Concerns raised over welfare of greyhounds as Hurricane Irma approaches

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As Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma’s approach, the fate of hundreds of greyhound dogs kenneled at racetracks across the state remains uncertain.

Florida is one of only five states in the United States that still have greyhound racing, with about a dozen currently-active tracks, far more than any other state. The practice is completely banned in 40 states. The industry has experienced a sharp decline over the years, with a 72% decrease in the amount gambled at dog tracks in Florida from 1990 to 2013, according to a report by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

Animal rights activists have advocated against abuse and mistreatment of racing greyhounds since at least the 1980s. (The Greyhound Protection League collects greyhound abuse stories reported by the media; their website is currently under construction but archive site is viewable at the Wayback Machine site). New laws passed by legislatures in states that still allow racing have improved welfare standards for the animals and awareness has led to a growing number of advocacy groups placing retired racing dogs for adoption.

Still, concerns remain, especially regarding how the dogs are housed and the perception that the dogs are viewed as expendable by the tracks, useless once they are no longer competitive racers.

Dog track operations involve hundreds of dogs being kept available on site to be ready for races throughout the week, and the tracks keep the greyhounds on site in warehouse-style kennels in stacked cages that are too small allow the dogs much freedom of movement. The dogs are “turned out” several times a day for exercise and to relieve themselves.

This method of housing the dogs is a significant cause for concern among greyhound advocates during the upcoming Hurricane Irma, which will make landfall in Florida in the coming hours and is expected to cause substantial damage across large swaths of the state.

Susan Netboy, an activist who has volunteered with the Greyhound Protection League for over thirty years, told the Orlando Political Observer that she reviewed the websites of dog tracks in Florida, to see what their plans were during the hurricane to protect the dogs at their facilities.

No track seemed to have any organized plans to evacuate the dogs, and the reality is that a quick, large-scale evacuation of hundreds of dogs is not logistically possible. Neither the tracks nor the owners of the dogs have vehicles that can move more than six to eight dogs at a time. There is also very little information available about any measures being taken to secure and protect the dogs during what will most likely be a terrifying storm for them.

“I found very little that was comforting,” said Netboy, noting that the tracks were continuing to hold races Friday and Saturday, and therefore keeping their dogs on site. According to Netboy, the track management at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg was offering $5,000 to each kennel to help the dogs during the storm, but that was the only mention at all she could find about how the dogs were being protected during the hurricane.

A review by this writer supported Netboy’s report. Comments on a post on the Derby Lane Facebook page suggested that 2 of their kennel operators were evacuating their dogs, but the rest were remaining at the track facility. Attempts to call the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club led only to voice mails in the general manager’s office, racing department, and security and operations office. Overall, the dog track websites announce changes to their schedules because of the storm, but no information about the welfare of the dogs at their facilities.

The majority of Florida dog tracks do not appear to be in mandatory evacuation zones, but those in coastal areas are at the same risk from flooding and storm surges as the rest of the buildings in the area. For those tracks not in flood or storm surge danger, assuming the buildings are up to code, leaving the dogs sheltered in the dog kennels is likely a safe option, Netboy acknowledged.

However, she was still concerned about whether the dogs would have adequate food and water, how long it might be before someone checked on them, and how stressful it would be for the dogs to be left alone during the storm.

“Who’s caring for the dogs when it [the storm]hits?” asked Netboy, “Kudos to those who are having employees stay with the dogs, but it doesn’t look like most of them are.” And even if people are staying with the dogs, it will likely be impossible to turn them out during the storm.

The effect of storm-induced stress on the dogs is another reason for her concern: would they be too traumatized to be effective racers after weathering the hurricane? One of the main objections greyhound advocates have raised for years is how the dogs are sometimes treated as disposable, euthanized after even minor, treatable injuries or when they are no longer competitive racers.

“The dogs will be traumatized afterwards, there’s no doubt,” said Netboy, who described dogs she had observed who had been rescued after being abandoned during Hurricane Katrina and suffered from severe anxiety problems thereafter. One dog she recalled would shake in terror whenever the new owner would turn on the shower, even years later.

