The dogs are sometimes sent to prison to get socialized.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Frank Taggart is one lucky pup.
The full-grown greyhound spent the first few years of his life as a racing dog at a track in Daytona Beach, Fla. -- until he was no longer viable as a racer.
As with most greyhounds -- a sleek breed used for sport bet racing -- his retirement options included adoption or death. It is estimated that between 16,000 and 18,000 retired greyhounds nationwide were put to sleep last year.
Fortunately for Frank, Patty Taggart and Team Greyhound Adoption of Ohio were more than willing to give him a loving, healthy home.
"I became interested in the breed years ago while I was living in Michigan," said Taggart, of Youngstown. "When I moved back to this area, I decided to investigate rescuing them from the racetracks."
Taggart turned to Team Greyhound, a pet adoption league based in Swanton that serves Ohio, southeast Michigan and parts of Indiana and Kentucky. The organization rescues retired greyhounds from tracks and seeks to place them in safe, permanent homes.
Taggart, who adopted Frank and another greyhound named Sable Moon through Team Greyhound, is now determined to start a branch of the organization in Youngstown. The Youngstown group would be responsible for interviewing and investigating the homes of area residents looking to adopt a dog through the program.
Diane and Jack Duer of Youngstown were Taggart's first prospective clients and adopted a male dog named King last October. The pair are so enthralled with their new family member that they decided to help Taggart spread the word about greyhound adoption.
"You can be in a group of a hundred greyhounds and you won't hear a bark," Diane said. "They are wonderful companions for older people."
Team Greyhound was able to save more than 400 dogs in 2004. In addition, the group operates "prison dogs" in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. This program takes dogs directly from the racetracks and temporarily places them into one of five Ohio prisons.
The race dogs are not accustomed to spending social time with humans or life beyond the track or cage and often must learn many simple tasks as adults. A "prison dog" is given a handler, who will train and socialize the dog for 12 to 16 weeks before the pet is placed in a permanent home.
"When the dogs come straight from the tracks, they don't know how to walk down stairs. They don't know to not walk into glass sliding doors," Taggart said,
The first "meet and greet" event for the Youngstown division of Team Greyhound is from noon to 3 p.m. today at PetsMart, 1011 Doral Drive, Poland. Those interested can learn more about the Team Greyhound program and meet the dogs at the free event.
Taggart hopes to spark interest in the organization and educate the public about what she believes to be "a really great pet."
"This has been a really great experience," Taggart said.
For more information on Team Greyhound, visit its Web site at www.teamgreyhound.com or call (877) TGA-OHIO.