With Florida outlawing dog racing by year’s end, a local pet adoption group has taken in an influx of Greyhounds needing new homes. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has hastened some early racetrack closures.
The Post Falls-based Greyhound Pets of America Greater Northwest chapter wants to match the dogs with homes regionally and through Washington, Idaho and Oregon, said President Tim Devine. A different group did such placements after the Post Falls Greyhound Park ceased running live dog races in December 1995.
The local chapter has brought in 80 dogs since April and has since adopted out about 55 of those, Devine said. There are about 20 available Greyhounds currently, but more dogs are expected in upcoming weeks. Devine, who lives in Spokane, has three Greyhounds himself: Hershey, Cleo and David.
“The reason people keep coming back to the breed is their gentle nature and sweet dispositions,” Devine said. The dogs are typically well-trained. “One of the things with Greyhound people is that once they’ve had one or two, they’re always going to have one.”
He said although they’re sprinters, Greyhounds enjoy lots of downtime, resting up for short bursts of energy. “They’re like big cats.”
Typically, the organization is a 100% foster group, meaning dogs stay in volunteers’ homes until a permanent adoption. Due to COVID-19, the group has rented a rescue kennel in Oregon where the dogs are receiving good care on a temporary basis, Devine said. It’s a way to keep volunteers safe and ease bringing in small groups of the dogs from Florida.
To adopt, the group has an application process and a $395 adoption fee to cover costs. The requirements and link are at gnwgreyhounds.org. Volunteers try to match the Greyhounds to the best placements, such as if a dog is good around cats, Devine said.
Chapter costs include a veterinary examination for each dog, any spaying or neutering and vaccine updates. Like other nonprofits, the group can’t hold in-person fundraisers now and has moved to online platforms. Even with adoption fees, “We tend to lose about $300 a dog, which is generally made up by fundraisers,” Devine said.
The Greyhounds ready for adoption are typically adults between 1 and 5 years old. Most are retired from racing or didn’t do well in that environment.
In November 2018, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to prohibit dog racing and phase out live events at nearly a dozen tracks by the end of 2020, affecting roughly 2,000 dogs since March. Dog racing continues in other states, Devine said, such as in West Virginia and Iowa. Florida by far had the greatest number of tracks.
“The COVID business, it’s pretty much changed everything,” Devine said because closures were at first on a schedule. “What people don’t quite understand is the racing industry and the adoption industry, they basically work hand in hand. They just give us the dogs, so all I have to do is pay to get the dogs brought up here, but because of COVID, a lot of tracks closed early.
“We were already going to be busy this year. In a normal year, we adopt out between 50 and 60 dogs, and it’s spaced out March to November. The last two years have been right around 80, and this year we should be well over 100, maybe even 120.”
He estimates the group might receive 40 additional dogs this year. “It could be more than that, and part of the reason we have the kennel is so we can help out in any way we can.”
The racing industry doesn’t euthanize dogs, he said. “They haven’t done that for years. These dogs won’t be put down if we don’t take them.” Other U.S. Greyhound adoption groups are helping, as well, and the organizations are all staying connected.
Local chapter board member Pat Johnson and her husband, Art, live with five Greyhounds in Bayview, Idaho, after moving there from Spokane about five years ago. Previously, they took their dogs to visit assisted-living facilities in Spokane. The couple is considering adopting a sixth Greyhound.
“They’re just happy to hang out with you,” she said. “They’re referred to as 45-mile-an-hour couch potatoes. That’s how fast they can run when racing, but you don’t have to be active to have one.”
Johnson said some Greyhounds have to get used to unfamiliar surroundings but quickly adapt. “They seem to have an appreciation when they get in a home,” she said. “They’re used to being handled by people and used to being around other dogs, but certain things will be new to them like sliding doors, stairs, linoleum. But they’re smart dogs and learn quickly.
“They have a really nice temperament as a breed. We’ve taken them to nursing homes because they’re gentle, nice dogs. In general, I don’t think most people are going to be allergic to them.”
Johnson said it’s important to find a good match in a home.
“We have placed more dogs already this year than we ever have in a single year,” she said. “We’re doing the best we can to take as many as we can get and not just find any home but the right homes for them. We do home visits, and we want to find forever homes.”
“You obviously want the right matches of people and temperament. Some people don’t want a real young, active dog, and we do our best to cat test them. Some Greyhounds are good with cats and small dogs, but some of them have more of a prey drive than others. They do make good, awesome family dogs and are typically good with kids.”
Because of their short coats and nearly zero body fat, Greyhounds can’t be left out in the cold and need to be indoor companions.
Founded in 2004, the group has 60 to 100 volunteers, including around this region as well as Seattle and Tacoma. They work in their spare time because of their love for the breed, Devine said.
“They rarely bark, and there is very little aggression in the breed despite them being raised to be hunting dogs. I just love them. I can’t imagine my life without them.”
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