“Preparations for disasters like hurricanes in Florida are commonplace, but in the dog racing industry, there is nothing really happening,” said Netboy. “I want to see that change.”

Photo: Vintage postcard in Boston Public Library collection, via Flickr.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker

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39 Comments

  1. Wow. Talk about lack of research and poor reporting. This article is so full of holes that it’s a sieve.

  2. Never have I seen such abject ignorance! Grey2K has refused to acknowledge the wisdom of keeping the active racers in the kennels during the hurricane. Hundreds of posts have been circulated over the past few days outlining the danger it would cause to move thousands of greyhounds out of Florida (an impossible feat even in the best weather) and explaining that the dedicated trainers and kennel personnel will be risking their own safety to stay with the dogs to care for them and keep them as safe as possible under dire circumstances.

    These self-righteous, immoral leeches think they know better, yet refuse to offer ANY assistance or concern. Instead they choose to incite their followers to vilify those who actually care for and protect our beloved greyhounds. I didn’t think even they could stoop so low.
    I pity anyone who supports this vile organization.

    As of 1:00 pm eastern time on Sunday, 9/10/17 – trainers and kennel staff have been checking in regularly to assure those who truly care that all is well despite the approaching hurricane. These kennels have prepared with generators, food and supplies and will stay with the dogs throughout, knowing the risks to their personal safety.

    It is absolutely appalling and that Grey2K and the HSUS would stoop to such despicable levels to advance their political propaganda and spread false information for financial gain. Shame on them and shame on Orlando-Politics.com for printing such a biased article.

    • Why is that? They are treated with love and respect by owners, trainers and handlers.
      You need to learn about this and quit believing the lies greed2k publish.

    • Sharyn Deeringer on

      Have you ever been to a kennel? Obviously not because you have no idea how they are treated. Do some research – boots on the ground would be best. Don’t believe the lies by the likes of Susan Netboy. I do retired racing greyhound adoption. I have visited farms, finishers, tracks, track kennels, track compounds, and I have talked with trainers, breeders, and others in the greyhound community. This is what you need to do to find out the true facts. You will be amazed. Open your mind to the truth not the lies of the so-called animal protection groups. They are only protecting their own wallets with donations from people who are uninformed.

  3. For those who are wondering, written by a good friend who knows. Thanks , Christopher Molnar

    “I have been seeing posts all afternoon wondering why the trainers have not evacuated the greyhounds out of the Florida racing kennels. I have also started to see some of the supposedly “savior of the greyhound” groups (read between the lines and you all know who I am talking about) posting about the selfish trainers who are putting their dogs at risk. PLEASE if you see one of your posts, share the following:

    1. Most kennels are concrete block construction – most dog trailers and trucks are aluminum or light steel.

    2. There is power and water at the racing kennels. There are backup generators available to run the Air Conditioning. The dog trucks have generators to run the A/C on both the trucks and the trailers. The trucks need gasoline to run the engine, the generators each need gas to run the a/c. Florida has a serious gas shortage. many, many stations closed and out of gas.

    3. Would you like to sit on an interstate moving nowhere, knowing that your truck and a/c generators are running low on fuel, knowing that if you run out of gas you have a chance of overheating and eventually killing your load of 32 dogs, knowing that you also still have to go back and move 2 or 3 more batches? I didn’t think so, this is not an option.

    4. No place in Florida is a safe place to evacuate to. It takes close to 15 hours to drive from southern Florida to Georgia and north. The roads are almost at a standstill.

    5. Road rage is real. Dog trailers do not stop on a dime. if one gets into an accident it is not a nice scene.

    Read the above, think about it. Isn’t it safer to stay in the compound, in a protected environment, weather the storm with your dogs and make sure no one panics. Knowing that if you do have a flooding situation you can move them to another building within the compound, to the track, or move the dogs in the lower crates to the upper crates and double them up? I know what my choice would be, and I would do the same thing a hundred trainers are doing across Florida, stay where they are. Have enough water and food for a week. And plan on spending a few nights with your dogs.”

