Oranges and Greyhounds
By Scott Bruns
On a recent trip this past February oranges and Greyhounds had at least one thing in common, their geographic location.
Chris Perry, Scott Bud, Skip Spraque, and myself took a few days away from our Maine winter to go to Occala Fl to see firsthand how a Greyhound puppy farm is run. We all understood there is good and bad in every industry, I personally was more interested in the basic process and procedures in caring and training these young Greyhounds and reporting back our first hand experiences.
As we parked in the driveway and walked over to the house two mix breed dogs with tales waging greeted us. At the door we met one of the owners and operators of the farm Janice George. Janice started the tour at the Greyhound kitchen. The kitchen had two stoves in it (one electric and one propane in case of power loss) A huge stainless steel mixer, stainless steel sinks, refrigerator and a freezer.
Some of the ingredients of their diet consisted of things like high protein kibble, beef, chicken, barley, bran, carrots, rice, greens and even some applesauce. The puppy's dietary needs are adjusted as they grow, and the age group on the farm ranged from 6-week-old pups all the way to a 12-year-old, that was brought back after retirement.
After the kitchen we started our walk down "Greyhound Drive" The first section was a series of large fenced in areas that each contained a one room white building approximately 10' square and elevated of the ground to allow the pups to snooze underneath the building in the shade. The room is set up so the Greyhounds can go in and out as they please. Each yard had a large water pail and a fresh water spicket piped to it. These were the puppies pens and were about 25' wide and 75' long. All the puppy yards are lined up along the road and have safety lock gates to prevent accidental loose Grey's. After passing by the 8 or nine rows of puppy enclosures we came to the brood bitch kennel.
This kennel had eight rooms split up the middle by a large hallway. On the right the brood bitches are kept in after weaning their pups. On the left side mom's and their nursing pups are housed. Each stall is approximately the size of a horse stall, with guillotine gates that access turn out yards. This area has it's own supplies needed for the care of its brood bitches and pups.
Then we took a left and continued on our walk. On the left-hand side of this road we found the older pups (6 months and older) that have huge yards approximately thirty feet wide and six hundred fifty feet long. The Greyhounds are kept anything from individually to four Grey's per yard. Their favorite time to exercise seemed to by early in the morning and just before dust. Once one Greyhound starts in they all start in, running the length of the yards at full tilt. I was surprised to find that the Greyhounds didn't have nor need any encouragement at all to run other than each other. Of course we didn't either; we were allowed into all of the yards and found ourselves running up and down the pens ourselves. (Of course we may have lacked a little speed and endurance) Repeatedly through the year the dirt at the end of the pens needs to be re-leveled due to the Greyhounds kicking the dirt out of the fencing as they start their run.
On the other side of the road there is a series of pens that are wider but nowhere near as long. On this side the brood bitches and Greyhounds that have been returned to the farm awaiting placement are kept.
We were impressed by the condition of the grounds, equipment and Greyhounds themselves. There was in the neighborhood of 150 - 160 Grey's on the property during our visit and we were told it takes 1 full-time employee per 40-50 Greyhounds in addition to some part-time help to keep up with the farm.
We were able to assist with vaccinations the day we were there. Although we took are task of puppy catchers serious, the pups seemed to be having a ball leading their newly found human visitors all over their yards. Our only causalities were a change of clothing and a trip to the optometrist to repair Scott Bud's glasses that were snatched by one of the pups. The chase was on and after a few laps around the yard I think the pup just felt sorry for Scott and drop them. We considered various ways to smuggle a pup or two onto the plane with us, but in the end we had to settle for returning to Maine with just oranges.