Greyhound Racing And Drugs
Greyhound racing is an abusive enterprise that has historically remained relatively unchecked and understudied. In our entire Faunalytics database, only one article directly addresses the sport. This is not to say that animal advocates are not aware of it – numerous advocacy groups are devoted to raising awareness about the sport’s cruelty and rescuing injured or retired greyhounds. In fact, such groups’ public awareness campaigns have helped to outlaw the sport in 40 US states. However, the 18 tracks that still operate push dogs to physical extremes in order to win races. And like race horses, greyhounds are given drugs to enhance their performance.
Though regulatory bodies in the US have been conducting drug tests on racing dogs since the 1930s, a report from Grey2K reveals that illegal drug use to enhance athletic performance, also called “doping,” runs rampant in the greyhound racing industry. The report opens with the blunt assertion that doping is “endemic” to the industry. Consider that from 2007 to 2017, there were nearly 900 drug positives reported and more than 80 drug-related violations.
Unfortunately, pro-greyhound racing associations in various states have succeeded in preventing efforts to expose this unethical practice. For example, the industry has challenged drug testing policies through legal means, and some states have simply underfunded drug testing.
The types of drugs administered to racing dogs range from muscle relaxants and anesthetics (used to treat and mask racing-related injuries) to stimulants and street drugs. Of the drug positives reported, more than 70 revealed exposure to cocaine, an illegal narcotic that has “no generally accepted medical use” in racing animals. Yet the penalties for drug violations are minimal; most trainers and tracks incur fines as low as $50 for a cocaine positive. It is not surprising, then, that the use of cocaine in the Florida industry spread like wildfire in 2017 when more than 30 positive tests were recorded.
Though the Grey2K report recommends policy reforms to combat doping, advocates will likely have their eyes set on grassroots efforts. For example, they may consider emulating the strategies that led to the bullfighting ban in Spain. In the US, advocates should continue to raise public awareness about the cruelty of the greyhound racing industry. Disseminating information about the epidemic of doping illustrate one aspect of this sport’s cruelty. Encouraging people to boycott races is another effective tactic that will eventually force operating tracks to close their doors.