It’s funny how sometimes you can have what you believe to be a fine idea, but the time just isn’t right to implement that particular brainstorm.
Regarding a current Facebook discussion about yearly birth rates among the NGA racing greyhound population, it appears that the trend is quite downward. As a matter of fact, there were 10,657 greyhound puppies born in 2013. This means that birth rates for racing greyhounds are down 71.8% since 1988, when there were 37,784 new racing greyhound puppies born.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing for racing greyhounds. Looking at the shocking contraction in breeding, it is inevitable that entire families of greyhounds have already disappeared, and that the last breeding female of those particular and unique genetic wellsprings has retired or passed on. That means “goodbye”, as in forever, to those greyhounds and their particular strands of mitochondrial DNA, and to an inestimable degree of genetic diversity.
On the other hand, given the drastically lower number of new whelps, it is entirely probable that fewer than 7,000 greyhounds will be retiring each year—fewer still, if the trend continues downward.
What that does, is to present an opportunity for the racing community to do something extraordinary, unprecedented and long overdue.
Remarkable progress has been made in adoption of retired racers. In view of this staggering reduction in breeding, we now have reason to believe, thanks to the selfless dedication of the women and men who provide adoption services to the racing community, that we have quite possibly arrived at the long anticipated goal of 100% re-homing of adoptable, retired greyhounds.
Now, let’s forget for a moment about the Grey2Ks of the world, and their entirely unsubstantiated and absurd claims of however many thousand greyhounds are ruthlessly destroyed each year by the heartless mercenaries of the American racing world. Nothing racing people or adoption people can do, will ever be good enough to satisfy the scorched-earth, slash-and-burn, anti-racing activist. We’ll keep this conversation among those of us who actually care about greyhounds, and not about how much money they can milk from a gullible public, with fantastic, irresponsible, and sometimes even hateful pity fables.
All of those who cherish the NGA Greyhound, owe these aforementioned adoption volunteers a great debt of gratitude. They have proven to be among the most dedicated, resourceful and capable people within the sphere of greyhound racing and retirement. They have donated countless hours, time and money to insuring that retirement is now a phase of the racing greyhound’s career. They are as much a part of greyhound racing as the mechanical bunny.
Likewise, we admire and respect those in the racing community, both in and behind the scenes, who make the time in their grueling and hectic schedules, to reach out to adopters and admirers of the breed, through social media, networking, and even on a person-to-person basis, and who support their greyhounds by making a significant donation to their individual re-homing costs. They demonstrate daily, with their words and actions, just how highly regarded the racing greyhound is, not only by his adopters, but by those who caretake him to that stage of his life.
It’s been a long, hard struggle to reach the point where we can say with some degree of optimism, that we may very well have come to the milestone where demand for retired greyhounds finally exceeds the supply of them.
Be that as it may, there is one hurdle still to overcome. While full-time racing professionals have become quite resigned to the fact that theirs is a lonely passion, a labor of love, unrequited by the public, and that their careers and livelihoods are tenuous at best, long term–racing is still their career and their livelihood. It’s not a volunteer occupation, or a charitable endeavor.
Not so for most in the active adoption community. They’re missionaries. They have real financial challenges to meet, often far and above what assistance they may receive from the greyhound racing establishment, and from donations provided by individual greyhound owners and trainers, or by the general public.
Assisting them more substantially, with their own labor of love, aside from being great public relations—something greyhound racing desperately requires—is the ethical, moral and the “right” thing to do.
But how can the average greyhound professional, who is very likely earning only a modest living, whose expenses are ever-escalating, and who already has a percentage of his greyhounds’ winnings pre-deducted and earmarked for adoption services, possibly afford to do any more?
Let’s look at the breeding statistics for 2013. There were 2,768 matings that year. A mating requires a sire and dam.
Most sires stand with “stud masters”. Some of these are modest operations, featuring only a few greyhounds. Others are quite vast. To use a sire, the owner of the dam pays a “stud fee”, unless he/she also owns the sire. Most stud fees fall into the range of $500-$1,000. Sires are a comparative bargain in a world of otherwise crushing expenses. The “stud master” files a “breeding report” with the NGA, each time his sire is mated to a female, either by natural or artificial means.
In light of the fact that the NGA already handles this paperwork and the small fee it involves, it would be a revolutionary idea, to simply add a “10% of the stud fee” surcharge. That surcharge could be absorbed by the stud master, or passed onto the consumer—or split between them.
Even if each mating involved a stud fee of only $500, and thus a $50 surcharge, at 2,700 matings a year, the NGA could generate $135,000 per year. This money can then be placed in a trust, by the NGA, to assist adoption groups in financial distress because of the high cost of vetting new retirees, which most groups bear the brunt of themselves.
Now, if 7,000 greyhounds retire in a given year, the money derived from such a surcharge would not amount to much per retiring greyhound. At $250 per greyhound, it would take about $1.75 million per year to vet each and every retiree, presuming there were approximately 7,000 retirees each year in the foreseeable future, and that the vetting process did not include elaborate surgical procedures to repair injuries (which it sometimes does).
Without state support of adoption, as is the current pro forma—and please be advised that the state is a full partner in the racing business triumvirate, which also includes the racetrack and the kennels—it is beyond my comprehension how the racing/breeding community alone can foot the bill, although that would be the sublime scenario.
Nevertheless, a yearly accruement of something in the area of $135,000 is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you are an adoption group with greyhounds to feed and vet, and under significant financial duress. Every little bit helps. The proposed surcharge on stud fees should not make or break anyone on the supply side, but if one is so marginal that a $50-100 levy on the mating they plan is indeed a deal-breaker (should the stud master pass it on), then perhaps they might be wise to reassess their current place and future viability in greyhound racing.
The adoption community has proven that the job of re-homing 100% of adoptable greyhounds is within its scope, if not already a reality. It’s time for the racing community to make at least a token acknowledgement of that remarkable achievement, and to pitch in a bit more, to help adoption groups get over the hump, if they haven’t already done so, and to finally capture the elusive flag of 100% adoption, if they have indeed already reached that hard won pinnacle.
It’s an achievement for racing to embrace, not to take for granted.
Copyright, 2014 Dennis McKeon