Racing greyhounds retire from Florida to Western Pa.
On a blustery Sunday afternoon, six slim greyhounds from sunny Florida landed at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport near Latrobe to begin a new life in Western Pennsylvania as retirees from racetracks.
“This is all worth it. Look at these guys. We are so excited to be able to bring Florida dogs to loving homes in Pittsburgh,” said Susan Yanakos of Mars, treasurer of Three Rivers Greyhounds of Pittsburgh, as she held one of the dogs before loading him into a waiting vehicle, a cold wind whipping around the airport tarmac.
Three Rivers Greyhounds, a Pine-based nonprofit chapter of Greyhounds of America, took four of the dogs from a racetrack in Tampa Bay to a Pine kennel where they will await adoption, said Ruth Scheller of Shaler, group president. The organization has people interested in adopting the retired racetrack dogs, which are between ages 2 and 4, Scheller said. Those adopting the greyhounds will get a pet with a life expectancy of about 12 years, said Scheller, who has two greyhounds.
Another greyhound rescue group, Going Home Greyhounds Inc. of Wexford, will take two of the dogs into foster homes, said Judy Burke of Pittsburgh's Greenfield neighborhood, who already has five greyhounds.
The greyhound group made the arrangements for the dogs through a Tampa Bay chapter of Greyhounds of America.
“They've been trying to move greyhounds to the North because the number of greyhounds (in Florida) is unmanageable,” Scheller said.
The groups paid $100 per dog to fly the five males and one female to the airport in Unity, Scheller said. An additional cost of less than $200 per dog went to neuter or spay the animals.
Once the single-engine Piper plane landed, the dogs were straining to get out of confinement. A barrier kept them behind the pilot as the plane cruised at 9,500 feet, and the dogs slept most of the way, said Jason Hilt of Philadelphia, a pilot for Brave Tide Foundation Inc. of Boyertown, a nonprofit that rescues and relocates animals. The four-hour, 45-minute flight from Tampa Bay to central Westmoreland County was uneventful, except for the last 15 to 30 miles, when the plane hit snow flurries, Hilt said.
Scheller had a word of warning for anyone wanting the adopt a greyhound.
“They can never be trusted (when) off the leash,” Scheller said. They tend to run away and not return. The dogs can see a small animal — a rabbit or squirrel — a half-mile away and will bolt after it, ignoring admonishments, Scheller said.
Mary Frantangelo, Going Home Greyhounds' adoption coordinator, said there is a simple rule in her house to keep their four greyhounds from running off.
“Close one door before opening another,” she said.
Scheller said you can't catch them on foot because the sleek, retired racers can reach speeds of 45 mph within three strides. They are faster than all animals except the cheetah, Scheller said.
Despite their love of running, Scheller said they are just as content taking it easy in a house.
“They're called the 45 mph couch potato,” Scheller quipped.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.