Generally speaking, sports betting and gambling are becoming increasingly popular. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult for operators of dog races, mostly with greyhounds (greyhounds are considered the fastest breed of dog) to benefit from this trend. The racetracks hardly find new customers, nor do they succeed in combining dog races with other profitable events, as is often the case with horse races. Is the “racing dog industry” facing its end?
Now the dog races, strongly criticized by animal rights activists, have been banned for good since New Year’s Eve in Florida. The last race took place on December 31 of last year at the Palm Beach Kennen Club. But dog races are already banned in 40 US states.
It was a long fight
Two years ago there were more greyhound tracks in Florida than in any other US state and in 2018 there was finally the chance to vote for an amendment to the constitution that would ban betting on racing dogs and thus prohibiting the organization of dog races from 2021. The dog racing industry was certain, however, that dog racing is far too popular and that such a ban is unlikely to be introduced. However, that was a misjudgment.
The criticism of the animal rights activists, which says that dog racing is a form of animal cruelty, met with open ears: Almost 70 percent of the voters voted for a ban, the rest against. This entails an “acquittal” for the racing dogs and the employees of the racetracks will now have to look for new jobs.
A nationwide closure of all dog tracks in the US is already under discussion, which could mean a complete end to all types of dog racing.
Now the question arises what will happen to the dogs that will no longer be used on the racetracks. So far, dogs that have become too old to compete have been referred to families or farms that are willing to give the animals a new home. This will also be the case now with the roughly 7,000 greyhounds. The organizers of the dog races will be given a reasonable period of time to find new accommodation for the dogs.
Animal welfare wins
Animal rights activists see the “release” of the racing dogs as the victorious outcome of years of struggle and commitment for animal rights. Dog doping, especially through cocaine or performance-enhancing drugs, is said to have been not uncommon in the dog racing scene. In North Florida, for example, dozens of racing dogs tested positive in 2017. The result was a suspension of the responsible dog trainer.
In addition to the doping of the animals, their keeping was also sharply criticized: racing dogs were often locked in tight spaces in kennels or cages with tightly laced muzzles. In some cases, greyhounds that were unsuitable for racing either due to injuries or due to old age were sold to animal testing laboratories or simply killed. A particularly cruel case of animal cruelty occurred in 2010 when a dog trainer at a Florida racetrack starved all animals after the racing season. He was sentenced to five years in prison for several cases of animal cruelty.
A little insight into the history of the dog racing tracks
Dog races, as they are known today, are considered an invention of the American Owen P. Smith. For Smith, dog racing was actually more about animal welfare than animal discomfort. In his opinion, the death scream of the rabbits, which were then used as bait in the races, was unbearable and so he came up with the idea of replacing the animals with machines. His patent for the mechanical dummy rabbit was approved in 1910.
Just a few years later, the ingenuity of Smith and a friend resulted in the first draft of a modern greyhound track. It opened in California in 1919. As progressive as the racetrack was for the time, gambling was still illegal and Smith’s first racetrack had to be closed. But Smith did not give up and only two years later founded the first legal racetrack in Florida. The key to their economic success was clearly the use of electric lights, which enabled spectators who were working during the day to watch the races in the evenings. A new form of evening entertainment was born.
Betting on the dogs was still forbidden. It wasn’t until 1931 that Florida draft legislation legalized dog and horse racing betting. Florida ultimately became the first state in the United States to legalize betting on dog and horse races. Taxation on betting was also introduced and construction of new racetracks began in several states. Since then, the dog racing industry has been a multi-million dollar business in the United States.