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Huge bill may close Greyhound charity down

AN ANIMAL welfare charity that rehomes abandoned greyhounds for the Irish Greyhound Racing Board (Bord na gCon) has been told to pick up a huge tab after the board said it has no more money to give them.

Gina Hetherington of the Peoples Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) rescue in Sallins, Co Kildare, says she has been left reeling by the news that the Irish Greyhound Board's 2006 fund for retired dogs, which stands at 250,000 euros (£175,000) is apparently gone - despite being just four months into the year.

The charity, which rescues abandoned greyhounds from rescue pounds, may now have to find up to 145,000 euros (£102,000) to cover veterinary bills, kennel boarding fees and transport costs or else leave the unwanted dogs to be destroyed.

In March, the charity was told Bord na gCon was pulling the plug on transport costs and vets' fees, while from the end of this month it will no longer cover the cost of kennelling unwanted dogs.

Early in April, Ms Hetherington took her case to Sports Minister John O'Donoghue to appeal for a grant to cover the cost of caring for the greyhounds. But the Minister declined her request.

"Bord na gCon will spend 5m euros renovating the Kilkenny stadium but it won't put 250,000 euros into the dogs that have served them so well," she added.

The winner of every race pays 2% of their prize money into the retirement fund to care for unwanted greyhounds.

PAWS has been working in conjunction with Bord na gCon for the last two years rescuing unwanted greyhounds from pounds before they are destroyed. Of the 200 rescued by PAWS last year almost all were rehomed abroad - largely in Italy and Sweden - while just three found new homes here in Ireland.

"Irish people do not see greyhounds as pets," said Ms Hetherington. "They think that because the dogs are muzzled they must be dangerous and that they require lots of exercise. But greyhounds are actually very gentle; they'll run around the garden three or four times and then collapse on the couch. They take a sprint, get tired and go to sleep."

The average age of dogs rescued by PAWS from the pounds is just two years.

Unless greyhounds have proven themselves as champions on the racetrack by that age, unscrupulous owners will abandon them.

"There are greyhound owners who love and care for their dogs but there are also those backyard guys who dump their dogs as soon as they don't win," added Mrs Hetherington. "Owners start training them at one year old and if they are not making good speeds they don't want them anymore."

A spokesman with Bord na gCon said its prime obligation is to fund its own operations to rehome retired greyhounds in Croom, Co Limerick, and that any money left over is then given to various animal charities, including PAWS. He added that PAWS has already received its allocation for 2006 but there is no reason the charity will not be considered again next year.

Donations to help PAWS may be made via the People’s Animal Welfare Society Website:

http://www.paws.ie/