January 1st, and the Greyhound tracks in Florida have closed - for good. These accounted for nearly 2/3rds of the tracks in America, and the sport itself is in decline. People are finding faster and easier ways to gamble their life savings away. As one track owner put it, it was too slow - races only every 15 minutes, and nothing to do in-between races, other than eat and drink. Horse racing is facing a similar problem. We went to a horse track in Florida and there were few people there - mostly older folks. It was not very inviting or fun, and that was over a decade ago.
Most people are glad Greyhound racing is ending, as the dogs were often treated badly. Rather than address this issue, the industry entrenched itself, only making token gestures to have the dogs adopted. Greyhounds race for 3-5 years, tops, and then are either put out to stud, adopted out, or just killed. By some accounts, as many as 60,000 dogs were killed every year, during the peak.
Adopted Greyhounds can make wonderful pets - although once in a while, you might get a psycho dog - just like any other breed. But it is funny - former racing greyhounds have an entirely different personality than AKC Greyhounds, the latter of which are bred as pets or show dogs and can be spasmodic. Racing Greyhounds are very quiet and serious - some say aloof - but they are very, very loyal to their owners and love to cuddle and sleep with you. They just seem aloof. When Greyhound racing dies off, so will Greyhounds, for the most part - maybe a few will survive as pets, but the vast volume of adopted dogs will disappear within the next few years.
Of course, there are some who think this is a good thing - the abuses of the dogs, often just neglect, will disappear. As I noted before, a friend of ours had raced a few dogs, and told us about the system. They had a big motorhome, and at first I thought they would use that to transport the dogs. But it seems the regulations require they use a "certified" dog transporter service - often some broken-down alcoholic with a pickup truck fitted with an aluminum box on the back holding a number of kennels. Until recently, many of these were not even air conditioned, and in the Florida heat, the dogs could get overheated - particularly when the driver stops at a bar for a few beer en route, as we have seen.
Dogs do get injured on the track - they can fall and be run over by other dogs. There have been a couple of cases where a dog actually "caught" the electrified rabbit and was electrocuted. Many retired hounds have what they call "kennel butt" - loss of hair on the hind quarters. Some claim this is because they give electric shocks in the starting gate to get the dogs to leap out - but I find no evidence of that. Other just say it is because they rub up against the small confines of their kennels. Some hounds also lose parts of their tails - "tail happy" they call it, as they will wag their tails so hard they will beat them against the bars of their cages. Greyhound tails are little more than bone and sinew.
The industry could have addressed these abuses and made it a more dog-friendly experience. After all, Greyhounds love to run, and they are not being "abused" by racing - they will race once a day, around your house, whether you want them to or not. But instead, the industry wasted a lot of time and energy trying to discredit its detractors. People love dogs, but if you go to a Greyhound track, you won't interact with any, other than perhaps the one or two dogs that may be in a kennel at an adoption table mandated by Florida law.
Of course, some of these detractors wants dogs - of all breeds - eliminated altogether. More radical elements of PETA, for example, claim that the whole idea of keeping animals as pets is little better than keeping them as livestock - and that pets and pet stores should be abolished. Oddly enough, this plays into the trend of our planet becoming more and more mono-species, as we encroach on more and more habitat. Elimination of pets would just be the next obvious step - more resources for the rest of us.
I suspect that pet ownership may decline over time - although I could be wrong about that (It seems that pet ownership is actually increasing in the last few decades). As we keep populating the Earth, and use up more and more space, and as money becomes more dear to more and more people, perhaps pet ownership will decline. As I noted before, to properly care for a pet, it costs a lot more money than you might think. Sure, a homeless guy can "adopt" a dog and feed it scraps of human food - but it likely won't live very long.
