Friday, August 15, 2008

Closing Time

It was announced in July that Woodlands Racetrack in Kansas would be shutting down their operations on August 24th. In July, the owners of the track failed to reach an agreement with Kansas government regarding slot machines. Like many other tracks in the U.S. it has experienced declining revenues. Much of this is due to the increased competition from casinos in neighbouring states (where payouts are higher) & negative publicity from animal welfare agencies. In 1990 (a year after opening), the track's revenue peaked at $197 million. Tracks (for both horse & dog racing), have begun to heavily rely on mixed racing and casino (racinos) ventures in order to stay afloat.

Many of us with ex-racers as pets, have mixed feelings when we hear of track closures. For some, the first reaction is always, "Yippee, one track closer to the end of greyhound racing!" We all want to think that each greyhound finds his/her forever home. Upon closer inspection, I've realized that it is not exactly a happy ending. The best racers are sent on to other tracks. Lower grade racers end up at "the flaps" (tracks which are not so hot to say the least). The unluckiest ones are sold to research facilities & others are euthanized.

When tracks close or temporarily shut down for the season, it creates stress on adoption groups. Large numbers of dogs (upwards of 1000 are kept in kennels at some tracks) have to be moved & quickly. Nobody wants to see a racer get left behind. Many groups are inundated with emails asking for help and pictures of dogs. Difficult decisions have to be made as to which dogs are placed & those that are not. It takes a great deal of effort to coordinate all of the parties involved. More often than not, adoption groups exist outside of the cities and states (& countries) where the racetrack operates.

Another aspect to reflect on is the human. Racetracks have employees. In the case of Woodlands, over 250 people were terminated. The majority of these people have jobs which are industry dependent: kennel operators, dog trainers, etc. Like the dogs that they take care of, they have only known one career. This increases the unemployment rate & leaves individuals scrambling to find another way to feed their families & pay their rent.

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