Graceful animals need new homes
July 15, 2006
After their prime racing years, the fate of the fastest dogs on the planet is surrounded by cruelty.
"I could tell you horror stories that would just make you puke," said Michael Chandler of the Utah chapter of Greyhound Rescue and Adoption.
According to Chandler, owners of the race dogs rid themselves of the animals once they stop making money either by dropping them off in the desert or killing them. Chandler and his wife Sherry are dedicated to finding owners to adopt and save the lives of these dogs.
"I try not to be negative about it," Michael said, "but if you mix money and humans you have a bad situation. When you mix gambling and humans you have a worse situation. The greyhounds get caught in the middle of this."
For many years, an emotional Michael said, if a dog wasn’t making money they took it out and shot it.
"I’ve heard of even worse things that they’ve done to these poor animals. Greyhounds are living things, they feel pain."
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According to Michael, authorities in Arizona recently found remains of greyhounds without ears in the desert. Racing dogs’ ears are tattooed with registration numbers and birth dates to identify them, without the marks, owners cannot be held responsible for the brutality.
Michael wasn’t interested in saving these animals until Sherry put her passion into it. She saw a documentary on TV that inspired her.
"I saw the horrific things that can happen to them after races, Sherry said. "They breed them for this purpose and when they are injured or too old they are thrown away and discarded."
The Chandlers’ love of greyhounds is what continues to motivate them in their cause.
"I got to know Mike and Sherry, and it’s a labor of love for them," said Sandi Kahn, a Park City resident and member of Greyhound Rescue and adoption. "They’d do anything for those dogs. It touched me the way they care for those dogs. They love what they do and it’s so impressive."
Kahn owns an Italian miniature greyhound and a Whippet, a close cousin of the greyhound. Both breeds are also used for racing. Kahn walks her dogs around Park City and feels that the area is a perfect fit for her dogs.
"There’s more room up here than anywhere, the dogs love it. It’s gorgeous to watch them in action. They are fast dogs," Kahn said.
For the Chandlers, the dogs they save become part of their family. That’s why Michael got into saving the speedy K-9s; he can’t stand knowing that half the animals put down every year in this country are greyhounds. That’s over 20,000 dogs killed a year, mainly because they can’t win a race.
According to Michael, there is a mandatory racing dog retirement age of 5 years old. The dogs are discarded anytime during that period.
"But they’ll live comfortably up to 12 to 14 years," Michael said. "They do have longevity. What are they going to do after 5 years old? They have so many greyhounds that the owners, trainers and people on the farms end up looking at it like the dogs are money out of their pockets, and it will motivate them to kill the dog."
The numbers of homeless dogs every year present a daunting task.
"It’s a real dilemma," Michael said. "There’s so many of them out there right now that, even if they quit discarding them, I could spend years finding homes for them."
Michael used to think, "A dog is just a dog," but his time with Sherry and the greyhounds they’ve saved has completely changed his view.
"I firmly believe that it’s man’s responsibility to take care of all of the other animals. I say other animals because if there’s an animal, it’s a human, because they can be the most cruel of all of the animals of the world."
Michael also acknowledges that all greyhound owners aren’t bad. Sometimes, he said he will get angry until he hears a story of a trainer who helps the dogs and then will feel better. But regardless, he knows he’s fighting an uphill battle.
"I love watching my dogs. My dream, which I’ll probably never see come about, is to have a place where I could take 40 to 50 dogs and find a place for them. I know that I’m kind of fighting a loosing battle because no matter what I do, there’s going to be a lot of greyhounds put down."
When the Chandlers find a potential home for a greyhound, they focus on educating the individual. If a person doesn’t meet their criteria, they won’t give the dog up. They are in need of a van so they can transport more animals across the state and country. They are using much of their own cash to fund this project and accept donations.
"One of our main goals would be to educate on what their racing career was like, what they’ve been through and what they’re like as pets," Sherry said.
There are many unique behaviors that Sherry said owners need to understand for the dogs benefit. For the Chandlers, the dogs’ safety and happiness come first. The dogs are extremely loving and innocent, and according to Sherry, low maintenance. Some of the dogs have never seen outside of a cage and a race track. Many have never seen another dog besides other greyhounds.
"I think people in Park City would be interested in greyhounds, the people in the area would treat the dogs very well. Some people look at them as royalty. They can be a prestigious animal to own. They are beautiful creatures, they are head turners," Sherry said.
To donate or apply to adopt a greyhound, log on to http://www.ladyofgreys.org.