In November of 2008, a Massachusetts Referendum passed that banned Greyhound racing state-wide effective Jan. 1, and symbolized the beginning of the race for Greyhound rescue groups throughout the United States. According to Dianne Shadel, president and founder of Keystone Greyhounds based out of Harrisburg, Grey2K - a Greyhound dog racing protection organization - was instrumental in getting the track in Raynham, Mass. shut down. Grey2K shut down the last one in New England," said Shadel. She also noted that there are two tracks remaining that are located east of the Mississippi - Wheeling Downs and Tri-State, both located in West Virginia. But as president of a Greyhound rescue organization that helps find homes for displaced Greyhounds in a three hour radius outside of Harrisburg, the closing of the Raynham track started a race for time for the Keystone organization, as well as some of the other 350 Greyhound rescue groups located throughout the United States. In Sayre, adoption representatives Hal and Janet Lambert were called for help just two days before Christmas. The last day of dog races at the Raynham track was scheduled for Dec. 26, with a closing on Dec. 31. And although the track will allow the dogs to remain for a period of 30 days, they were not willing to feed the dogs or care for them in the kennels. The number of dogs, according to Lambert, was 900, with 650 slated to be moved to tracks in one of the remaining 13 states that allow Greyhound racing. For the Keystone Greyhounds, this meant that they would be able to take in some of the 250 remaining dogs, and have already scheduled pick up dates of Jan. 23 and Jan. 30. With two vans scheduled to travel, including Hal Lambert of Sayre, the Keystone Greyhounds will be taking in 16 of the dogs displaced from the track and process them for eventual adoption. But another problem was presented to the Lamberts just days before Christmas. Because the track would not feed the dogs - they needed food. Dianne Shadel had acquired 16,000 pounds of food from a pet food bank in Harrisburg, but didn't have any means to deliver the food to the track for the dogs that were temporarily housed at it. This is when Shadel called the Lamberts for assistance in finding a truck - just two days before Christmas. It just so happened that Janet and Hal Lambert had met a woman at a recent meet and greet event and were able to call her for help that arrived quickly. The woman referred the Lamberts to Jerry Drake, an independent truck driver from Elmira, who volunteered his time and service to deliver the dog food to the Greyhounds at the track in Raynham, Mass. Jerry doesn't even have a pet," said Shadel. "God Bless him, he was a Christmas Angel at the track," she added.
On Dec. 30, Drake traveled to Harrisburg from Elmira to pick up the 16,000 pounds of dog food, and then traveled nine hours to Massachusetts where he dropped off the food at the track.
This food, according to Lambert, will help the dogs until they are picked up by the various organizations or transported by their handlers to other racetracks, whichever the case.
And the food, he added, is a mix of kibble combined with raw food to help with the transition of being displaced. "When they are racing," said Shadel, "they are fed a diet of raw meat, vegetables and pasta." "They are on the same diet as regular athletes," she added.
And while the Keystone organization is anxious to pick up the 16 dogs they will acquire from the track, they are also saddened by the track's closing.
"The track closing is not a victory," said Shadel. "Greyhounds were bred for 1,000 years to run or chase. Nobody mistreats them or forces them to run. Closing the track is sad, but these dogs are smart and resilient."
Shadel is also hopeful that none of the dogs will have to be put to sleep, and noted that they have one month to find the dogs a group that will take them. "The race is on to find them homes," said Shadel.
She did note that placement for Greyhounds is much better today than it used to be, with a 90 to 95 percent chance of placement through organizations like hers. Shadel compared this to 20 years ago when 80 percent of the dogs were put down when their racing careers were over - at an age ranging from 18 months to five years.
Shadel also talked about Greyhounds being utilized as blood donors, or for research because of their quiet and calm temperament. Her organization has also been working to get some of the Greyhounds out of these situations, and get them adopted out to families. In the meantime, the dogs scheduled to arrive from the Raynham, Mass., track will be available for viewing at www.keystonegreyhounds.org within the next couple of weeks.If interested in learning more about adopting a Greyhound, you can work through Hal and Janet Lambert, the adoption representatives for the Sayre area and a 60 mile radius surrounding it. You can also call the Lamberts at (570) 888-9999. There is also information at the Keystone Greyhound Web site (www.keystonegreyhounds.org) about the adoption process as well as an initial application.