Official report shows grave concerns with Racing Greyhound Welfare
The report - set up in the wake of an expose into the killing of unwanted ex-racing Greyhounds by the Sunday Times newspaper last July - exposes the chilling fact that at least 4,700 greyhounds aged four years or younger may be killed each year in England when they are retired from racing. In addition, approximately 2,500 young greyhounds between the age of 16 weeks and 15 months may be killed simply because they are not ‘good enough’ to ever start racing.
This comes to a total of at least 7,200 greyhounds potentially being killed each year because they are not wanted by the greyhound racing industry. The report recommends, as a priority, that a system be introduced to match the number of dogs bred into greyhound racing with the number that can be successfully rehomed at the end of their racing career.
The findings include:
• Enormous gaps in industry records of the numbers of greyhounds that are bred for racing, involved or injured in racing, that are rehomed when retiring from racing, or that are euthanaised when coming to the end of their racing careers.
• Approximately 2,500 of the greyhound puppies bred for racing each year in England never make it to the track. Most dogs are bred in Ireland, however, and so the true number of young dogs who never race will by much higher. A significant number of these young dogs will be killed each year between the age of 16 weeks and 15 months.
• Additionally at least 4,700 retiring greyhounds (out of at least 11,000 dogs who retire from National Greyhound Racing Club registered tracks every year) may be killed each year at the age of three or four. Unknown numbers may also be killed when they retire from independent tracks.
APGAW’s recommendations include:
• A correctly constituted and broad system of regulation be introduced for all greyhound racing and one set of national standards that apply to all. Animal welfare organisations, greyhound vets and representatives from those greyhound tracks that are currently independent should play an equal role in the current body that regulates the greyhound racing industry.
• DEFRA should investigate the number of dogs that are being transported in both directions between Ireland and England as well as the conditions under which those dogs are being transported.
• A reduction in the number of dogs the industry uses by reorganising the racing calendar.
•The greyhound industry should be required by law to record and publish annual injuries to greyhounds on a central database.
Chair of the inquiry, Eric Martlew MP said: ‘The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare set up this inquiry in response to the allegations published in the Sunday Times about healthy greyhounds being killed in Seaham, County Durham.
‘I am disgusted at the idea that thousands of young dogs are killed for no other reason than they become ‘surplus’ to industry requirements. With the new Animal Welfare Act, now is the perfect time to do something about this issue.
‘If the recommendations of this report are put into practice, I believe that we can go a long way to improve the welfare of greyhounds in the racing industry and to ensure the continued success of the sport of greyhound racing.’
The RSPCA echoed APGAW’s concerns as outlined in the report.
‘This report unveils a woeful inadequacy of knowledge within the industry about the very thing its success relies on - the greyhound dog,’ said David McDowell, RSPCA veterinary consultant.
‘Without even knowing how many greyhounds are used in racing - let alone how many are bred for, or retire annually from racing - how can the industry possibly claim to ensure the dogs’ welfare, or even appreciate what the problems are?
‘This is a damning report by an independent Parliamentary body, and it reveals a catalogue of concern. There is a rising tide of public unease about this issue, and it’s high time the industry sorted it out.’
The RSPCA agrees that at the end of their racing career, all greyhounds must be retired to a home that will give them a good quality of life for the remainder of their natural lifespan. The Society thinks this should not depend on charity, but should be financed and managed by the greyhound racing industry. As the report also identifies, finance could come from an increased racing greyhound registration fee, part of which could be held as a pension.
Tony Peters, of the Greyhound welfare organisation Greyhound Action greeted the report’s findings, but felt that they actually understated the true scale of the problem.
‘The conclusions of the APGAW report further strengthen our view that the greyhound racing industry should be abolished,’ said Mr Peters.
‘It is totally unacceptable that thousands of greyhounds should be put to death every year just so a minority of people can bet money on them running round a track and a group of unscrupulous characters line their pockets with the proceeds.
Sadly, according to our research, the figure of 4,700 is indeed a "significant underestimation". Our own submission to the APGAW inquiry suggests that at least 20,000 greyhounds are put to death every year, because of the British dog racing industry.
‘Better welfare measures for greyhounds would, of course, be welcome,
but would do little to prevent the mass-slaughter of dogs that can no longer yield a profit.’
In March 2007, David Smith – dubbed the ‘Seaham Slaughterer’ for burying slaughtered racing Greyhounds on his land without a permit walked free from court with a £2,000 fine for illegally burying the dogs without a permit. No animal welfare charges could be brought, as Smith was in possession of a licence for the bolt gun he used to kill the dogs.