  4. Copied from a Facebook friend’s post:

    I have been seeing posts all afternoon wondering why the trainers have not evacuated the greyhounds out of the Florida racing kennels. I have also started to see some of the supposedly “savior of the greyhound” groups (read between the lines and you all know who I am talking about) posting about the selfish trainers who are putting their dogs at risk. PLEASE if you see one of your posts, share the following:

    1. Most kennels are concrete block construction – most dog trailers and trucks are aluminum or light steel.

    2. There is power and water at the racing kennels. There are backup generators available to run the Air Conditioning. The dog trucks have generators to run the A/C on both the trucks and the trailers. The trucks need gasoline to run the engine, the generators each need gas to run the a/c. Florida has a serious gas shortage. many, many stations closed and out of gas.

    3. Would you like to sit on an interstate moving nowhere, knowing that your truck and a/c generators are running low on fuel, knowing that if you run out of gas you have a chance of overheating and eventually killing your load of 32 dogs, knowing that you also still have to go back and move 2 or 3 more batches? I didn’t think so, this is not an option.

    4. No place in Florida is a safe place to evacuate to. It takes close to 15 hours to drive from southern Florida to Georgia and north. The roads are almost at a standstill.

    5. Road rage is real. Dog trailers do not stop on a dime. if one gets into an accident it is not a nice scene.

    Read the above, think about it. Isn’t it safer to stay in the compound, in a protected environment, weather the storm with your dogs and make sure no one panics. Knowing that if you do have a flooding situation you can move them to another building within the compound, to the track, or move the dogs in the lower crates to the upper crates and double them up? I know what my choice would be, and I would do the same thing a hundred trainers are doing across Florida, stay where they are. Have enough water and food for a week. And plan on spending a few nights with your dogs.

  5. Sharyn Deeringer on

    Why in the world do you believe Susan Netboy. If you are going to write an article, be factual and get resources who actually know what is going on. Shame on you for writing such an inaccurate article. Your lack of research is something a true journalist would never do.

  6. Zoos shelter in place. Why is this different for greyhounds? How would you have moved 100+ greyhounds out (the largest haulers can only bring about 30 dogs at a time), requiring gas to run the A/C in their haulers – sitting in traffic for double the time they normally would because the entire state was evacuating? The dogs’ fate is NOT uncertain. They are sheltered with kennel staff. Yes, Derby Lane provided monies for the kennels to buy whatever supplies they needed, others provided gas to make sure generators were full and others brought in water trucks for fresh water. Kennel staff left their families behind to stay with the dogs – just like zoo staff have done for the animals in their care. I can’t imagine the stress everyone is under, yet you write this bogus article with no quotes or direct commentary from tracks and trainers who’ve stayed behind?

  7. This is propaganda and misinformation being put out by money hungry groups like Grey2K and the Humane Society. Nothing can be further from the truth every single kennel is having people staying with the dogs I’m watching the posts and pictures pop up on Facebook. SOKC provided their people with reserve food for a week and a 1,000 gallon water truck was brought in. They have fuel for a week and generators, kennels are cement block buildings. Nobody’s complaining about prisons not being evacuated, nobodies complaining about zoos not being evacuated, and these dogs are treated and are in better conditions then both those other two. Staying put was the safest option. I’m a greyhound owner, I don’t gamble, I’m not even able to in my state MI therefore it’s extremely tough to even watch live time greyhound racing on any screen. I own retired racers and I support the racing industry I’ve been to tracks and kennels and farms and the lies spewed by groups like Grey2K are just that lies based on 50 year old information that they keep peddling to people, The racing industry has cleaned up its act, while you will have bad eggs just like in anything the majority are people who do it for the love of the dogs not money. Without racing greyhounds would not be the breed they are you can see the difference between a NGA Grey and an AKC dog. Dogs aren’t just thrown away anymore after being injured or retired the adoption rate is more than 90%.

