Kansas Greyhound Racing: Let This Sleeping Dog Lie?

KS greyhound racing brings complications to bill

Kansas greyhound racing, currently not operational anywhere in the state, has stumbled leaving the gate in the House’s attempts to push through a sports betting bill. 

HB2740 will legalize Kansas online sports betting if passed by both chambers and signed by the governor.

But first, during a discussion in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on March 22, not everyone was happy excluding the activity from the proposed bill. Still, several others spoke against including it.

Then, in a follow-up meeting on March 31 that lasted past midnight, the committee leader asked for simulcast gambling on greyhounds. That issue has a pin in it until a future date.

According to multiple outlets, the Kansas Greyhound Association hopes to revive the dormant Kansas Greyhound racing industry and  “views sports betting kiosks as a viable pathway.”

On the flip side, that’s exactly what some animal welfare organizations — like Kansas’s Stray Dog Policy — worry about.

And how’s this for irony? The name of the Federal and State Affairs committee leader is… John Barker.

Who wants to let the dogs out?

No dog racetracks have operated in Kansas since 2008 after betting declined by 95%. In fact, only four states now allow the activity:

  • Arkansas
  • Iowa
  • Texas
  • West Virginia

In 2022, however, both Arkansas and Iowa will see the end of Greyhound racing in their states. That will bring the total of states banning the activity to 42; Florida banned it most recently. And only seven countries allow it.

According to Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K, a nonprofit group advocating for Greyhound welfare and the end of racing them:

“It’s now clear that Greyhound racing will end completely in the United States.”

But it seems that as most states are turning away from it, some in Kansas may look to revive it.

In the committee hearing on March 22, Mike ONeil of the Kansas Greyhound Association requested that lawmakers withhold judgments unless they’ve visited a Greyhound facility. 

He said that if reincarnation were real, he’d want to come back as a Kansas Greyhound. O’Neill called the dogs “the sweetest athletes you’ll ever meet.”

And there do purportedly exist some facilities that seem to treat their dogs well

But is that the norm? Could there ever be adequate oversight?

Commodifying man’s best friend: “an ugly practice”

At a similar hearing of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee in 2021, Kate Fields, CEO of the Greater Kansas City Humane Society, spoke on behalf of the animals’ welfare:

“I’ve seen racetracks fail and it was a horrific site. It was unprofitable, and [in one case] 80 dogs were left to die, and non-profits were left to pick up the pieces. Greyhound racing is an embarrassment, it’s not profitable, and it’s [terrible] for the dogs.”

The ASPCA, as well, paints a bleak picture of the life of racing Greyhounds. After a joint study conducted from 2008 to 2015, the ASPCA and GREY2K USA reported:

  • 11,722 Greyhound injuries (including broken legs, crushed skulls, broken backs, spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis, and electrocutions)
  • 909 racing Greyhound (known) deaths
  • 27 cases of Greyhound cruelty and neglect including starvation, lack of veterinary care, and poor conditions. Plus, 16 racing Greyhounds tested positive for cocaine.
  • Regulatory ineffectiveness

According to the ASPCA, racing Greyhounds may be warehoused in stacked wire kennels or kept outside with little shelter, and may not experience affection from humans. Dogs who aren’t good racers may be kept solely for breeding or they may be killed. 

According to bqa.com, “over 1.35 million racing grayhounds (sic) have been euthanized since the sport’s inception.”

The ASPCA calls the Greyhound racing industry “an ugly practice.”

Stray Dog Policy, a Kansas nonprofit advocating for the welfare of pet animals, cautions that “greyhound racing….can be hidden in legislation related to gambling, sports wagering, electronic gaming, and more.”

The use and suffering of “live bait”  — such as rabbits, piglets, and possums — in Greyhound race training also causes great concern among animal welfare organizations.

Man’s best fast friend

Some adopt lucky retired Greyhound racers. As reported by dogsquery.com, as of 2019, most Greyhound adoption programs exist in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Greyhounds can live 12 to 14 years, but racers are generally retired when 2 to 5 years old.

Battersea, an animal rescue and adoption group in the U.K., calls Greyhounds sweet, gentle, and playful and adds: “… many Greyhounds are incredibly laid-back, happily sleeping for hours a day and are great TV watching partners.”

As Kansas looks to legalize sports betting, greyhound racing remains a stumbling block to finally make it happen.