Scottish SPCA backs Scottish Animal Welfare Commission report on greyhound racing

Gilly Mendes Ferreira (Scottish SPCA)

THE SCOTTISH SPCA reiterates calls for an end to greyhound racing following the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) report out on 8 March, reinforcing the charity’s stance that Scotland needs to lead the way in the UK.

The report assesses the welfare of greyhounds used for racing in Scotland and the potential for welfare harms or benefits to be experienced by dogs from birth, through training, racing and into retirement.

The Society endorses the recommendations in the report calling for independent veterinary attendance at every greyhound race to minimise unnecessary suffering in the event of an injury and that vet having the power to prevent a dog racing if deemed unfit. SAWC also strongly recommends against any future development of greyhound racing tracks in Scotland.

Greyhound racing was once a prevalent industry in Scotland. However, due to cultural changes and shifts in public attitude towards animals, Shawfield Stadium, which did not reopen after the pandemic and plans to demolish the stadium have been raised, is now the only remaining licensed venue in Scotland for greyhound racing. Greyhound races are also held at the unlicensed ‘flapper’ track at Thornton Stadium in Fife.

Last April, the Scottish SPCA called for an outright ban on greyhound racing. There had been 15 deaths and 197 injuries to greyhounds at Shawfield between 2017 and 2020. As an unlicensed track, there is no idea how many dogs have suffered an injury – or worse – at Thornton.

The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) figures suggest that in 2021 there were just more than 18,000 greyhounds eligible to race in the UK on GBGB-licensed tracks, with 6,700 new registrations that year, but the number of these dogs based in Scotland is unclear. GBGB confirms that there are 26 licensed trainers operating in Scotland, with varying numbers of dogs per trainer.

Whilst at Thornton Stadium it was confirmed that two serious injuries had occurred in that previous year, with one fatality. With 20-30 dogs running per race meet, typically one night of racing per week, at Thornton (based on 4-6 dogs per race, five races per meet – as observed by SAWC and confirmed by Thornton).

Thornton’s own figures shared with SAWC showed 569 dog runs, two serious injuries, one fatality: 0.35% injury risk per dog per run; 0.176% fatality risk per dog per run.

The main concerns for the welfare of greyhounds, when racing, is the risk of serious injury, which in some cases results in euthanasia. This is particularly exacerbated by the way racing is undertaken, around a curved track, which increases the risk of collision and stress damage particularly at the first bend in the track. SAWC has no robust data on injuries from racing in Scotland, but equally has no reason to believe that the risks are any different/lesser in Scotland from elsewhere in the UK.

There is also a wide range of issues that can impact on the welfare of racing greyhounds, including the conditions under which dogs are bred, reared, trained, raced, retired, and end-of-life care. Also of relevance are the welfare of the parent animals, the loss of dogs that might be bred to race but never do so, and transport of dogs between breeders, trainers and to and from races.

Director of Innovation and Strategic Relations Gilly Mendes Ferreira, said: “Though the Scottish SPCA supports a phased end to greyhound racing in Scotland, we are pleased with the SAWC report and the analysis and research it contains for evidence regarding greyhound racing.

“We are hopeful that this report will be supported by the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee during its next meeting in Holyrood on 15 March and will lead to a phased end to this outdated industry.

“The lack of veterinary presence at Thornton is of great concern, as is the lack of a requirement to record data around injuries or deaths at unlicensed tracks, though we do appreciate that Thornton cooperated fully with SAWC during the report.

“The Scottish SPCA will be on hand to take in and rehome any greyhounds involved in the industry should they not be required to race any longer. This also applies should a phased ban be introduced.

“Our stance is still that Scotland needs to lead the way in the UK and put animal welfare first by implementing a full ban on the industry.”

Mark Bird, CEO of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), said:

“Despite engaging fully and transparently with the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission’s (SAWC) research, we are disappointed by some of their conclusions, which depend on the unproven testimony of certain animal welfare charities and the lobbying campaign funded by American activists.

“We share a common goal with SAWC of protecting and promoting greyhound welfare in Scotland. But we are clear that strong and effective regulation is the only way to do this successfully and have therefore been working with Holyrood officials to support Scotland’s one unregulated track to be licensed.

“Under our remit, racing greyhounds receive far more protection than domestic dogs. We have over 200 Rules governing those within the sport, including the requirement that a veterinary surgeon is present before, during and after any racing, and setting strict standards on the care of greyhounds at tracks, during transportation and at home in their trainers’ residential kennels. SAWC has been bounced by the animal rights lobbyists to conclude that domestic dogs already have better welfare protection than this, but this is clearly untrue, and it is frustrating that they have fallen foul of the activists’ agenda.

“Those groups who have campaigned against the sport in Scotland have continued to propagate misleading, inaccurate and unevidenced facts about the regulated sector of the sport. This has been supported by significant funding from animal activists Grey2K USA – something which should concern everyone who believes policy and politics should be dictated by those who live here.

“We are disappointed that this activism has influenced SAWC’s ultimate report, in which anecdote has been prioritised over data, accuracy and transparency. We will, however, continue to engage with members and officials in Holyrood to support greater regulation, as what we know to be in the best interests of racing greyhounds.”

The full Scottish Animal Welfare Commission Report on the Welfare of Greyhounds used for racing in Scotland can be found here.

If anyone is concerned about the welfare of a racing greyhound, or any animal, they can contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

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