RICHMOND, Virginia (April 18, 2018)—Greyhound rescue organizations in Virginia and elsewhere may see an influx of dogs needing adoption if Florida decides to ban greyhound racing.
Florida's Constitution Revision Commission is considering putting such a ban on a statewide ballot in November. Florida has 12 greyhound racing tracks.
If voters approve the constitutional amendment, Florida would "phase out the racing over the next several years," said Mark Lane, president of James River Greyhounds, a nonprofit dog-adoption organization, and Greyt Love Retirement, a foster shelter for retired greyhounds awaiting adoption.
Lane said the constitutional amendment being considered in Florida doesn't address the future of retired racers and "finding a home for the vast number of racing greyhounds that would be without a career."
Kristen Avent, foster coordinator for James River Greyhounds, said the race dogs are not inhumanely taken from their families to immediately start training.
"Basically, from birth, they're with their littermates and their mama," Avent said. "Then, when they go to their kennels, they have all the dogs with them and they have the trainers there."
James River Greyhounds has formed relationships with racetracks in Alabama and Florida. The organization arranges foster and adoptive homes when racing greyhounds from those tracks are retired.
"We've been down to the racetrack facilities in Birmingham, Alabama, and Daytona, Florida. The dogs are well taken care of," Avent said. "The people at the track absolutely love them, they have dog treats for them and play with them—that sort of thing."
Florida state Sen. Tom Lee, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, said many racing greyhounds "live in inhumane conditions" and face mistreatment.
However, Avent said the dogs are let out into the yard at least four times per day, practice racing around the track, sometimes get to go on car rides around the facilities, eat well and have constant company.
Avent said greyhounds usually have a smooth transition after their racing days.
"When you get them off the tracks when they retire, they're sweet and easy to bring into a home because they're already used to being handled by people," Avent said.
Greyhounds are made available for adoption as early as 21 months old. But ultimately, the determinant is their racing ability, or lack thereof.
"When you bring them into a house, you just have to teach them, sometimes, how to use steps," Avent said. "Then they just have to learn about furniture and things like that. But they learn very quickly, and they're extremely loving. They love to be with you."
"When deciding what type of dog that I wanted to adopt, I came across the retired racing greyhound breed and found them to be extremely laid-back, awesome personality and a very regal breed overall," Lane said. "Once I adopted my first, the rest has been history, and I don't regret it at all."
Avent said the dogs' sweet disposition and gentle nature won her over.
"They're very affectionate, are eager to go anywhere you want to go—they want to be with you," she said.
Lane said among his favorite greyhound mannerisms and attributes are the greyhound roo, a sound they make that is a mix of barks, grunts and whines; their teeth chattering, and their relaxed demeanor. Lane said a greyhound is "a 45-mph couch potato" that sleeps for most of the day.
"The importance of greyhound adoption is that once these athletes are finished their careers, they make awesome pets," Lane said. "Adoption groups all over the U.S. and Canada fill the need to find appropriate retirement homes for these wonderful retired racing greyhounds."
Lane started Greyt Love Retirement for two main reasons.
"The first was that I wanted to build a facility to be able to bring more retired racing greyhounds to the Richmond area to continue to educate about, advocate for and adopt out the retired racing greyhound," he said. "The second was a realization that some potential applicants wanted to touch, feel and connect with their new family member, and JRG (James River Greyhounds) could not facilitate that request without having a foster shelter with potential available hounds."
Besides the two groups headed by Lane, there is an organization called Around Town Hounds, which holds monthly walks and other events for members of the Richmond greyhound community.
"I have found that once you adopt a greyhound, you are now involved with a tighter knit community of dog owners," Lane said. "As adopters, we rely on each other for dog sitting, being a knowledge bank of questions and answers, playdates and general camaraderie."