If you are struggling financially, think long and hard before acquiring a pet - it can cost well over $1000 a year, and if you are barely getting by, this could be the difference between floating and drowning, financially. When I see a story about a "hard luck" family struggling "paycheck to paycheck" and yet they have numerous pets - including exotic pets - tattoos, hobby cars, drug and alcohol habits, smoking cigarettes, and so on and so forth, I pretty much crack up - we are suppose to feel "sorry" for people because they basically squander their money. But I digress.
Even in crowded countries like Japan or the UK, people have pets. So perhaps my theory is flawed. And apparently, pet ownership has gone up during the pandemic, as people stay home and get lonely. By the way, working from home is the best way to have a pet - pets go spastic if you are gone for 8-10 hours a day. You come home after a long day at work and find that "anxiety dog" has torn apart your sofa.
But getting back to Greyhounds, it seems the industry didn't try very hard to save itself, other than to pour millions into lobbying efforts to shout down the voter initiative to close the tracks. The real threat to Greyhound racing wasn't PETA activists, but the other gambling venues, where you could lose money far more quickly than at races held at 15-minute intervals. The tracks tried to add slot machines in an effort to stay alive. But that just created a separate venue for gamblers, who would not bother looking up from their Skinner Boxes to watch a dog race.
Other types of "sports betting" have suffered a similar fate. Jai-alai, a sport played strictly for gambling purposes, used to flourish in Florida and even the Northeastern United States, as people flock to a "fronton" to bet on the games. But again, once other venues for gambling arose, frontons either closed, or saw much reduced traffic. As I noted before, I think nearly every American is probably within 30 minutes of some sort of gambling venue or another, if nothing else, the corner 7-11 with its lottery tickets. Gambling is way, way out of the closet these days.
So maybe Greyhound racing was doomed to fail anyway. Like I said, we went to a (harness racing) horse track once in Pompano, and found it to be dingy and depressing. Since then, they have added slot machines and tried to turn it into a regular casino. I suspect the horses may go by the wayside, once they are no longer needed to support the pretense, and it will revert to a normal casino. Horses and dogs are just unnecessary overhead for a casino.
Of course, even regular casinos are having a hard time. Trump went bankrupt with his casinos decades ago, as everyone overbuilt them - hoping to draw away gamblers from the competition. It is a sad aspect of "winner take all" in capitalism - something we are seeing with Internet companies, who hope to "go big" and then suck all the oxygen out of the room. Or Rockefeller with Standard Oil - "buying out" or crushing the competition as Bill Gates once did.
Today, we have more casinos than gamblers, and with CoVid, many compulsive gamblers are discovering online gambling - another example of e-commerce killing brick-and-mortar. Others are just gambling on stocks.
But of course, gambling of any sort is just stupid, whether you do it at the dog track, the horse track, the casino, the stock market, or the corner store. You are just taking $1.00 and turning it into ten cents. Do it enough, and you turn it into nothing. And again, you read about these "hard luck" stories about "the poor" and then you scratch the surface and find they are buying $20 of scratch-off lottery cards every week or even every day to feed their compulsive gambling habits.
If you don't want to be poor, just don't do the things poor people do. Gambling, drugs, tattoos, multiple pets, exotic pets, smoking, hopping up end-of-life vehicles, payday loans, pawn shops, and so on and so forth. If you act poor, you become poor. It is as simple as that - and as complex, as many of our urges and compulsions are apparently wired into our brains. But I digress. Yet again.
The end of Greyhound racing means and end of an era - of retired racing Greyhounds as pets. Again, this is probably a good thing, as only a percentage of retired hounds were adopted out - many more were liquidated during training, or after their racing or breeding career was over. And of course, Greyhound racing isn't dead quite yet - it continues on in a few States. I doubt there will be laws passed outlawing it there, but I suspect that competition from regular casinos - online and in-person - will put the remaining tracks out of business in the coming years. Greyhound racing just isn't attracting the next generation. Indeed, it is seen as an old man's sport.
And kind of an odd sport, when you think of it. But not as odd as coursing ...