Greyhound Pets of America seeks to place retired racing dogs with caring families

Monday, December 5, 2011
Robin and Cary Harbison pose with their greyhound, Tuxedo Man. They are members of the Cape Girardeau chapter of Greyhound Pets of America. (Fred Lynch)

Most people think of greyhounds as a lean, speedy animal that runs around a dog track or, more commonly, as the dog pictured on the side of a popular bus company. Not many people think of a greyhound dog as a pet.

Greyhound Pets of America (GPA) is a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding responsible, loving homes for retired racing greyhounds. GPA was founded in 1987 and has had a chapter in Cape Girardeau since May 2005. The local chapter, which is run completely by volunteers, currently has about 30 families in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois who are actively involved.

Cary Harbison is the president of the GPA Cape Girardeau chapter and his wife, Robin, serves as the group's secretary.

"Greyhound dogs make wonderful pets," says Robin. "They are calm, loyal and very loving. They are sensitive, crave affection and usually require very little discipline."

"One of the biggest misconceptions about greyhounds is that they are hyper," says Robin. "They are actually rather lazy and enjoy lounging with the family. A short walk every day is usually all they need."

Greyhounds are also known to be good with children and other pets, including other dogs.

Housetraining greyhounds is normally quite simple. At the race tracks, they are accustomed to being let out of their crates several times a day to relieve themselves. Because of this, a similar routine in a new home makes housetraining relatively easy.

Because of their lack of body fat, greyhounds cannot tolerate extreme changes in temperature and therefore must be an indoor pet. Because they are sight hounds, greyhounds must always be kept on a leash when outside a fenced area. They will follow their instincts and run without heed.

Most of the greyhounds placed through the GPA program are between 2 and 5 years old. The average life expectancy of a former racing greyhound is 12 to 15 years.

While greyhounds come in all sizes, colors and ages, most typically stand between 26 and 29 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 80 pounds. Females are usually smaller than males. Their colors can be black, fawn, red, blue, white, several shades of brindle or a combination of these colors.

Potential owners must fill out an application through GPA.

Once an application is submitted, it will be reviewed and a volunteer will arrange for a home visit. This brief visit serves two purposes. It allows the potential owner to ask questions and the GPA volunteer can make a quick inspection of your home environment. A veterinary check will be done on animals already in the home.

Following the home visit, a GPA representative will contact potential owners if they have been approved and a greyhound will be matched based on lifestyle and environment.

Calls and visits, as needed, are made to ensure that each new greyhound's transition is a smooth one.

The final step in the adoption process is the signing of the adoption contract along with a $200 non-refundable adoption fee, which benefits GPA's mission. All of GPA's greyhounds are spayed/neutered and up to date on vaccinations and any other medical issues. New owners receive a greyhound information packet; a collar, leash and muzzle; GPA Cape Girardeau identification tag; and chapter membership for the remainder of the year.

"The entire adoption process usually takes about two to four weeks depending on how many dogs are available," says Robin.

The Cape GPA chapter, which has placed about 70 retired racing greyhounds since 2005, currently has three dogs available for adoption. Nationally, Greyhound Pets of America has placed more than 80,000 dogs since 1987.

GPA volunteers and adoptable greyhounds are at PetCo in Cape Girardeau from 1 to 4 p.m. the last Saturday of each month.

"Greyhound dogs are perfect companions," says Robin. "I just can't say enough good things about them."

For more information on adopting a greyhound, visit the GPA chapter's website at www.gpacapemo.org or call the Harbisons at 573-332-8252.

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