Athlete to pet: transitioning greyhounds

Retired racing greyhound. Photo: Derek Story from Unsplash

With a lifespan of up to 14 years and a retirement age as early as two, racing greyhounds spend most of their time off the racetrack.

The greyhound racing industry contributes approximately $225 million into the West Australian economy annually with races attended by 60, 000 people each year. Around 2000 people are actively involved with racing greyhounds as either volunteers, employees or participants.

For greyhound adoption centres and greyhound owners, successfully rehoming these dogs is the final stage in a greyhound’s career.

In the 2022 financial year, 721 greyhounds were retired from racing in WA. The Greyhounds as Pets program, which is supported by the Department of Racing and Wagering Western Australia, retired 331 of these greyhounds. A further 223 greyhounds were retired through other greyhound rehoming organisations. According to RWWA all racing greyhounds are tracked and microchipped from racing to retirement.

RWWA Head of Animal Welfare Dr Anna Smet said the GAP program assists retiring greyhounds through individual plans specific to each dog. Dr Smet said canine behaviour analysis aids in this adjustment:

“A tailored plan is created for the individual needs of each greyhound and animal behaviourists help match dogs to their ideal homes.”

The outcome of these assessments provides an indication of the home that would best suit the individual greyhound. Greyhound fostering is used to provide a smooth adjustment into the home life by providing an experience of the life to come. This process is used by several greyhound adoption agencies, including GAP and Greyhound Adoptions Western Australia. 

Tan greyhound with blue collar

GAWA foster greyhound Jake. Photo: Supplied

Greyhound Adoptions Western Australia volunteers Ellen Fahy and Deb Cootes believe fostering is central to the transitioning process, with fostering occurring from several months to years, depending on the greyhound.  

Ms Fahy said the retiring greyhounds are taught how to be a pet during the fostering process. According to Ms Fahy, love and care play a central role in this process.  

“They don’t know anything. We have to teach them everything.” 

One of GAWA’s foster greyhounds is Tess, a retired female who is still being fostered after two years. Ms Fahy and Ms Cootes said Tess fears the outside world and might never be comfortable with other dog breeds.  

GAWA said four to five placements are needed for retiring greyhounds each week, which is made possible through their team of foster owners and awareness events.  

One event that GAWA is participating in is the Great Global Greyhound Walk on September 24. This is an annual worldwide event that aims to unite greyhounds and other sight hounds to raise awareness of their breeds.  Sight hounds are a type of hound that hunt through the use of their sight, rather than the sense of smell, which includes greyhounds, Afghan hounds, whippets and others.

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