THE IRISH Greyhound Board (IGB) is using DNA profiling for the first time to bring to book an owner who allegedly hacked off the ears of his racing dog so it could not be identified.
The greyhound, which was abandoned in Co Waterford after being mutilated, is being kept at a secret location until disciplinary hearings by an IGB panel are concluded.
The IGB will also hand its evidence to local gardai in Tramore who are expected to bring criminal proceedings against the man for animal cruelty.
A hair sample from the dog was analysed and compared to genetic records held in a central database of all Irish greyhounds, which revealed its identity along with that of its owner.
The two-year-old dog, now named Aoife after the vet who treated her, is being kept hidden by the Waterford Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (WSPCA) which fears the animal may be kidnapped while the case is still in progress.
‘We don’t want to expose her to undesirables, who could find out where she is,’ said Andrew Quinn of WSPCA. ‘We just relocated her again to keep her safe. Until the case comes to a conclusion she won’t be re-homed officially. But she is extremely happy where she is with other greyhounds. She is fit and has put weight back on.’
Aoife first came to the attention of the WSPCA after it received dozens of calls from motorists who spotted her wandering around Tramore in a ‘frightened state’. It took more than eight hours to capture her.
‘As you can imagine she is some runner,’ said Quinn. ‘She had the whole of Tramore chasing after her but eventually she got tired and went to ground. She was afraid of people but not cars so we drove up to her and caught her on the snatch poll from the van and then threw a duvet over her.’
After she was caught the greyhound was brought to a vet who treated her for dehydration and loss of blood from her severed ears. Following local media attention the WSPCA received over 2,000 Euros in donations from people appalled at her condition, including money and a card from children at a pre-school in Kerry. The money will be used to pay her veterinary bills.
‘People like this — and they are the exception in the greyhound community — are mean b******s who wouldn’t even spend the money on an anaesthetic. It’s sickening what some people do to dogs,’ said Quinn.
All racing greyhounds in Ireland the UK are required to have identifying tattoos in their ears. Animal welfare groups have reported finding several abandoned dogs with their ears mutilated by their owners who don’t want the dog traced back to them – a situation especially prevalent in Ireland.
The Irish Coursing Club (ICC) now requires all breeding sires (males) and bitches (females) to have their DNA registered in a central database. This enabled the investigation by IGB stewards, who took a sample of Aoife’s hair for analysis and were able to confirm with 100% accuracy the identity of the dog’s sire and its registered owner.
The ICC is responsible for keeping the greyhound studbook and records of greyhounds bred in Ireland each year. The DNA records, kept at the Weatherbys Laboratory in Kildare, have been used on a number of occasions to guarantee a dog’s pedigree but this is the first case of DNA being used to track an abusive owner.
The DNA evidence was used to back up interviews conducted after the IGB received a tip-off from somebody familiar with Aoife’s markings who saw them in a photograph. This led the team in the direction of a Munster-based greyhound owner.
The investigation team is due to present its evidence to the IGB control committee within the next week. If Aoife’s owner is convicted with the charge of cruelty and maltreatment of the greyhound, the man will be hit with a fine and banned from owning greyhounds and attending greyhound venues. The maximum fine is set at 2,000 Euro but the committee is authorised to increase this if the case is deemed sufficiently serious.
‘It is important for this case to be resolved,’ said DJ Histon, welfare manager at the IGB. ‘We abhor any act of cruelty on any dog and the feeling on the ground is that this must be fully prosecuted. DNA is a great source of information and hopefully this will send a strong message to anyone who would contemplate such an act in the future.’