Dog racing, which is almost exclusively greyhound racing in the U.S. emerged in the 1920s. Dogs chased a “mechanical rabbit” around a track. The sport was akin to horse racing, but with animals that weighed little more than 60 pounds. The greyhounds were unusually fast and could reach speeds of 40 miles per hour.
As had been true of horse racing, dog racing drew a large number of people who gambled on the results. Arenas were built in or near a number of cities around America.
The dogs were often treated badly. Doping is used to increase speeds, but also could cause severe injuries. Some dogs are destroyed due to injury. Greyhounds that are too slow to race may be destroyed as well. And, retired dogs do not always find a home.
The treatment of greyhounds bred to race has been sufficiently barbaric to lead the ASPCA to list it as “cruelty to animals.” Its investigations have found” “Racing Greyhounds routinely experience terrible injuries on the track such as broken legs, cardiac arrest, spinal cord paralysis and broken necks. They suffer off the track as well: Dogs caught up in this cruel industry spend most of their lives stacked in warehouse-style kennels for 20 or more hours a day, or are kept outdoors in dirt pens with minimal shelter.”
The ASPCA also tracks the number of states where the races are illegal. Its most recent analysis puts that at 41.
The Michigan State University Animal Legal and Historical Center recently published its “Overview of Dog Racing Laws”.
The publication reported that greyhound racing remains active in four states–Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia. Another four states allow racing, but do not have tracks in operation today–Wisconsin, Connecticut, Kansas, and Oregon.
It is not entirely clear why the popularity of greyhound racing has fallen in the U.S. Pew Research recently published a study titled “Once One of America’s Favorite Pastimes, Greyhound Racing Eats Dust.”
The Pew experts argue that the sport no longer makes a great deal of money. And, the cruelty to animals aspects of the sport has driven people away.