The recent inquest into the case of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier that attacked and killed its owner after eating crack cocaine was horrifying, and raised a lot of questions - at the very least, how do dogs end up with drugs in their systems in the first place?
Most likely, they gobble them up, just as they eat a host of other things they're not suppposed to.
Stories of dogs getting hold of drugs at festivals are not uncommon, and police dogs are at great risk of overdosing because, obviously, they are used to sniff out drugs. Dogs can also easily get high off of second hand marajuana smoke, and the number of cases of this happening has increased considerably in the wake of recreational weed use becoming legalized in parts of the States.
But things are darker and more sinister in the world of competitive dog racing, and in Florida a whopping 12 greyhounds tested positive for cocaine earlier this year, over the course of a few months. This trend might reflect a desire for competitors to squeeze as much money as possible out of what is essentially a dying industry - in the UK (where there is little interest in the sport) drug-positive tests on greyhounds are rare. In the USA forty states have outlawed dog racing, and of the 19 tracks still operating, 12 are in the Sunshine State.
Perversely, this may be worse news for the dogs, whose owners have less money to pay for their care and more of a reason to cheat. In order to get the best result, competitors may drug their dog to control their performance, sedating them in some races to increase their odds in a target race. When they race without sedatives, or with the help of a steroid, they see a dramatically faster racing time.
Punishment for drugging dogs is pretty minor by most standards, and a loophole is provided by the fact that the trainer can claim that the dog consumed drugs without their knowledge.
A few years ago trainer Chris Mosdall was jailed in the UK for a mere three months for drugging his dogs, sabotaging their performances in order to rig bets.
The seedy business of dog racing is all the more devastating in that, according to animal welfare campaigners, many healthy greyhounds are killed each year because they are no longer financially useful to their owners.
David Smith was fined after killing and burying hundreds of healthy greyhounds on his grounds in County Durham in 2007, because they were too slow for racing. Stories like his certainly build a case for getting rid of the sport once and for all.
This post was originally published on the Debrief
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