Adopt a retired greyhound
How would you like to adopt a retired athlete? No, Mia Hamm doesn't need a home, but thousands
of retired greyhounds and race horses do once their careers on the
track are over.
I have a new man in my life. He has big brown eyes
and loves to cuddle. He is loyal, always happy to see me and he
loves me unconditionally. He also has a cold, wet nose and a cute
little bobtail. No, not the boyfriend of my dreams; I'm talking
about my 7-year-old retired greyhound, Marley. That's right,
for a mere $150 I adopted a former racer. He has quickly become
the love of my life and adheres to the greyhound creed that goes
something like: "Zero to 40 mph in less time than it takes to sneak
on the couch or into your heart."
There are thousands of athletes just like Marley,
ready to sneak into your heart, too. The animal racing industry
retires thoroughbreds and greyhounds when they can no longer run
fast enough to make the tracks money. But not all of these animals
make it to loving homes. No one knows the exact number of greyhounds
euthanized each year because they aren't successful on the track,
but many are put to sleep.
However, there is a ray of hope for greyhound lovers.
Thanks to breed adoption programs, many retired racing dogs do get
second chances. Since 1990, an estimated 152,000-plus greyhounds
have been adopted as pets into homes, according to the National
Jacque Schultz, administrator of the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' greyhound
fund in New York, also notes that the greyhound racing industry
is declining year-to-year. Tracks are closing and purses are getting
smaller. "People are more aware of animal issues and the sport seems
to be downsizing," she says.
She also attributes the increase
of legal gambling venues, such as riverboats, to the decline in
the popularity of animal racing. "If they are going to gamble their
money, they feel better doing it where no animals are harmed," Shultz
This doesn't mean that there is a shortage in "grey-t"
dogs ready for adoption. "Greyhounds make very good pets. There
are few other breeds that lived in these conditions and adapt so
well to being couch potatoes," Shultz quips.
Though they are big dogs, typically 55 to 80 pounds,
they are trained on the tracks to walk on a leash. This is a good
thing, because if they weren't controlled, you could find yourself
skiing behind your canine.
Shultz says that there are groups all over the country
that help place greyhounds. There is a cost, but with most groups
the adoption fees include flea and tick treatment, shots, and spaying
or neutering. They may even polish the dogs' pearly whites. That's
no guarantee they won't have dog breath, though.
Do I have to go to the baptism?
If you can't afford to care for a greyhound
yourself, don't dismiss the ability to parent these animals. Operation
Greyhound, in El Cajon, Calif., has a "Greyhound Godchild" adoption
program. Colleen Browne, a volunteer for Operation Greyhound, created
the Godchild program so that there is a constant source of money
to care for the dogs while they are in the kennels, even when adoptions
For a minimum $10 per month donation, you'll get a
photo of your greyhound and a letter describing the dog, including
his or her background and racing name. Browne says that once the
dog is adopted, "The story has a happy ending and then the donations
go toward sponsoring a different dog."
Besides heading the Godchild program, Browne has eight
greyhounds herself. "There's just something about greyhounds that's
different than any other animal. I brought my first one home and
I was hooked."
Debra Raskin, founder of New Beginnings Greyhound
Adoption, in Davie, Fla., knows what it's like to be hooked on greyhounds.
She has successfully placed thousands of greyhounds in loving homes
over the years. "It's so part of my life now. We live together;
the greyhounds and I are one," she says. Raskin admits that it's
a lot of work to care for the dogs she has in her kennel.
Raskin takes the dogs to local festivals to give her
organization and the dogs exposure. "The greyhounds sell themselves,"
she says. She isn't exaggerating. These dogs are attention-getters.
I often warn anyone that comes out with Marley and me that everyone
we pass will either talk to us or about us. Raskin dreads the summer,
as the festivals and venues are fewer, limiting her ability to display
While some greyhound adoption groups require prospective
families to go through a lengthy adoption process including applications,
home inspections and bringing the dog to the family's home to see
how they will adapt, Raskin prefers to trust her instinct. "I have
to see the people. I love these dogs. They are not merchandise to
me, and I have to meet the people to know if they are really going
to be able to care for the dogs," she says.
Raskin is sure to list the negatives about bringing
a newly retired greyhound into your home. "If they can deal [with
the negatives], then we can talk," she says. Some negatives that
Raskin notes are the amount of time you have to dedicate to your
pooch, and that due to of the lack of body fat, greyhounds cannot
handle extreme heat and cold, so your greyhound will have to live
in the house. She isn't afraid to admit that she turns down people
all of the time because they don't meet her criteria for adoption.
If you are leery of the cost of adoption, Raskin warns,
"Then forget about it. You won't ever be able to afford to care
for the dog."
Now that's a horse of a different color
Raskin not only finds time and money to care
for her greyhound service; she has also adopted a retired racehorse.
She rescued a horse that was living in a pasture with no food, no
coat and no clean water. "He was just bones, like a dead horse walking,"
she says. She adopted the horse from a man that bought horses cheaply
from horse auctions and then sold them, either to caring people
like her or to dog food plants. "He just wanted the money for the
horses. He didn't care for them," Raskin says. She paid $700 to
rescue her horse, and nine months later, "He looked like a $10,000
horse," she says with pride.
Raskin warns that adopting a horse in distress is
an expensive undertaking. "I don't think a lot of people can afford
to do this," she says of the vet, food and housing budget her horse
required. "But I wish everyone would get one."
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), based
in Shrewsbury, N.J., started its rescue foundation for race horses
in 1981, and began private adoption programs in 1984. Over the years,
it has not only been able to place winning horses, but also some
that never won a race in their career. "[A horse] doesn't have to
be rich and famous to come here," says Mary Ratcliffe, a volunteer
in Manhattan for the TRF. With the adoption program, there is the
promise of lifelong care for the animal.
I think it's easier to adopt a child
According to Diana Pikulski, executive director
of the TRF, there is a lengthy adoption process that includes applications,
reference checks and visits from the foundation to check the new
home. Also, the agency checks to make sure the animal is being properly
cared for with routine visits and biannual updates from the horse's
vet. The TRF also asks that if an owner can no longer care for the
horse, it be returned to them for placement into another caring
home. "It takes awhile sometimes to find the right horse for someone,"
The foundation provides thoroughbreds for adoption
for a fee, ranging from $500 to $2,500, depending upon the horse
you choose. Before a horse is adopted it receives a checkup and
shots, as well as a test for its handling skills and ability to
walk, trot and canter.
"Thoroughbreds are an awesome breed, and because [racers]
have been handled a lot, they are great horses for their second
career off the track," says Pikulski.
-- Updated: Dec. 13, 2004