  8. We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid….Benjamin Franklin speaking about Susan Netboy.

  9. Where to even start with this nonsense? How about with the first “big lie”: “The practice is completely banned in 40 states.” No, no it hasn’t, and those making this claim know it hasn’t. GAMBLING on these races is not legal everywhere. The racing of Greyhounds, however, is. But for the rash of lies to follow and gain momentum, it’s easier if they can convince their audience of the first one, that it’s basically a criminal enterprise, run by heartless thugs making money “off the backs of the dogs.” Nothing could be further from the truth, but the truth doesn’t bring in millions of dollars in donations every year.

    None of the Florida Greyhounds are being left alone to survive Irma by themselves. The families of their trainers and handlers are the ones being “abandoned,” as those who work with and love these dogs, day in and day out, have made every preparation for the dogs’ every need, and are “camping out” with them for the duration of the storm.

    What I have found intensely disturbing over the last few days, is what exactly it is these alleged Greyhound advocates are busy doing to help. Post after post on Facebook has appeared publicly wishing for the DEATH of the very people who are actually doing the work of caring for these amazing dogs. No doubt Twitter shows the same. Death. Most seem to be hoping for death by drowning, others by a variety of painful deaths. The message is clear. Die, Greyhound caretakers, just die. Some are even wishing death to the dogs. The evil inhumanity has made my physically nauseated more than once.

    And Donate buttons. Let’s not forget the Donate buttons. Talk about making money “off the backs of the dogs,” these people are masters! They make FAR more money than anyone who actually has anything to do with the dogs, without ever having to break a nail or work up a sweat. And then… They use that money to “help” the dogs they so vociferously advocate for? They support the adoption groups who place close to 100% of the retired racers in homes? Nope. Pretty much, they just keep it. Oh, don’t get me wrong. They use it for “programs” …such as their world travels to promote their agenda to make even more money. They use some to travel the country proclaiming their advocacy to any and all who will listen. They travel to hearings to argue AGAINST more safety requirements on the race tracks. They travel…and travel…and travel… And lie. And wish death on dedicated, hard-working Americans. And they’d like for you to do the same.

  10. Richard marcoux on

    What a B.S. lie every kennel thst I have spoke to has at least one and some more than one employee in the kennel. I have friends and family at tracks through out the state. No racing dog is being left alone at any track with kennel.personnel risking their own safety. These AR groups want you to think we don’t care which is a lie. Every dog person I know and that is slot would risk their own life for anyone of their dogs. So animal rights activist stop spreading hate and pray for the safety of all. Once we get through this you can hate us later

  11. Those Greyhounds are much safer there in those cinder block concrete kernels than trying to evacuate them.
    They can only move so many at a time and could run out of gas and be stuck on a highway somewhere.
    The trainers and handlers are staying with them and they are giving us updates on them.
    Racing is it not banned or outlawed or illegal in 40 states either…. Only one state and it’s Idaho.
    Please state true facts before you post bkatent lies.
    The kennels were given $5000 for provisions, not evacuation, needs and provisions….. that’s a huge difference.

  12. Congrats on writing literally the worst article I’ve read in awhile. So misinformed and shame on you for taking advantage of a terrifying hurricane to push your agenda. People are tying out their pets to trees and abandoning them. But yes, better to write about greyhounds who are in safe concrete buildings with their handlers staying with them until it’s over, some even bringing their children because believe it or not these buildings are much safer than most homes. Shame on you.

  13. Sarah, is this a news article or an editorial? The following paragraph is not attributed to a specific source:

    “Dog track operations involve hundreds of dogs being kept available on site to be ready for races throughout the week, and the tracks keep the greyhounds on site in warehouse-style kennels in stacked cages that are too small allow the dogs much freedom of movement. The dogs are “turned out” several times a day for exercise and to relieve themselves.”

    “Warehouse-style” is an editorial statement. Greyhounds live in kennels, like many working dogs. The crates are more than large enough for the greyhounds to move about comfortably.

    Are the comments in question your observation based on what you have seen? Or was this information provided to you by an animal rights extremist with a biased opinion of racing?

  14. Grey2k has found another way to garner donations from unsuspecting and uneducated people. This is simply evil. The greyhounds are all being cared for and you can read how in the previous posts. Grey2k is not doing anything to help. They just collect your money and line their own pockets.

