One of Bernie Wright's rescued Greyhounds, Phoebe, with her friend Cassie the cat!
story so far
ANIMAL CRUELTY comes in many forms and rightly causes outrage amongst decent, caring people. There’s deliberate cruelty, usually perpetrated as acts of violence, or cruelty by neglect. Even cruelty based on cultural beliefs. Of course, none of these forms of cruelty are acceptable. Even if you aren’t an animal lover yourself, you are likely to be deplored by the mistreatment of animals.
So what can you do to help prevent the mistreatment of animals? Well, most of us would put our hand in our pocket and make a donation to whatever charity or refuge that is combating cruelty. A few more of us might think of taking on a rescued animal ourselves – maybe a cat or a dog. And that’s all fine and laudable and, of course, it does help animal welfare organisations to stamp out cruelty and help animals in need.
But how many of us would devote our lives to the cause of helping animals? To actually make a trip to a foreign country at our own expense, to deal with ignorant, quite often brutal people, in order to rescue a handful of dogs? Dogs that their original owners feel have no value, due to their age or physical condition?
Welcome then to the world of Greyhound Rescue…
of these poor, wretched creatures are ex-racing dogs, originally
exported to Spain from Ireland, campaigned on the tracks and
then cruelly abandoned by their owners when they grow older
or prove not to be such good racers.
There are also the Galgos, Spanish hunting dogs, used for hunting hares and even wild boar, used for the speed and leaping abilities, but so often abandoned when they are injured, as many invariably are, especially those who tackle the wild boar and come off worse. Here are just a few of the many and varied Greyhound Welfare and Rescue groups that exist to help these most noble, trusting and gentle of dogs from the harsh treatment and cruelty meted out to them, primarily in Spain.
GREYHOUNDS IN NEED was one of the first Greyhound Rescue Charities in the UK to actually ‘go out there’ and rescue the pitiful ex racing and hunting Greyhounds in Spain.
The Charity was founded by Anne Finch, a nurse from Egham, Surrey. One day in 1991, she read an article in a national newspaper about the plight of ex-racing Greyhounds in Spain.
She was particularly moved by the photograph of a bitch named ‘Masay’, who was injured and emaciated, confined in a tiny kennel with other dogs, totally without any veterinary care. It was then that Anne made a life-changing decision to travel to Spain and bring Masay and as many of the other dogs as possible back to the UK.
Anne made contact with Anne Shannon, an established Greyhound rescuer based on the Isle of Man for advice on procuring the unwanted and unloved dogs. Anne Shannon provided Anne with plenty of advice and other contacts. She was then fortunate in securing the help of Raymond Dawkins MBE of the Raystead Animal Sanctuary in Sussex, who offered quarantine facilities free of charge for the full six-month period – as was then law – for any of the dogs she could bring home. British Airways also offered to fly the dogs to the UK free of charge.
Cutting a very long story short, Anne and her Spanish friend Marissa Freeman flew out to Mallorca and visited a number of Greyhound kennels, posing as teachers from Spain who had owned Greyhounds before and now wanted some older ones as pets.
Anne recalls the second kennels she visited where the dogs were tied up inside their cages. "What struck me most of all was how listless they all were," she says. "They didn’t jump up or bark as you would expect them to. They were in poor condition, although I honestly think the kennel staff had to make do with the limited facilities they had and simply acted out of ignorance, not realising that they way they kept the dogs was cruel."
Anne paid for three dogs, but was anxious to trace the black bitch Masay that she’d seen in the newspaper a few months before. She was directed to a racetrack where Masay was kept and her owner was instantly suspicious of Anne’s motives, but eventually agreed to sell Masay for £150, claiming that she was a good racing dog.
Anne and Marissa took all four dogs to a boarding kennels run by an English couple who supported what she was doing, where they were treated by a sympathetic Argentinean vet, Dr Magrini, who vaccinated the dogs against rabies and gave them the necessary travel documents.
