Forever Hounds Trust actively contributes to the improvement of greyhound welfare from birth until their racing days are over. Forever Hounds Trust works hard to improve the welfare of greyhounds during their racing careers and crucially, on retirement from racing. We strive to ensure that all racing greyhounds are responsibly rehomed when they are no longer used for racing.
Around 9,000 greyhounds begin their racing careers at a licensed Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) track in the UK every year. The GBGB is the governing body for the sport. In addition to these tracks, dogs also race at ‘flapping tracks’, which are licensed and regulated by the local authority. The vast majority (80%) of greyhounds which race on GBGB and independent tracks are bred and trained in Ireland. These dogs are sold at Greyhound Sales and then transported to the UK for racing.
The average age of a greyhound upon retirement from racing is about 3 ½ years, after competing in around 50 races. Greyhounds live to approximately 12-14 years of age.
Ireland is the main exporter of greyhounds to the UK. Around 20,000 puppies are bred in Ireland every year. Many thousands of young greyhounds never even make it to the track, either because they are not fast enough or because they do not have the chase instinct. Many of these young dogs are simply destroyed as they are deemed not suitable for racing. In addition approximately 90% of retired racing greyhounds in Ireland are destroyed at the end of their racing career at only 3-4 years old.
Forever Hounds Trust, in association with Greyhound Rescue Wales, set up Greyhound Rescue Association Ireland – an organisation which brings together Irish animal rescue and rehoming groups to work as one association to lobby for better welfare conditions for racing greyhounds and to promote greyhounds as pets for adoption in Ireland, with the aim of reducing the number of dogs which are destroyed in this country.
Kennels and Travel
Racing greyhounds are generally kept in the most economical way possible, sometimes leading to the dog’s welfare being compromised. Many are kept kennelled for long periods of time per day little or no opportunity for play or to socialise.
Racing greyhounds often make a large number of journeys, travelling to and from the stadiums and over long distances, such as between Ireland and the UK/Europe. Often a number of dogs are transported at any one time. The Welfare of Animals during Transport Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 applies to greyhounds being transported for economic gain; however this legislation is not widely promoted and does not set out specific welfare requirements for greyhounds during transportation such as cage size.
The use of performance drugs either to improve performance or mask pain from an injury, so that a greyhound can continue racing, is an ongoing problem in greyhound racing. The GBGB undertake random sampling of racing greyhounds approx one in every sixty; however, no such sampling takes place on independent tracks. Under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) it is illegal to administer a poisonous or injurious drug or substance to an animal.
Greyhound racing can result in injuries to the dogs, in particular to their hocks and wrists. It is estimated that over 900 greyhounds are euthanised every year on GBGB and independent tracks due to injury at the track, either for humane or economic reasons.
Approximately 9,000 greyhounds retire from racing each year in the UK from GBGB tracks and around 2,000 from flapping tracks. Responsible owners/trainers will keep their dogs as pets or find them a home either independently or through a rehoming organisation such as Forever Hounds Trust or the Retired Greyhound Trust. While some dogs are kept for breeding others which have retired from racing on GBGB tracks are sold on to race on the flapping tracks.
It is estimated that approximately 3,000 – 4,000 greyhounds in the UK and 7,000 greyhounds in Ireland seemingly disappear without a trace every year, and they are presumed destroyed. Over recent years Forever Hounds Trust has also experienced a new trend developing which sees retired greyhounds given away in free ads. As a result dogs are taken in without a home check/vetting process and in some cases given away to unsuitable homes.
Regulations were introduced in 2010 to protect the welfare of greyhounds. While the regulations did bring some improvements in terms of welfare at the track they did not address many welfare issues related to breeding, training, kennelling, transportation and retirement of racing greyhounds. These regulations are being reviewed in 2015 and Forever Hounds Trust is actively involved in contributing to the discussion surrounding this.
Find out about lurcher welfare here.