57.From the outset of the inquiry we have wanted to shed light on what happens to retired greyhounds that are not recorded as being rehomed by charities. In the absence of conclusive evidence, we cannot confirm there is a significant problem. Neither though, can we demonstrate there is not. The Society of Greyhound Veterinarians identified this issue as their key welfare worry:
“ … by far the greatest single welfare issue of concern in the U.K. greyhound industry is the euthanasia of healthy greyhounds no longer required for racing.”
58.At the moment it is very difficult to track greyhounds bred for racing from birth to death. Recent legislative changes should enable greater certainty over the destiny of dogs in the future. As of April 2016, all dogs in England over the age of eight weeks will have to be microchipped under The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015. Microchipping involves inserting a chip into the dog that contains the owner’s details and a description of the dog’s characteristics. This should improve the traceability of greyhounds.
59.At retirement greyhounds stop being racing animals and transfer to the general pet population. It is key at this point that GBGB verifies the data held on the microchip is accurate. GBGB database information must be compatible with general pet databases, such as the Kennel Club’s, to ensure greyhounds can be accurately tracked in the post racing life. The tracking of greyhounds throughout their lives will provide greater clarity on the question of the ‘unaccounted for dogs’.
60.The introduction of microchipping should significantly improve the tracking of greyhounds bred for racing from birth to death. However, we are conscious that this will require the GBGB database to be compatible with general pet databases.
62.According to GBGB figures there were 14,095 active greyhounds in 2014. The Greyhound Forum, which represents eight major dog charities, estimates that 3,700 of a total 9,000 retired greyhounds go ‘unaccounted’ for each year. The Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) expects to home over 4,000 greyhounds in 2015 and is by far the largest actor in the market, with other charities accounting for around 1,500. We do not have official data on the numbers of greyhounds rehomed each year.
63.Possible destinations at retirement include: rehoming via the RGT; rehoming by other animal charities; adoption into private homes; export to other countries; and euthanasia if the dogs cannot be rehomed owing to temperament or unavailability of places. We accept euthanasia is a possible fate for any animal under human control but believe this must be the last option.
64.Under Rule 18 of the GBGB guidelines, owners are solely responsible for greyhounds at the point of retirement. The decoupling of industry responsibility for greyhound’s post-racing welfare means that industry demand for greyhounds does not take into consideration the cost and number of rehoming placements available in the market. We are not convinced that the current contributions of the industry and the bookmaking sector do enough to support greyhounds. We have been told only one in four rehomed greyhounds is funded by the industry.
65.We accept that some ‘unaccounted’ for dogs will have been euthanised if they are unable to be rehomed because of their temperament, and some will have stayed with their owners, but we recommend that healthy dogs should wherever possible be found homes at the end of their racing careers.
66.Evidence from voluntary rehoming charities shows a marked increase in expense for rehoming greyhounds in recent years. This has been linked to contraction in the homing market and increased veterinary bills owing to the number of dogs arriving with health problems. These problems include partial or absent vaccination records or poor dental conditions. Dental health problems appear to be particularly prevalent in all greyhounds. According to one witness, 14% of the total welfare payments from the industry to the Retired Greyhound Trust is spent on repair of dental disease.
67.We were told by track veterinarians that the industry was not seen as a desirable area to work in and that there were limited opportunities for training and development. We believe the industry should consider funding professional development courses for track veterinarians to ensure best practice is updated and disseminated.
69.A contracting homing market combined with static industry demand for dogs means more greyhounds are unable to be rehomed and may face being destroyed. A radical approach to the issue of rehoming and oversupply of dogs has been suggested by the League Against Cruel Sports:
“A statutory requirement for tracks, trainers and owners to rehome all greyhounds … the mandatory rehoming of dogs should be a requirement of track licences.”
70.We agree with the underlying premise of this statement, that tracks should make greater financial contributions to rehoming dogs, but recognise that privately owned dogs are the responsibility of their owners.
71.Given improvements at the track linked to recent regulation, the fate of retiring greyhounds that cannot be rehomed is our greatest area of welfare concern. The industry must be transparent about the destiny of retired racers. If the data shows healthy dogs are being put down on a large scale, greater financial support for rehoming activities must be provided.
72.We recommend that data on rehoming is made available and that GBGB consider linking track licences to the operation of effective rehoming schemes or financial provisions to rehoming charities of an equal value.
37 Society Of Greyhound Veterinarians () para 3.5
38 Similar guidelines will come into force in Scotland, and Wales, , at the same time. Microchipping has been mandatory in Northern Ireland since 2012,
39 Greyhound Forum () para 4.i
40 Q 30 [Professor Dean], Greyhound Forum () para 4.i
41 Q 30 [Mrs. Baldwin]
42 Costs associated with rehoming have increase by 70% from 2012–2014 (£483 to £818) for the Greyhound Rescue West of England with similar trends observable in other rehoming charities evidence. Greyhound Rescue West of England () para 7.5
43 Q 84 [Dr. Bentall]
44 Q 71 [Dr. Adams], Q 75 [Dr. Bentall]
45 League Against Cruel Sports ()
Prepared 22 February 2016