The West Virginia dog racing industry has an extensive history of animal welfare problems. Since 2007 the state has issued rulings in more than 800 disciplinary cases, including over 100 drug violations and 19 cases related to animal abuse or neglect. Rulings include multiple cases of licensees hitting greyhounds, a broken-legged greyhound who did not receive medical treatment for days, and poor kennel conditions.1
Drugs are also systemically used to increase racing profits. For example, female greyhounds are routinely given methyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid, to prevent a loss of race days. This performance enhancing drug is prohibited in other dog racing jurisdictions, but continues in West Virginia.2
Finally, greyhounds are fed raw “4-D” meat from dying, diseased, disabled and dead animals. This meat is used to reduce costs, despite the serious health problems known to be associated with it.3
A racing greyhound in the control of Taylor Jones. (Taylor Anne Jones Facebook page, 2017)
In April 2016, West Virginia kennel operator Taylor Jones was found keeping greyhounds in very dirty conditions. The dogs were sleeping in wet urine-soaked beds and she was found to be keeping restricted medical supplies in her kennel. Additionally, the greyhounds had been receiving few to no turnouts from their cages to relieve themselves. For all of this, Jones was only given a warning.
In the United States, female greyhounds are routinely given an anabolic steroid, Methyltestosterone, to prevent a loss of race days.4
Methyltestosterone is a performance-enhancing drug, and by definition makes muscles larger.5 Medical experts around the world have raised integrity6 and welfare7 concerns regarding Methyltestosterone and other anabolic steroids.
During legislative testimony in 2017, the Florida Greyhound Association stated that the primary drug now used by greyhounds is Methyltestosterone. Half of all female greyhounds are being administered anabolic steroids.8
The practice of administering Methyltestosterone to greyhounds is banned in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.9
When South Tuscon, Arizona voters considered the issue of anabolic steroid injection in greyhounds, the law passed, with the support of over 100 Tuscon-area veterinary professionals.10
West Virginia greyhounds are still given anabolic steroids, including Methyltestosterone, despite expert opinion that has prompted international racing jurisdictions to transition away from using them.
The US greyhound industry uses this dangerous drug because it is cheap, and because it is unwilling to change.
West Virginia Racing Commission, Responses to Public Information Requests, 2007-2019 (Charleston, WV: West Virginia Racing Commission).
Linda L. Blythe et al., Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound (Topeka, KS: American Greyhound Council Inc., 2007), 166.
Mike DeForest, “Racing greyhound dies, 72 dogs sickened at Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club,” Click Orlando, May 16, 2017, clickorlando.com (accessed August 1, 2019).
Linda L. Blythe et al., Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound (Topeka: American Greyhound Council Inc., 2007), 166.
“Anabolic Steroids,” WebMD, webmd.com (accessed July 25, 2019).
Dr. Richard Sams, who at the time was with the University of Florida Racing Laboratory, told a state investigator in 2009 that the anabolic steroid Stanozolol would be “excellent” for enhancing dog race performance (“Investigative Report No. 2009043310, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation,” Rules and regulations governing greyhound racing in Arkansas,” Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, February 26, 2010.
In the Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s “Guidance for Veterinary Surgeons,” it is written that “Testosterone, as an adrogenic anabolic steroid, is considered inappropriate for this purpose on welfare, efficacy and integrity grounds” (“Guidance for Veterinary Surgeons,” Greyhound Board of Great Britainsgvscience.files.wordpress.com (accessed July 25, 2019). According to the Merck Veterinary Manual on the Manipulation of the Estrous Cycle in Small Animals, “Longterm suppression of estrus by using androgens is not advised, because it is not documented to be safe in breeding bitches…the safety and efficacy of injectable testosterone, as practiced commonly in racing Greyhounds, has not been supported by controlled studies and is not advised” (Autumn P. Davidson, “Manipulation of the Estrous Cycle in Small Animals,” Merck Manual Veterinary Manual, [n.d.], merckvetmanual.com (accessed August 1, 2018). And according to a study by Dr. P. Rämö at the University of Oulu in Finland, the anabolic steroid methandienone caused thickening and enlargement of the heart’s pumping chamber in dogs. Specifically, they concluded that “long-term methandienone treatment result[ed] in cardiac hypertrophy in dogs, reduced its response to an inotropic load and [led] to working on larger ventricular volumes” (P. Rämö, “Anabolic steroids alter the haemodynamic responses of the canine left ventricle,” Acta Physiologica Scandinavia, 1987, v130, p209-217).
Ramon Maury, Testimony before Florida House Commerce Committee, Florida Legislature Regular Session 2017, March 22, 2017, thefloridachannel.org (accessed August 1, 2018).
Greyhounds Australasia permanently banned the use of anabolic steroids in January 2016, with the exception of a single drug named Ethyloestrenol (“Permanent Ban on Anabolic Androgenic Steroids to be Introduced into the Greyhounds Australasia Rules,” Greyhounds Australasia, Australia, December 17, 2015, galtd.org.au (accessed August 1, 2018). Greyhound Racing New Zealand provides a long list of anabolic steroids in its list of Permanently Banned Prohibited Substances, including Testosterone and Methyltestosterone (“Categories of Prohibited Substances,” Grnz.co.nz, Greyhound Racing New Zealand, New Zealand, June 23, 2017, grnz.co.nz (accessed August 1, 2018). In the United Kingdom, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s “Trainer’s Guide to Medication Control in Greyhounds states that all estrus suppression drugs are prohibited except four estrogen-based drugs: Delvosterone, Promone-E, Ovarid, and Norethisterone (“Trainer’s Guide to Medication Control in Greyhounds,” Greyhound Board of Great Britain, gbgb.org.uk (accessed July 25, 2019).