By Emma Butler
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) has released their annual injury and retirement data for 2019, and despite their claims that “significant progress” has been made, the data makes for unhappy reading for anyone who truly prioritises greyhound welfare.
The data shows:
- An INCREASE in the number of dogs injured compared to the previous year. This is despite fewer ‘dog runs’. Which means that even though there were fewer dogs racing, more were injured.
- 4,970 dogs suffered an injury on a GBGB track in 2019.
- 710 dogs died. Of these, 207 died at the track and 83 because they were ‘unsuitable for homing’.
The ‘retirement’ data is even more worrying due to its total lack of transparency. It is measured as a percentage against ‘total dog runs’ which is completely meaningless. The number of dog runs in any given year isn’t relevant to how many leave the industry and what happens to them. This data doesn’t even tell us how many active racing dogs there are. All the ‘retirement’ data tells us is that the GBGB are aware of 6,460 live dogs leaving the GBGB registered tracks. How many are missing?
The categorization of this data also lacks transparency. It records 280 dogs as ‘retiring’ for breeding or independent racing. Which means these dogs aren’t ‘retiring’ at all – they are merely being used for alternative purposes. Either to produce more greyhounds for the racing industry or to run on unregistered or ‘flapping’ tracks.
In addition, 679 dogs are listed as ‘rehomed by owner/trainer’. Where are these dogs rehomed? Could some of these dogs also be on flapping tracks, or exported to other countries? Are some now in Spain or on death row in China?
A further 783 are described as ‘retained by owner/trainer’. For what purpose?
Forever Hounds Trust is a greyhound and lurcher rescue charity. We rescue, rehabilitate and rehome greyhounds, and many of the dogs that come through our doors have previously been raced on GBGB tracks. In the last year, these dogs have come to us after being found straying, found suffering neglect, or severely injured on flapping tracks. Many of the dogs coming to us are in very poor physical health and bear emotional scars too. Where do these dogs appear in this data from the GBGB? We fear that many of them are listed as ‘retired’, giving the impression that they went straight from the track to a cosy sofa in a loving forever home. Yes, for some of them that is the case, but for many more, leaving the regulated tracks is not the ‘retirement’ the GBGB would have us believe.
Looking at the current figures, only 66% of the dogs leaving GBGB racing can be said to actually be leaving the racing industry. These are the dogs listed as going into the care of the Greyhound Trust or other charities. With 10% of the dogs already dead, that leaves a question mark over the actual whereabouts of almost a quarter of the dogs – and that’s just the ones we can see in the data. Given what we said earlier, about the lack of transparency in the data, we can’t know if there are more dogs not accounted for at all.
The GBGB has released a press release celebrating the success of their ‘Injury Recovery Scheme’. In this press release they say the scheme has helped cover the costs of veterinary treatment so that greyhounds can go on to enjoy long and happy retirements. The press release details that, to date over £125,000 has been paid out through the scheme to treat over 400 greyhounds. On the face of it that sounds quite impressive. Until you do the calculations and work out that it means about £312.50 per greyhound.
Now, our own experience tells us that the veterinary costs associated with injured greyhounds usually run to significantly more than that – in fact, an average orthopaedic repair could be ten times that amount. Which is maybe why charities like Forever Hounds Trust are still picking up the vet bills for the greyhound racing industry.
The dogs deserve better and it is time this charade ended and greyhound racing was phased out entirely.