
DeHart on behalf of fur suggests that if they
were greyhounds, they’d have been culled
long ago: U.S. retail fur sales fell by half,
1988-1991, and––after adjustment for inflation––are
still sliding.
Demographic studies indicate that
greyhound track bettors are in the same aging
subpopulation as fur customers. Even if
activists did nothing further against them,
both the fur trade and greyhound racing could
collapse within a greyhound’s natural lifespan.
But Netboy, Marsh, Coleman,
Devens, et al aren’t that patient. They’re not
waiting for the greyhound industry to die of
old age. In Greyhound Tales, an anthology,
they introduce us to their own special greyhounds,
and explain how they were motivated
to begin one of the most successful grassroots
struggles in the history of animal protection.
Dog-story lovers will be enthralled,
especially adolescents. More greyhounds will
be adopted. More people will weep over their
stories, and the fate of the rest of their litters.
Fewer will tolerate the continued existence of
a business that never had a real reason to exist
in the first place––and will eventually be finished
not by vitriol but by the sight of good
people playing with gentle, cheerful dogs.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.