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    ‘Ethical conundrum’: sending retired Australian greyhounds to US rescues some – but at what cost?
‘Ethical conundrum’: sending retired Australian greyhounds to US rescues some – but at what cost?

‘Ethical conundrum’: sending retired Australian greyhounds to US rescues some – but at what cost?

Three weeks ago Arizona man Rory Goree took home his 47th greyhound in the past 30 years – his first from Australia.

The greyhound, who is now named Volodya, once raced in Victoria, one of the few places in the world where greyhound racing is still legal.

“I’ve been so involved with greyhounds for so many years that if there’s a greyhound in need, I’m going to help give them a home,” says Goree, who formerly worked in the industry.

With a shortage of local homes for retired racing dogs, Australia’s greyhounds are increasingly being sent to the US, where they are adopted as pets. But animal rights advocates warn that sending greyhounds overseas is a Band-Aid solution.

“It’s saving a greyhound life, but also it’s sustaining the longevity of Australia’s racing industry,” Amber Beilharz of Gumtree Greys, a greyhound rescue charity which operates in Australia’s eastern states, says.

Since 2019, the volunteer-run charity Racing 2 Rehome has sent 122 greyhounds to the US, thanks partly to funding from Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV). Now Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) has followed suit, sending eight greyhounds to the US at the end of January, with plans to send eight more soon.

“We have been very careful about setting it up,” Robert Macaulay, chief executive of GRNSW, says. “My mantra is that the result must be equal or greater than the welfare result if they were rehomed in NSW.

“How it works is effectively a match-making service to make sure the greyhounds are well suited to the potential owner and are placed in the right homes.”

According to Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, Australia is one of only seven countries in the world that still have a commercial greyhound racing industry. That includes the US, where there are now only three active race tracks left.

The industry regulator for NSW said it supports any adoption avenues that allow retired or unraced greyhounds to be rehomed, and added that any greyhounds rehomed outside Australia require a greyhound passport to ensure they aren’t being sent to a country with low welfare standards.

According to the most recent report by the regulator tracking the life cycle of greyhounds, 1,352 greyhounds retired over the 2021-2022 financial year.

The report found the number of greyhounds available for rehoming – usually those around four years old – had increased, but the number of places to rehome them hadn’t kept pace.

Bec Miller, president of Racing 2 Rehome, says if homes weren’t being sought in the US for the dogs, it’s likely the greyhounds would wait longer in kennels to be rehomed.

“It can vary how long it takes because it’s all about finding the right home,” she says. “We used to say the pretty female greyhounds would be gone really quick, but it’s taking longer now and that’s across the board.”

But Joanne Lee, spokesperson for the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, says sending greyhounds to the US isn’t a long-term solution.

She says Australia’s greyhound racing industry is breeding six times the number of dogs it has the capacity to rehome, and stricter breeding caps should be put in place to stop the problem at its source.

According to the industry regulator, the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission, there has been an 11% decrease in pups born in NSW compared to previous years, but 316 more greyhounds raced in 2021-2022 compared to three years ago.

The difference is likely due to the fact that greyhounds racing today were born two years ago, but also the number of greyhounds that go on to have a racing career has increased.

Nat Panzarino, who runs an animal shelter in Sydney, says she’s feeling the impact of the increase.

“There are 200 trainers and owners on our waiting list that want to surrender their dogs into our care, and that’s growing every day,” she says.

Gumtree Greys’ Beilharz said the group’s rescuers are facing similar challenges. Even though rehoming some dogs in the US would relieve the pressure, she remains sceptical.

“It’s a bit of an ethical conundrum for me personally,” Beilharz says.

Goree says as long as there are greyhounds in Australia that can’t be homed, then sending them to the US is positive.

“I think where the problem lies is we need to make sure we’re doing it for the right reason – that we’re not doing it just to make the industry look good.”


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