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Published: Monday, 5/22/2006

Irish dogs find luck in U.S.

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Port Clinton residents Virginia Denney, left, and with Sandy Augugliaro walk rescued greyhounds down Findlay Street in Port Clinton with Diane Hartman of Milan, Ohio, who also fosters the retired racing dogs. Port Clinton residents Virginia Denney, left, and with Sandy Augugliaro walk rescued greyhounds down Findlay Street in Port Clinton with Diane Hartman of Milan, Ohio, who also fosters the retired racing dogs.
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PORT CLINTON - "Go Irish" is becoming the motto for a group of northwest Ohio dog lovers who promote adoptions of unwanted greyhounds.

In the case of the North Coast Greyhound Connection, the dogs are retired from Irish racetracks.

North Coast recently received a pair of Irish greyhounds from a kennel in Dundalk in County Louth, near the border with Northern Ireland. The male and female greyhounds are in Ohio awaiting adoption.

Port Clinton resident Sandy Augugliaro, who founded the organization last fall, says the adoption group hopes the pair of dogs will increase awareness to the need for adoptive families in the United States and Ireland.

"We thought it might be something that would draw attention to the greyhounds here," she said in a telephone interview.

North Coast Greyhound Connection is one of several organizations in the region that promote adoption of greyhounds that are no longer used in racing.

Nancy Meyer, president of the Ohio chapter of Greyhound Pets of America, said that on a national level, about 1,500 retired racing dogs are adopted each year, out of thousands that are retired from the track and euthanized because their owners have no further use for them.

The dogs are raced for up to five years. With a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years, many owners chose to have the dogs destroyed rather than continue to care for them.

Diane Hartman of Milan, Ohio, pets Bertie, a male retired racing greyhound from Ireland. Diane Hartman of Milan, Ohio, pets Bertie, a male retired racing greyhound from Ireland.
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Mrs. Meyer, speaking from her home in Defiance, said she has a friend on the East Coast who travels to Ireland yearly to bring back greyhounds. Conditions for the retired racers are far worse in Ireland and Spain than they are here, she added, although her group has no plans to import greyhounds.

"Our focus is to adopt [U.S. dogs] because there are so many of them," Mrs. Meyer said.

The "Greyhounds with Wings" program responsible for sending the pair of greyhounds to Ohio is based on cooperation between U.S. and Irish adoption agencies, "with the welfare and care of our retired greyhounds being our goal," Jenny Ni Breathnach, a dog-shelter owner, wrote in an e-mail from Ireland.

Mary-Jane Fox, organizer of a greyhound rescue group in Erie, Ireland, said it is conservatively estimated that 13,800 greyhounds are "unaccounted" for each year in her country.

"Only a few hundred a year in total actually find homes, and again, these are mainly in other [European] countries with a greyhound rescue group in that country actually finding prospective owners and doing home checks, etc.," Ms. Fox wrote in an e-mail.

"Irish greyhounds seem to have a special appeal to people in the U.S.," she said. "That, on top of the overabundance of greyhounds here, is another factor which contributes to the interest."

Lola and Bertie, the dogs sent to Ohio, are in foster homes in Port Clinton and Milan awaiting adoption.

The Irish group paid to fly the dogs to Chicago, where they were handed off to other members of the group for transport to Ohio. What was expected to be a $200 cost for each dog turned into a more expensive proposition because of a unexpected change in airlines, Mrs. Augugliaro said.

Bertie, a 4-year-old who was named after Irish President Bertie Ahern, has raced 33 times in his career and, while never quite setting the track on fire, "he is a plodding, consistent sort of chap," Ms. Ni Breathnach said.

Lola, whose racing name was Carol Anne, is 2 1/2 years old but apparently was unsuitable for racing, she said.

Domestically, adoption groups obtain their dogs from states such as Florida that allow dog racing.

Most of the local adoption agencies charge about $200 for the dogs, which generally includes up-to-date vaccinations. In addition, home visits are necessary to ensure the new owners' properties are fenced in, Mrs. Augugliaro and Mrs. Meyer said.

Greyhounds are bred for speed and are trained to begin running once the track gate is opened. They are prone to bolt when a house door is opened.

Greyhound advocates say they make great pets with unfailing devotion to their owners.

"They're nonaggressive dogs," Mrs. Augugliaro said. "They don't know a stranger. They love everybody."

The mild-mannered canine speedsters are also unsuitable for the one task that many people get a dog for in the first place: "They're not good watchdogs at all," Mrs. Augugliaro said.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6078.



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