  15. Normally good and evil isn’t so black and white, so obvious, but this time it is. Here we’ve got Greyhound trainers at the kennel compounds braving a massive hurricane to keep their pups safe. We’ve got people who have adopted retired racers and adoption volunteers all over the country praying for their wellbeing.

    And then we’ve got animal rights activists using this hurricane to advance their platform – to see their name in print again. I see bravery and grace on one side and pitiful shame on the other. Black and white.

  16. This article is so poorly researched it does’t even pass as a piece of journalism. The Orlando Political Observer and Sarah Rumpf should be ashamed. Just a little bit of research would have shown these statements to be unsubstantiated and untrue. These racing greyhounds on the tracks and in the kennels are being better taken care of than the pets being tied to trees and left alone. Why would you publish something so blatantly wrong?

  17. Ruth Hagenbaugh on

    I can’t believe the ignorance in this post. Everything in it is totally false and very misleading. If Susan Netboy is so concerned about the greyhounds why isn’t she there to help them? Why isn’t she donating food or water for them? She is sitting comfortably in her home making false statements while the true greyhound people are risking their lives to stay and keep the greyhounds they love safe. Where is grey2k in all this? Nowhere to be found. They make millions from people every year and yet they haven’t donated one cent to help the greyhounds. Not one cent. These people are nothing short of the devil himself. They spread lies and wish death upon the greyhounds and workers that are protecting them. Yes, that’s right. The grey2k followers are wishing the greyhounds would drown so they wouldn’t have to race anymore. Who in their right mind would wish death upon greyhounds? These people are evil with no souls. Do not support this evil group. They do not care one bit about greyhounds and never will. This article needs to be deleted forever. It is full of lies. A true, honest reporter would research first before publishing anything that is not true. President Trump is right. FAKE NEWS!

  18. You should check your facts before posting a story like this. These dogs are being cared for by those who care for them every day. The kennels are made of strong materials. The crates can be elevated if necessary or the dogs moved to the 2nd tier of crates. It’s far safer to shelter in place than it is to haul 20 or 30 dogs in a hauler which could run out of gas leaving the hauler without AC in hot weather. The kennels have generators. There is food and water for the dogs. If I had a racer, I would be relieved if he or she were being cared for in a relatively safe environment than possibly dying along a congested highway.

  19. It is obvious that NO research was conducted before writing this article and no trainers, kennel staff or owners were contacted. Amazing that in a area that is lucky enough to have a Kennel Club in the vicinity no attempt was made to find out what was really going on but only spoke to 1 individual who is against racing. Where is the unbiased reporting? Instead of supporting and thanking the men & women (and their families) who are dedicated to and love the greyhounds under their care you insult and demean them.

    What an abomination! 😡😡😡

  20. This article is incredibly moronic. Greyhound racing in not banned in 40 states. There is too much bull in this article to even start correcting it. There have been numerous articles on how people are going to keep the pups safe. Here is a tip for you, greyhound activists lie. Use your own brain, not a brainwashed one.

  21. Clearly this is not a “real” news site. It is easily influenced by false propaganda which the site did not research. As already stated, it’s safer for the dogs to shelter in place, in reinforced kennels which have survived hurricanes for many years. All the zoos in Florida are doing exactly the same thing.

    Racing is only banned in a couple states, it’s the gambling part which is banned, get your facts straight before making this site look like it’s operated by a bunch of uneducated fools.

  22. I can only echo the comments of those before me. Comments based in facts and first hand knowlege from those who own, train, care for, and most of all LOVE these dogs. To write such a one-sided and erroneous piece shows, at best, extremely poor journalism. Shame on you.

  23. Perhaps journalism should be researched prior to spewing lies and erroneous information.
    You people don’t have a clue what these trainers helpers and owner go thru to keep the dogs safe.

  24. A friend of mine who evacuated from the Miami area needed up in the panhandle after 20 hours with no gas; her friends had to drive from Birmingham to pick her up.

    Let’s think about a trailer full of dogs – what happens to them sitting in a trailer for 8-10 hours with no AC and no gas to run it?

