New Force for Greyhound Industry

They are the new army.

A shot in the arm the greyhound industry needs.

According to greyhound owner Dean Miner of Wheeling, adoption groups across the country as well as in Canada can bring a positive impact to the racing business.

“They are our greatest hope for our industry to flourish. Their passion is unmatched and they spend hours battling anti-racing people online and in various news media,” Miner said. “Their technical knowledge is unmatched, a lesson we in the industry should take note of. We should find any way possible to include them in our business.”

Miner got a close-up view of what the adoption folks can bring to the table when he was asked by Tri- State Greyhound Park trainer Kim Hawkins to be a guest speaker at an adoption convention in Wheeling in 2012. Other speakers included Dr. Shelley Lake DVM (a racing greyhound owner), and Pamela Webb, Wheeling Island adoption representative.

Attending the conference were adoption groups from Buffalo, N.Y., Toronto, Canada and Pennsylvania.

“I had no idea what I was going to say or why they asked me, but I told some funny stories, talked about the industry and answered questions,” said Miner, who was invited back to speak at two more conferences. “This year I expanded on greyhound ownership and the inner workings including training a pup to be track ready.”

The adoption folks were intrigued by ownership and with this year’s National Greyhound Association Spring Meet on the horizon, Miner welcomed involvement with any of his purchases for no fee other than the bid.

“I never expected anyone to take me up on it, but lo and behold, seven people bought in,” Miner said. “A group of four women each bought 1.25 percent ($396 piece) of all five dogs purchased at the spring meet (B’s Silver Wings, B’s Sodbuster, B’s Alley Kat, B’s Law Dawg and KB’s Snip Snap). Another woman bought 5 percent of only B’s Law Dawg ($237) and a couple bought just a piece of KB’s Snip Snap.”

The adoption community believes they can infuse new interest into greyhound racing by getting others involved at the ownership levels.

Lisabeth (Tibbi) Ramsdell of Gahanna, Ohio, is a partner in the ownership of B’s Law Dawg. She’s the founder and CEO of the Amethyst Group, an advocate for racing greyhounds and their adoption off the track.

“The group that purchased ownership in the NGA pups with Dean (Miner) has become such a force. We are learning, watching and commenting on social media about our true partnership with the racing industry,” Ramsdell said. “We have a vested interest in getting the word out to others about the opportunities on the ‘other’ side of retired racer adoption. I love the idea that owning part of my Big Dawg (B’s Law Dawg) can somehow inspire new people to get involved in the beginning of retired racing greyhound ownership and keep the tracks alive with the infusion of new blood.”

Donna Deskin, Adoption Squad President of The League of Extraordinary Greyhounds in Montreal, Canada, had never seen a greyhound race live until she came to Wheeling in April for the adoption conference and now has the ownership bug.

“We spoke about it (ownership) all the way back to Montreal and when Dean sent an email mentioning the five pups he had just bought and asking if we wanted to go in on them we jumped at the opportunity. We call each other on the phone and watch the races together,” Deskin said. “The rush you feel when your hound pulls from fifth place and goes on to win is amazing. Sitting in front of the screen, we’re yelling, screaming and jumping up and down.”

While owning a share of a greyhound is a thrill, Deskin said educating the public needs to be a top priority.

“There is so much misinformation about greyhounds out there, it is unbelievable. When we started our group, we were determined to find out the real story. Now when we do our Meet & Greets and someone comes up to us with a ‘woe is the poor greyhound’ line, we look at them and ask ‘how do you know, have you ever been in a greyhound kennel or at a racetrack?’” Deskin said. “We have and we can tell you a thing or three. Some folks look at us in disgust while others stay, listen and get educated. Education is what it’s all about in the greyhound world.”

Mike and Teresa Hatton of Indiana, who are associated with Prison Greyhounds in Indiana and are supporters of It’s A Grey Area in New Orleans, would like to see more adoption people get involved in the racing side.

“If racing isn’t supported and eventually goes away totally, we will not have access to the dogs we love. By getting involved, we have much more knowledge about racing so when we are out speaking to the public we are better equipped to answer questions,” Teresa Hatton said. “Most people we meet assume we are anti-racing and are surprised that we definitely are not. We are able to tell them how the dogs love racing and that the dogs are treated very, very well at the kennels.”

The Hattons purchased a share of KB’s Snip Snap.

“It is very exciting following Snap’s progress and watching him race. It really gives us a sense of pride knowing that we own part of Snap,” Teresa Hatton said. “We have learned so much through this process. There is a lot that goes into training the dogs just to get them to their first race, and until you have a vested interest in a dog, you really don’t know what all is involved.”

Sylvie Marcotte from the League of Extraordinary Greyhounds in Quebec, Canada, also pointed to the learning experience.

“It’s been fun learning about the making of our couch potatoes. It also helps a lot in educating the public by getting first-hand experience,” Marcotte said. “We asked Dean if we could pre-adopt our pups so it’s a win-win situation. His dogs have forever homes and we tell people our dogs love to run and are well taken care of on the farm or kennel.”

Marcotte said the adoption group encourages “what’s good in the business rather than fighting what is bad in the business. This has proven very efficient in the past.”

Marcotte also is part of the group sharing ownership of all five of Miner’s pups.

“The feeling is awesome. I own two very cool retired racers and go back and watch the replays of their races and wish I was there at the time,” Marcotte said. “With our newly acquired dogs, it’s very exciting to watch the live races. So far we have been spoiled with incredibly good results. The thrill is not in the money, it’s in the race.”

Mark Spahos of Wisconsin, a friend of Miner’s who has been connected to the greyhound business for years, also bought an interest in the pups and has been instrumental in teaching the adoption groups as well.

“By welcoming members of the adoption community to the racing side of our sport we allow them the full experience and perspective of owning racing greyhounds. They celebrate the victories and understand that in the end all of our racers will have forever homes,” Spahos said. “All I can say is that when Dean and I bought this group of racers at the auction we had no idea how much fun it would be both educating and celebrating with our new friends in the business. If there was ever a win-win scenario for greyhounds that compete for us on the track this is it. It has been wonderful for all involved.”

Miner said the move has already reaped benefits.

“Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks are abuzz with these new owners and their followers watching their new greyhounds every move. It’s been a pleasure answering the countless questions. Like school kids who want to go to school, they’re insatiable,” Miner said. “Not only do we have these intelligent, tech savvy people investing in the industry, but we have them touting the beauty and caring the industry has for these animals at every adoption meeting, pet store, grocery store and so on.”

Miner, who co-operates a kennel with John Filipelli at Bluffs Run, had high praise for adoption groups.

“Why they do it is well beyond me. I can surely understand their love of greyhounds as we in the industry love them too, but we have so many other pressures and rewards with them,” Miner said. “To the adoption folks, it begins and ends with love. I truly believe that greyhound racing would not exist if not for these incredible adoption people.”

Speaking for the adoption groups, Deskin said “it’s fantastic and we thank Dean and his friend Mark for this opportunity of a lifetime.”