The final stage of the Animal Welfare Bill is close and the rules and regulations governing racing greyhounds is about to be decided by a body of people who know little or nothing about the activity and its consequences, not just for the dogs but for owners, trainers and the general public. The rules and regulations proposed by DEFRA bear all the signs of having been dictated by the greyhound racing branch of the gambling industry. Self-regulation is at an end for banks and politicians but not for this business, which has had a deservedly squalid reputation for almost a century.
The dogs are, as the Chinese call them, “dice on legs”, the owners and trainers are what might be called the workforce but the profits go to the promoters and the bookmakers and it’s the bookmakers who have called the tune since 1928 and the formation of the National Greyhound Racing Club. (I think it was Lord Rooker who thought that changing the name of that body would change things for the better.)
Here are some Facts:-
Close to 27,000 greyhound pups were born in 2008-9, 89% in Ireland. About two thirds of the Irish puppies were bred for the British UK market – so this means about 20,000 puppies were bred for the UK racing market.
Of these 20,000:-
About 10,000 dogs start racing each year (9,000 registered to race at GBGB tracks – about 1.000 at independent tracks);
About1,000 are rehomed by the Retired Greyhound Trust;
About 9,000 “disappear” – i.e. close to half of the puppies born are not surviving to 18 months and racing. In other words, of a typical litter of 6 pups 3 will be dead before 18 months are up..
The racing population is fairly stable – tha total number of greyhounds on racing strength is unknown, but lies somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 (the closures of Walthamstow and Reading did not change the number of fixtures). So the 10,000 new racers replace 10,000 unwanted dogs each year.
Of these 10,000 ceasing to race each year, about two thirds survive:
RGT branches currently rehome about 4,500 dogs each year
Other charities, with their own charity numbers, rehome about 1,500.
Less than 2,000 stay with their owners or trainers, and
Less than 750 return to Ireland for breeding or probably death.
So , overall, of a typical litter of 6 pups, 2 will reach stable retirement at approx. 3-4 years. A greyhound’s lifespan is about 13 years.
” HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A GREYHOUND PUPPY”
Greyhound racing is the second biggest business for the UK gambling industry – with takings of £2.3 billion pa.
Of this, just over half of one percent (0.60%, about £14m) is given, by the bookies, to the racing industry via a voluntary levy to cover…
welfare, integrity(doping etc), DEVELOPMENT AND PROMOTION OF THE SPORT!!!.
Of the £14, just £3.7m or about one quarter, is assigned to greyhound welfare (of the rest, the prize money fund got £2.7m, marketing got £2.1m, and track improvements £1.6m)
Of the £3.7m for welfare:- £1.7m went to the RGT (the rest funded things like welfare attendance at tracks, racing surface research, the track safety scheme, and the Trainer’s Assistance Fund)
The RGT more than doubled the £1.7m by the addition of £2.1m from branch volunteers’ collections and other donations, making a total RGT income of £3.8m.
It is estimated that non-RGT organisations collect and spend at least £1.6m each year, caring for and rehoming 1,500 greyhounds.
So , it becomes clear that the total spent rehoming greyhounds in the UK is about £5.3m pa – of which less than one third comes from the gambling industry which is the self regulating cause of all this.
How much does it cost to rehome a greyhound? The average is about £900 per dog – including the RGT average of £830 per dog and the most efficient rehomers, Greyhound Rescue West of England at £450 per dog.
All the welfare groups were asking for from the Bill was an end to self-regulation and an independent body to take over licensing and scrutiny. Lord Lipsey, who has led the field for the industry, argues that Local Authorities wouldn’t have the necessary expertise to inspect trainers’ kennels but I would argue that the standards for Local Authority boarding kennels are well above those used by some trainers and that’s the real fear of the industry.
He was quoted in the Racing Post in June2004, while he was Chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board, saying “If the industry does not continue to improve welfare standards it will be imperilling its own future”
On the 24th August 2005 he made it clear to a working committee, set up by DEFRA to consider rules for the welfare of the dogs, that profit came well before welfare and that any rules they might have in mind would be “aspirational” And I think we all know what that means.
He has also claimed that 99.09% or it may even have been 99.99% of owners love their dogs.