The Truth About Racing
Greyhound racing in Britain is a sport enjoyed by over three million people and thousands of greyhounds each year. The sport is well run, properly regulated and the welfare of the dogs is always the main priority of those involved.
Why do some people want to ban greyhound racing?
Generally there are very few people calling for any such thing. Those with an interest in the greyhound want to see a thriving sport where the welfare of the dogs is absolutely central to everything it does.
There is a small and wholly unrepresentative assembly of individuals who feel they have the right to speak for a much broader community than they represent.
Some anti-greyhound racing groups spread stories alleging particular greyhound or greyhounds have been maltreated and on that basis protest that greyhound racing should be banned. Many of the “horror stories” spread by these groups are either urban myths, or actually originate in other countries, not in the UK. It is certainly true that is some countries, animal welfare standards are far lower than they are here.
Britain is known as a “nation of dog lovers” and the people involved in greyhound racing are no exception to this. They love their dogs and are certainly not in it for the money – owning and training greyhounds is hardly ever a route to riches! They are in greyhound racing because they love the breed and get huge satisfaction from seeing their dogs racing and enjoying what they were born to do.
Unfortunately there will always be people who think it is acceptable to mistreat animals, whether dogs, horses, cats, or any other type of animal. Organisations such as the RSPCA and others are faced daily with the results of cruelty and neglect – it happens to the mongrels and the pedigree dog alike.
Abused greyhounds make the headlines, but the public rarely hears about the thousands of other cases of animal cruelty each year. Figures from the RSPCA confirm that there were 1,647 convictions for animal cruelty convictions in 2006, the vast majority had nothing to do with greyhound racing at all. In fact, when a greyhound is involved, the strict regulations that apply to the sport means that perpetrators can be quickly identified and brought to justice. For other animals, there is often far less protection. Rehoming groups will tell you that the greyhounds that they take in for rehoming from trainers are in good condition. Yes, there will be exceptions but that is what they are. Abused, sick and injured greyhounds are NOT representative of the sport.
Whilst welfare standards in decades past have not been as high as they are now, modern-day greyhound racing is well regulated and well run. Greyhounds are identifiable and are trained by licensed trainers whose facilities are regularly inspected. In decades gone by, the sport was perhaps not so welfare conscious and some practices that were acceptable in the past are certainly not acceptable today. That legacy that has led to perceptions of the sport does not represent an accurate picture of greyhound racing as it is today.
In 2008, the sport is spending almost one third of its annual central income, about £4 million, improving welfare standards. It spends almost £2 million on retired greyhounds, ensuring that as many as possible can be rehomed on retirement. In fact, the number rehomed by the Retired Greyhound Trust through its ever increasing network of branches has more than doubled in the last five years and continues to increase, year on year. Many thousands of greyhounds are rehomed by their owners and trainers each year, or by other welfare charities such as the Dogs Trust. The prospects for a retired greyhound in 2007 are therefore significantly brighter than for a retired greyhound in 1997.
As with any breed of dog there will always be a small percentage of greyhounds that cannot be rehomed for many reasons. These will include greyhounds that are terminally ill, or have behavioural problems, congenital defects or are temperamentally unsuited to rehoming. These greyhounds live out their post-racing days at the kennels of their owner or trainer, or if this is not possible, are humanely euthanased by a qualified vet.
So, what would happen if greyhound racing was to be banned?
A lot of people would lose their jobs and millions of people would lose access to a very enjoyable pastime. Worse than that, as has been seen before, banning could mean activities going underground and operating with no regulation at all – the opposite of what these protestors are trying to achieve.
If greyhound racing was to be banned, what would be next? Protestors would likely just move on to try and get other activities banned as well - horse racing, farming, fishing, dog shows, pet breeding and even pet ownership.
Many of those who want to see greyhound racing banned, would also want to see the entire domestication of animals outlawed.
We could expect to see the end of the greyhound breed in Britain along with large scale unemployment as stadia shut and trainers and their kennel staff are forced to seek alternative employment. More importantly, as many as thirty thousand greyhounds would need to be retired at once and with rehoming schemes unlikely to be able to cope with such a large number, many greyhounds would likely be put to sleep.
MYTH: Greyhounds must be starved to be so thin
Greyhounds are genetically slender animals. They are built for speed and agility, as are other dogs such as whippets and lurchers. As with most human athletes, greyhounds do not carry excess weight but have plenty of muscle and are fit and healthy. They are fed carefully balanced, nutritious diets. When a greyhound retires from racing and enters the home environment he or she will lose some muscle and may put on a small amount of weight as his or her exercise is reduced.
MYTH: Greyhounds are drugged to make them run faster
As with all sports, human or other, the use of drugs to enhance performance is wrong. The Greyhound Board of Great Britain takes a very serious view about this. It is against the rules for greyhounds to race if they contain any substance that may affect their performance. Trainers who use drugs face very severe penalties, including lifetime bans and the loss of their livelihood. They may also risk prosecution under the Gambling or Animal Welfare Acts. The sport’s regulatory bodies carry out regular random drug testing and only approximately 0.2% of the ten thousand samples return positive each year.
MYTH: Greyhounds are forced to race
Greyhounds are bred to race and love to run around in paddocks and fields from a very young age. Away from a track, if you visit a trainer’s kennels you will often see greyhounds enjoying running around with their kennel mates.
MYTH: Live rabbits are used to train greyhounds
The use of live rabbits to train greyhounds is both against the sport’s rules and illegal. Trainers caught doing this would face prosecution and very stiff penalties.
MYTH: Greyhounds are locked in kennels with no human contact
Greyhounds are a friendly breed that thrives on human company. From a very early age greyhounds are used to plenty of human contact, particularly during exercising, feeding, grooming and racing. Additionally, many owners like to visit the kennels where their greyhounds are trained and walk them at weekends. Greyhounds are naturally friendly and affectionate.
All trainers have their kennels rigorously inspected, including by a vet. Greyhounds are regularly exercised and let out of their kennels many times throughout the day, probably more often than the average household pet. Greyhounds, like all sight hounds (and many other breeds) are generally couch potatoes, they enjoy their exercise but are very happy to sleep in dry, warm kennels when not outside.
MYTH: Greyhounds are forced to race with injuries
A veterinary surgeon is present at all tracks when racing takes place. All greyhounds are inspected by a vet before racing to ensure they are fit to race.
MYTH: Greyhounds make bad pets
Greyhounds make fantastic pets for people and households of all ages. Thousands of greyhounds are adopted as pets each year. The majority can live happily with cats and other animals. However, as with every breed, not every individual greyhound has the right temperament to be a house-dog.