Making Room for Greyhounds
The Humane Society of Greater Miami recently went the extra mile for greyhounds, when board members and staff decided to devote a portion of their dog kennels to educating the public about the breed.
|© Carrie Neff|
Opened this year, the organization’s new shelter includes a 10,000-square-foot wing called “Waggersville.” Designed for large- and medium-size dogs, the wing comes complete with a room for adoptable greyhounds. Educational materials outside the door explain the cruelties of the greyhound racing industry while also describing the gentle nature of one of South Florida’s most misunderstood and mistreated dogs.
“People don’t really think of greyhounds when they think of adopting a pet for their family,” says Melanie Otero, the shelter’s public relations director. “I think people hear greyhound and they think ‘racing dog.’ And because of their speed I think they probably think that they’re a hyper, really active dog. And the truth is, like I heard somebody once say, they’re 60-mile-an-hour couch potatoes. They have two speeds: zero and 60. And when they retire, they’re content just to lay down and sleep and be with you and stay by your side.”
By creating a special area for greyhounds, the shelter provides enough space for a local rescue group, Friends of Greyhounds, to highlight one or two of their dogs at a time. The concept works so well, says Otero, that one dog who’d been in the group’s care for a year and a half got adopted in a matter of weeks once he was transferred to the Humane Society of Greater Miami.
Staff are engaged in the issue to the point where they now recommend the breed to potential adopters, says Otero. If someone comes to the shelter seeking a dog who will get along well with their children, for instance, adoption counselors will often ask, “Have you considered a greyhound?”
“And they’ll go through all the attributes of the greyhound and explain why this makes such a great family pet,” she says. “We’re trying to get people to look at greyhounds in a different way.”
Though the greyhound racing industry has declined in the last decade, tens of thousands of greyhounds are still bred each year to provide “fresh” groups of dogs for racing. A few of those who don’t pass muster as racers—or who slow down when they are three or four years old—are lucky enough to be “retired” with rescue groups. But many more are killed, sent to research labs, returned to breeding facilities to serve as breeding stock, or sent to foreign racetracks where they are kept in even more appalling conditions. Those dogs kept on for races spend most of their lives in cages with little human contact.
“There are so many racetracks here in Florida and so many greyhounds that come out of those tracks that we felt this was a special case for support,” says Otero.