Valentine’s Day 2019 will mark a very special occasion for the three greyhounds, travelling to the UK from Macau, where they were saved from certain death.
For one of the greyhounds onboard the flight into Heathrow, the date is especially poignant as it will be her fifth birthday, and the first one spent outside of Macau’s notorious Canidrome stadium.
The closure of the Canidrome in Macau, China, in July 2018 was a huge step forward for animal welfare worldwide. The greyhound racing stadium had become notorious for its ill-treatment of the animals that lived and raced there. No greyhound that entered the Macau Canidrome came out alive, and they suffered abuse, neglect, exploitation and injury.
However, when the track closed up to 650 greyhounds were left inside. With no rehoming mechanism in place for these animals it was an unprecedented situation that required a worldwide response. Dog rescue charities around the world have pledged to the help these animals, and the Asian organisation ANIMA has been caring for the dogs locally and preparing them for new homes around the globe.
Three of the rescued greyhounds will be travelling to the UK and into the care of Forever Hounds Trust, a greyhound and lurcher rescue and rehoming charity with more than 20 years’ experience working with greyhounds that have left the racing industry.
The dogs, originally called Lamma Goit, Oyster Credit and Bound Lil have been renamed Valentina, Oyster and Amore by Forever Hounds Trust, in a nod to the date of their arrival in the UK. They will all be found loving homes, where they can live out the rest of their days as a cherished pet.
It’s a life that will be very different to what they have known so far. All three dogs were bred in Australia before being exported to Macau where they have known nothing but life inside the Canidrome. Kept in small kennels with no bedding, no exercise other than racing and no companionship, the greyhounds have led a miserable existence up to now.
But, it could be argued that they are the lucky ones. Most of the greyhounds that raced in the Canidrome lost their lives there. Dogs that didn’t place within the top three in five consecutive races were killed. Dogs that suffered an injury on the treacherous track also died. Female dogs may have been kept as brood bitches, but their existence remained pitiful.
During its time in operation, around 120 dogs took part in 16 races, five days a week inside the Macau Canidrome, which first opened in the 1960s. This required a significant number of dogs being imported to satisfy the demands of the racing industry there. For many years the majority of these dogs came from Australia. However, following a shocking report on greyhound racing in Asia, the shipment of greyhounds to Macau from Australia stopped and the Canidrome soon looked to other countries to source their animals.
In March and April of 2016, the issue of greyhounds in Macau hit the UK news headlines, when nine young greyhounds from Ireland arrived in Macau, destined for the Canidrome after being exported by their unscrupulous owners. In May of 2016 a further 24 dogs destined for Macau were turned away from Heathrow after their flight crates were deemed to be unsafe for travel.
Increased awareness of the plight of greyhounds in Macau added to the calls for reform, and animal rights groups successfully lobbied for the closure of the Canidrome on 21st July 2018.
It left the lives of the dogs remaining inside the stadium in jeopardy. Local animal welfare group ANIMA stepped in to care for the animals while rescue organisations around the world came together to offer refuge for the greyhounds.
Jan Lake, Chair of Trustees for Forever Hounds Trust, said: “It is highly unusual for us to rescue dogs from overseas, however this is an unprecedented situation which required an unprecedented response. The cost of flying the greyhounds to us has been covered by Yat Yuen, the Canidrome’s former management, and the dogs will have had all the necessary vaccinations, checks and tests before they come to us. This means they will not need any time in quarantine and will start their lives as much-loved pets in the UK as soon as we can find suitable homes for them.”
For Lamma Goit, now known as Valentina, it will be a remarkable birthday. The beautiful blue coloured greyhound has spent her life in the racing industry and is recorded as having raced 113 times over four years, with her last race in June 2018.
Her travelling companion Bound Lil, now Amore, will also celebrate a birthday soon after arriving. He will turn seven years old on the 17th February. Amore has famous heritage, with his grandfather being the celebrated stud dog Head Honcho. Having spent more than six years inside the Canidrome, Amore has raced more than 200 times.
Joining them will be Oyster Credit, now known as just Oyster, who at almost ten years old is one of the oldest dogs remaining in the Canidrome. Oyster has been in more than 190 races, but Forever Hounds Trust suspects that she has also been used as a brood bitch as there are gaps in her racing record and her last recorded race was in September 2016.
Jan adds: “We are looking forward to welcoming all three of these hounds to Forever Hounds Trust, where they will know nothing but love, respect and care. We have warm kennels, comfortable beds and good food waiting for them, along with people ready to help them learn about life as a pet, and love them unconditionally.”
Forever Hounds Trust is always looking for permanent and foster homes for rescued greyhounds and lurchers, and will consider all homes. They carefully match their dogs with their new owners to ensure the best fit for individual lifestyles.
If you would like to offer a forever home to one of the rescued dogs from Macau, or to another of the charity’s rescued dogs, please get in touch with them on 03000 111 100, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.foreverhoundstrust.org.
The charity has also set up a fundraising page for anyone who would like to contribute to the costs of preparing the dogs for their forever home. This can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/Macau.