However, Anne hit a problem in that she only had quarantine places for three dogs and she now had four, thanks to rescuing Masay. Eventually it was agreed that she would leave three year-old Matilde, the fittest of the four (relatively speaking), in the boarding kennels and that she would raise the necessary funding to bring her to the UK.
The journey back home was stressful, due to their being no direct flights back to the UK, meaning that the dogs had to go via Barcelona, necessitating a long wait in mainland Spain.
"I sat down in the airport with the dogs in the cages and I swear that I lost my memory!" recalls Anne. "I really had no idea what I was doing there or why I was doing it, and it wasn’t until we were on the flight back home that my memory began to return. It was very frightening!"
OUR DOGS newspaper reported on Anne’s amazing journey in its issue dated October 4th 1991, written by Robert Killick, in which Matilde’s plight was highlighted. Several readers were so moved by her story they contacted the paper offering money to bring the dog to the UK. OUR DOGS duly set up the Matilde Fund and, within a few weeks, had raised £1,000.
In fact, £250 was donated by the Beaconsfield Dog Training Club. Matilde was duly flown to England and quarantined at Guy Tamplin’s Precious Pets kennels. She completed her quarantine in April 1992 and was released to a delighted Anne Finch, before being rehomed to Pat Tozer, with whom she lived for many happy years until her death aged 14.
Since then, Greyhounds In Need has gone from strength to strength, Anne herself making several more trips with other volunteers over the ensuing years and bringing more dogs back to the UK, whilst forging links with other rescuers in Europe and getting Greys and Galgos rehomed to France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium, to name but a few countries.
Many other Greyhound Rescue groups sprang up in Europe and the UK thanks to Anne’s influence, many of them operated by former GIN volunteers, and maintaining close ties with each other.
"In 13 years we’ve rehomed about 5,000 dogs," says Anne. "We’re still operating and we still will keep rescuing dogs for as long as our services are needed. I said a few years ago that I would retire from the active trips and take more of a back seat." She smiles, and adds: "It hasn’t happened yet. I’m busier than ever, but I don’t think I’ll stop just yet."
Greyhounds In Need:
Tel: 01784 436845 http://www.greyhoundsinneed.co.uk/
is a rescue based in Barcelona. Mo Swatek, the group’s
co-ordinator speaks frankly about the cruel treatment of the
unwanted hounds, many of which are simply shot (if they are
lucky) or hanged from trees by their owners when they are
past their useful working life.
"The poor Spanish sight hounds are born to suffer all their lives as they live in the worst conditions any of us can imagine. Barely receiving any food, and if so, they only are fed with stale bread and water because the hunters believe that a hungry hound hunts better," says Mo. "The dogs have to live in dirty holes in the ground, in windowless stables or cellars, in complete darkness, sometimes for days unattended and without a chance to move. Many of the dogs are chained to a tree and left there until the hunter remembers them and often they are dead when he comes back again.
"And on top of it all, in nearly every forest in the hunting areas you find abandoned and injured galgos wandering around. More than 60% of the galgos found have wounds from bullets or broken legs etc and of course looking like a walking skeleton ... Many of them die a senseless death run over by a car. We calculate that less than 2,500 hounds will be saved this year and this is probably not even 10% of the galgo population in Spain!"
Mo continues: "The Spanish government is very much implicated in the mistreating of animals as they maintain the perreras (killing stations or so called city dog pounds) where the abandoned dogs are "stored" until their destruction... If an injured galgo is found, the animal will not receive any treatment, no vet attends them and nothing is done to save them from suffering because the people at the perreras do not believe that this dog has a chance to be adopted. It can easily happen that a galgo with an open fracture of the femur is for 2 weeks unattended and suffers the most terrible pain.
"If we could force the government to apply the new law for protection of animals also to the hunting dogs and if the SEPRONA (Spanish Environmental Police) would check on the hunters and reduce the maximum of dogs per Galguero to 5 or less, many of those guys would stop keeping galgos as it would be far too expensive for them to do so."
