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Dogged determination: as U.S. tracks close, greyhound rescue sets sights on retired racers overseas

At one time, tens of thousands of greyhounds were in need of homes in the U.S. Now rescues are turning to other countries where dog tracks still flourish.

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — Question: what dog is affectionately referred to as a "40 mph couch potato?" Why, the greyhound of course! Those familiar with the gentle, noble and sweet-tempered companions can confirm they are built for speed, and the ability to nap anywhere at anytime. 

It was during the 1980s that greyhound racing reached its peak in the U.S. with tracks operating in nearly two dozen states. That's also when more adoption organizations began forming for the purpose of finding homes for ex-racing greyhounds, and to educate the public on the benefits of these dogs as longtime companions. 

"When we started this, there were almost 50,000 greyhounds a year in excess of what was, were actually racing now," said Linda Perko, President of Greyhound Adoption of Ohio.  The non-profit formed in 1992. It wasn't uncommon for GAO to have 40 to 50 greyhounds at one-time. That has changed. 

Today, only a handful of tracks remain. And Florida, which was GAO's largest source of retired racers, outlawed the sport. 

"At the end of last year, Florida voted Greyhound racing out and all the tracks in Florida closed at one time, which I believe was 26 tracks. And that's where the vast majority of our greyhounds come from. So, it got to the point where not only were there no excess dogs, but a lot of groups like us closed," Perko said.

The rise of casinos and internet gaming also contributed to the demise of dog racing tracks. 

But that's not the case overseas, where greyhound racing still brings in a crowd. 

"About 6,000 greyhounds a year in Ireland don't have homes," Perko said.  Working with an international organization, they're about to welcome their third group of Irish greyhounds, next month. We met Brax and Storm, who arrived earlier this summer. 

Loved for their laid-back personalities and gentle nature, many homes here await. Perko, accustomed to paying nothing for the dogs in the U.S. now must manage steep travel costs for the 12 they get in, from overseas, every few months. 

It costs us about $2,100 a dog. And of course, most of that is transport. 

And the paperwork is incredible.

Undaunted, Perko and her team of volunteers fundraise to meet expenses.
It's worth it, to see these gentle souls, transition from life on the track, to the good life – in a loving home.

"It's been very rewarding because these are just wonderful dogs," Perko said.

Find more about Greyhound Adoption of Ohio, including how to adopt, volunteer or how to sponsor a greyhound, go HERE.

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