Dogs race at the Melbourne Greyhound Park. Photo courtesy Craig Rubadoux, Florida Today
St. Petersburg, Florida -- Recent reports show Greyhound racing dogs are dying at track properties at what some say is a high rate.
The report out of The Miami Herald said between May 31st and December 31st 74 greyhounds died at a track or at a track property. The report said 12 of those 74 dogs died at the St. Petersburg Derby Lane.
"Dogs dying at the track is not a common thing," said Derby Lane spokesperson Vera Rasnake. "We follow all the state laws, including the new one to report a dog death within 18 hours of it dying at a track."
The law was passed in 2010, but it did not go into effect until last spring.
"We also have a veterinarian who is appointed by the state on site before each race, for the weigh in, during the races, and after the races," said Rasanke.
The Miami Herald report's an advocacy group to shut down Greyhound racing said 31 dogs died from racing related injuries or were euthanized because of racing related injuries. They said the notes state they died from injuries, heatstroke, or unknown injuries, while another 17 might have also died from race related causes because they said the notes said the dogs "fell, collided or was hit."
A local kennel manager in St. Petersburg, Catherine D'Arcy, said that the report conveys that Greyhounds commonly die on the race track and that is not true. D'Arcy and her family have been caring for and racing greyhounds since 1985. They have 60 dogs at their kennel at St. Petersburg's Derby Lane.
"I think to have an article that paints the industry so negatively, knowing how much time and effort and love we put into our dogs, it is just absolutely disheartening," said D'Arcy. "We love our dogs like family. I care for them better than most house pets are cared for. They get walked and exercise five times a day, they eat healthy food, they get properly groomed and are kept clean."
In 2010, the state passed a law saying dog track operators have to tell the state within 18 hours if a greyhound dies on track property. Many animal welfare advocacy groups pushed the law through. D'Arcy said she disagreed with the law when it passed because the number conveys the message that greyhounds commonly die on the racetrack.
"I think when you put a number on something it does sensationalize the negativity of it," said D'Arcy. "Greyhounds love to run. If you don't appreciate that about them, you don't understand the breed. It is not common for dogs to die at the track or the kennel. Some of those dog deaths are not necessarily related to anything with racing, sometimes a dog will just die. Just like Poodles, or Labradors, or any house dog, they might pass away and you do not point fingers at the owner because one dies."
D'Arcy also explained the report claimed a one-year-old dog was racing and died. She said that is not allowed.
"A greyhound must be at least 14 months old in order to qualify for racing. So, wherever they got that fact from cannot be right," said D'Arcy.
Derby Lane has 135 dog races each week with eight dogs racing in each race.