    If the staff didn’t care about the animals (after all, they don’t own them), they’d have evacuated themselves and left the greyhounds to die. Instead, they’re hunkered down IN THE KENNELS with the hounds.

    What else do you want from them? They’re as prepared as they can be, and they know help will come pouring in when they need it in the aftermath.

    The group this article quotes doesn’t spend a penny rescuing dogs.

    Who REALLY cares for them? The lobbying group that make their livings raising money to lobby against the greyhounds, or the minimally paid staff who are risking their lives to keep them safe?

  25. The ignorance and lack of research by this writer is deplorable. How many kennels were visited for this article? How many trainers, kennel operators and owners were interviewed? This is fear mongering reporting at it’s finest. It is obvious that Sarah Rumpf will never become a real journalist with bias stories like this one.

  26. Some of the worst most irresponsible “reporting” I’ve ever read. This is the epitome of fake news. This owners and editors of this site should recoil in shame and the “reporter” dismissed. Clearly, this rag and “reporter” do not subscribe to investigative reporting or objective truth in journalism.

    All of the accounts above about the hardworking people at the tracks staying to care for the dogs in strong kennels with plentiful food, water and generators is spot on. There are even photos of the dogs at the kennels riding this out with their dedicated humans.

    Your pathetic piece of fiction trying to pass as a story is absolutely disgusting. Do your due diligence, stop drinking the Kool-aid

  27. These owners of the poor innocent babies are animals. These greyhounds are gentle sweet and the most wonderful dogs. How they can be treated like this and be legal is awful and that they are and not evacuated during this storm is unimaginable. I pray they will be safe and rehomed away from these ogres.

  28. Not to pile on the inaccuracies, but it’s not the greyhound racing that is illegal in 40 states, but the paramutual betting that is illegal.

    And I completely agree with the not evacuating the greyhounds for the above stated reasons. It is better to shelter in place.

    I am not going to repeat or rage on about the other inaccuracies, but better research needs to be done before publishing anti-racing articles such as this.

  29. Why would you write an article without fact checking first. This is so irresponsible and unprofessional and leaves you without any credibility. Perhaps it’s time to find another job.

  30. Why would you write an article full of so much false information without doing any fact checking, especially with the people actually staying with the greyhounds making sure they are well-cared for while riding out the storm away from their families? Not only does this article damage your credibility as a writer, it’s unprofessional and irresponsible.

  31. No, I have never been to a track. All I know is the scarring my two rescues have. The early arthritis etc..You may be correct about how they are being cared for through hurricane Irma but the argument about how well they are taken of is suspect at best. I’m pretty sure they are put out to pasture to live out the remainder of their lives comfortably, right? Fill me in as to If they aren’t rescued by different groups let me know what the wonderful trainers and owners do with them after they can’t be raced? I’m sure they are cared for post racing to live out their lives, right? I don’t know of or actually have heard the writer of this article but I see nothing listed by you of their care post racing

  32. All the greyhounds at all the tracks in Florida came through the storm with flying colors, due to the planning, care and diligence of their trainers. It’s past time for the utter bs spewed by so called “advocates”(who make their living exploiting lies about greyhounds) are called to the carpet and shut down. The only thing they do well is lie and collect money, they don’t help greyhounds and if their agenda went through, the racing greyhound would be extinct in a few generations. Anyone who has one of these gentle creatures knows what loving souls they are, and what great pets they make after they retire. This newspaper and their staff should be ashamed of themselves for spreading lies. Do some research, and check it out for yourself!

  33. The trainers will take Care of the greyhounds,by staying in the kennel with the greys.when water comes into kennel bottom dogs share a crate with the females in top crates,muzzles on for safety.after storm they are already there at kennel to let out,feed,and get things back to normal.I commend all the Greyhound trainers for their commitment,passion,and love of the Greyhound.

  34. Sorry to disappoint you, Ms. Rumpf, but all the greyhounds and the trainers who stayed through Hurricane Irma with them are reported to be safe. You must be discouraged that you, GREY2kUSA, and all the other doggie necrophiles posing as “humane greyhound advocates” did not get your fix of dead puppies.