The oversupply of greyhounds in Australia has been a significant problem in the greyhound racing industry for many years, resulting in high euthanasia rates and, in the worst case, dogs going ‘missing’.
The purpose of greyhound racing is to generate profits, either through gambling, winning races or breeding. In order to maximise profits, you need a winning dog. This results in thousands of greyhounds being bred each year in pursuit of the fastest dog.
What happens to all the dogs that can’t be the fastest? Some greyhounds won’t chase, some sustain injuries, many are simply not fast enough for racing. Many of these dogs are discarded when they are no longer profitable and some find themselves being used as bait in dog fighting rings. Even if when a dog is fast, there can only be one winner. So, when you breed and breed and breed in search of a winner, where do the excess dogs go?
Greyhounds that do not participate in the greyhound racing industry have a life expectancy of approximately 12 to 15 years. Although there are exceptions, greyhounds generally race from age 18 months to 3.5 to 4.5 years of age. The average length of a racing career is 363 days. For the industry’s greyhounds, the life expectancy is often far shorter. Many are euthanised before the age of four and a half years.
The term used for the excess dogs in greyhound racing is “wastage”, which is defined as “the action or process of losing or destroying something by using it carelessly or extravagantly; wasteful or avoidable loss of something valuable”. Due to the lack of transparency and monitoring of greyhounds in the racing industry, there is no way to know where this wastage goes. Some will be used for breeding, some will be exported to other states or countries, some will be rehomed, but vast numbers of greyhounds will be destroyed.
In 2022, the Coalition for the Protection Greyhounds investigated the extent of this problem in Australia. They found that for the financial year 2020/21, the national rate of greyhound breeding continued to be about six times the racing industry’s capacity to rehome via its rehoming arm, Greyhounds as Pets. They compiled the data regarding the fate of greyhounds as follows;
Table 1 – The extent of wastage
This data shows that there is a large disparity between the number of dogs bred each year and those that are rehomed, revealing the reality of the industry where thousands of dogs are destroyed every year. This stands in stark contrast to the industry’s mantra that they “love their dogs”.
In 2024, when this is a well understood and clearly documented issue, one would expect, or at least hope, that measures would be introduced to reduce wastage (dogs needlessly dying). Enter WESTCHA$E (yes, the name really does have a dollar sign in it).
WESTCHA$E is Racing and Wagering Western Australia’s breeding incentive scheme, to foster and promote the “local racing animal product”. All WA bred greyhounds are eligible for the WESTCHA$E Incentive Scheme. Greyhounds are classified as WA bred if they were whelped in Western Australia, irrespective of the location of the sire and dam or where the actual service took place. All WA bred greyhounds winning City Class Maiden events are eligible for a significant initial reward for winning their first ever race. WESTCHA$E bonuses of up to $25,000, to be split between the owner and breeder, are then paid for all WA bred greyhounds winning any City Class event for the full duration of their racing career, in addition to any prize money.
In their own promotional material, RWWA advertise that they wish to increase the financial rewards associated with owning and racing a locally bred greyhound, extend the level of their participant’s investments, provide breeders with the opportunity to access an on-going revenue stream and provide encouragement for local breeders. Rather than RWWA seeking to address the problem of wastage, they are actively encouraging and incentivising over breeding of greyhounds in WA.
The economics of the greyhound racing industry will ensure that this cycle of birth, short period of racing (if at all), and destruction will continue for the foreseeable future. Once again, the pursuit of profit trumps any regard for the welfare of the animals.
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