This week there are Sighthound people traveling from across the US, Canada, and even Europe to descend upon the historic town of Gettysburg, PA for the 21st annual Greyhounds in Gettysburg. As with any large gathering, there are some general rules of the road to ensure a positive experience for everyone. Many of these have to do with basic dog etiquette. If you have a big dog, please don't let them eat little dogs. If you have a little dog, please don't
smear them with peanut butter put them on a retractable leash.
When it comes to the humans, everything is always more complicated. Our fabulous hosts, Nittany Greyhounds, do a great job of making everyone feel welcome, but the elephant in the room at GIG has always been Greyhound racing. This year the elephant has grown into a mastodon. At SHUG, we have long recognized the inevitable end of racing--it is one of the reasons that this group was founded. The numbers can't be disputed. Greyhound racing in the US has been on the decline for decades. Last year's campaign in Florida raised millions of dollars for a handful of humans and did not save one individual dog. In fact, the abrupt end to an industry that was drawing to a close in a natural and orderly way may have actually put more dogs at risk.
All of that being said, the danger we face this weekend in Gettysburg, is very simple. If you come prepared to gloat about the end of racing in Florida, then you are closing a door. One one side of that door is the joy of your victory and a million "I told you so"s. On the other side of that door is your ability to help Greyhounds. Please understand that the people who own and train racing Greyhounds are the ones who decide where those Greyhounds go after the track. The legislation that passed in Florida has no rules or provisions for these dogs. It is 100% the decision of the owners and trainers to determine what is going to happen to these dogs as they retire.
There was a plan. There were transporters and kennels and groups across the US ready to take these dogs as they retired, one by one, with brief spurts as each track individually closed. Since November these plans have been updated and revised to adapt to the new reality. Many individuals and groups have found that they are no longer part of this new plan. Recently the NGA has recognized that for many owners, this new plan may include exporting dogs to countries such as China. Again, this is not illegal. The NGA may do what it can to discourage owners from exporting dogs, but in the end, it is their decision.
So here is the decision you need to make when you come to Gettysburg this week. Is your joyous moral vindication more important to you than helping Greyhounds? Would you rather celebrate the end of racing or would you rather be a part of the solution and help retired racing Greyhounds land safely and gently into their new lives? Our goal is to make sure that owners and trainers know that we are here to provide their Greyhounds with veterinary care, safe foster homes, and loving forever homes for the rest of their retirement. We want the people who make decisions for Greyhounds to know that they have good options for their dogs.
Please join us in helping to develop plans to ensure the safety and happiness of retired Greyhounds. This is a time for everyone to work together to make sure each individual dog gets the happy ending they deserve. Bring your thinking caps and good intentions. Leave your party hats and self-congratulations at home.