ACTION operates out of Ireland, doing its best to help save
many of the unwanted Irish racing Greyhounds that are abandoned
on our own doorstep. Bernie Wright, the founder of the group
battles daily to save what dogs she can, often seeing many
of the pathetic creatures sold openly at street markets, to
be spirited away by dealers in trucks, never to be seen again
after their one-way trip to the Irish killing fields….
"Hundreds of Irish dogs are now sent to rescues in the UK," says Bernie. "Without this rehoming assistance from another country so many more dogs would just be left in rescues here for their entire lives. Greyhounds but both mixed breed and other pedigree dogs are getting more and more difficult to rehome here in Ireland. When we get homes for dogs in the UK it means the flow of dogs continues and we are able to take in more from pounds and places that kill the dogs after a set time. Greyhounds especially are almost impossible to place here."
Bernie tells the story of one lucky Greyhound bitch that she has recently nursed back to health. "Cassie in the photo is leaving here for a new family this week. She was dumped with a badly broken leg when her Irish family hit her with their car. Luckily after a few months of veterinary treatment and care, she is healthy and happy. We wish her a long and happy life with her new carers."
Greyhound Action can be contacted at: 00353 1 864 2968
is a newer charity that was established in Orpington, Kent
by Greyhound In Need volunteer Laura Weatherley, her husband
Dean, and friends Guy and Jennie Francis who run a newly opened
charity shop in Market Street, Crewkerne, Somerset. All proceeds
from the shop go directly to Houndsavers’ most expensive
outgoing – their vet, and that’s even with a generous
"We have sold practically everything we own and re-mortgaged our house to build our own quarantine kennels especially for the needy dogs in Spain, amongst them are exported Irish and English bred greyhounds," says Laura. "Pet passports don’t really help in the case of rescued dogs from Spain, because they’d need to be held in Spain for six months ‘in country quarantine’ after their anti-rabies vaccinations, so it’s actually cheaper to bring them over here.
"The time in quarantine is needed to tame and rehabilitate these traumatised dogs, some with three legs, one eye, blind and deaf. We have licensed transporters from an escort van to an 18 tonne truck that can hold 50 to 60 dogs, all are fully equipped. Dean and myself are HGV drivers by trade. We have now transported hundreds of dogs across Europe. My inspiration comes from Anne Finch who I have accompanied around the world learning of the plight of these dogs."
Laura is particularly keen to highlight the mass abandonment of Podencos, hunting dogs very similar to Galgos, but renowned for their leaping abilities. These are now very much ‘hot property’ amongst those breeds now being imported into the UK in the wake of quarantine relaxation and have featured at Discover Dogs in November 2003 and are on display at Crufts this year.
"I would like to highlight the Podencos plight as they are truly amazing dogs," says Laura." The Podenco Ibicenco or Ibizan Hound is so very elegant and light-footed resembling a modern day Anubis, they are used as hunting dogs as is the smaller Podenco Andaluz. They too get a raw deal after the hunting season when many are abandoned by their ‘owners’ unwilling to keep them until the next hunting season.
"We also do our bit for the UK dogs, taking in all Sighthounds including Lurchers from our local pounds with seven-day destruction policies. We rehome on average two to three dogs per week and teach animal welfare at local schools. We have worked at Mohammed al Fayed’s school for disabled and mentally disturbed children, West Heath at Sevenoaks, with great effect. The recent closure of Catford greyhound Stadium has flooded us with dogs in danger of destruction and we are in need of suitable homes for ex racers. If anyone can help rehome a dog, please do call us."
Houndsavers can be contacted on: 01689 833103 or 07831 464117.
A comprehensive List of many Greyhound rescue groups and charities can be found on the Greyhound Rescue website: http://www.greyhoundrescue.co.uk/gr/groups.html