Almost 1,000 racing greyhounds died or were killed last year, prompting calls for an end to the sport in the UK.
New figures released by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain show hundreds of dogs were ‘put to sleep’ in 2018 alone for various reasons, including the high cost of medical treatment.
Part of an initiative to help improve welfare standards in greyhound racing, the figures have caused outrage among animal welfare charities who believe the sport cannot be reformed.
Other reasons greyhounds were put down last year include the absence of a ‘viable option away from the racecourse,’ and a failure to find a suitable home for some dogs.
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) recognised these were ‘avoidable and unnecessary deaths’ and pledged to eradicate them from the sport.
In what the organisation calls ‘The Greyhound Commitment,’ the GBGB promised to provide ‘an honest and accurate assessment of where our sport is doing well and where it needs to do more’.
However, charities say no amount of welfare commitments could reform or address the suffering of thousands of dogs forced to take part in racing.
The figures show nearly 250 greyhounds (242) were put to sleep ‘on humane grounds’ at the side of the tracks last year – a decrease of 15 from the year prior.
A further 175 dogs were put to sleep because of the high cost of medical treatment, while 144 greyhounds were euthanised due to the lack of ‘viable’ options away from the track.
Devastatingly, 195 greyhounds were killed because of a failure to find a suitable home for them after they retired. Seventy-two suffered a ‘sudden death’.
The organisation cites that out of 7,705 GBGB registered dogs that retired from the sport in 2018, 88 per cent were successfully found homed as pets or retained within the sport by owners, trainers, and breeders.
However, of the remaining 12 per cent, the vast majority of greyhounds either died of natural causes or were put to sleep following vets’ advice for ‘legitimate medical reasons’.
As per The Guardian, Trudy Baker, coordinator of Greyt Exploitations, said:
The truth is hundreds of dogs listed as ‘retired’ by the GBGB still remain in a commercial environment, confined to trainers’ kennels that have failed to comply with an agreed British Standard Institute specification, either used for breeding, forced to routinely donate blood or simply awaiting re-homing.
Hundreds more are sold or given away again for breeding, to be raced abroad or on independent tracks, or used for research and dissection.
No amount of ineffective ‘window dressing’ welfare commitments will address the suffering and deaths of thousands of dogs racing on dangerously configured tracks.
This is shocking it is not a sport it is licensed cruelty and it must stop : Charities call for end to greyhound racing after 1,000 deaths in a year https://t.co/ucJpM0WMtd
— Peter Egan (@PeterEgan6) June 16, 2019
— League Westminster (@LeaguePolitical) June 16, 2019
Last week, GBGB pledged to halve the number of greyhounds being put to sleep at the track, because no home was found for them, or because of the high cost of medical treatment – within three years.
Mark Bird, Managing Director of GBGB, said in a statement provided to UNILAD:
This year’s figures are very similar to last year’s giving us further consistent evidence as to where our sport currently is.
It puts to bed, yet again, the myths and lies portrayed as facts by those opposed to our sport and shows that greyhound racing compares favourably not only with racing in other countries but also with horseracing in the UK and elsewhere.
Likewise, the data gives us a very clear picture of where we need to be doing more. We have set ourselves some challenging targets to achieve over the next few years demonstrating our determination to eradicate all avoidable injuries and any unnecessary deaths.
This week we published our first annual update on the Greyhound Commitment. If you haven't already, take a read of the progress we're continuing to make across the industry.
— GBGB (@GreyhoundBoard) June 14, 2019
As charities continue to call for the end of the sport, there has been a sharp decline in the number of people attending – from 34 million attending per year 70 years ago to less than 2 million visitors a year now.
By releasing these figures, GBGB is hoping to be more transparent about the work that’s being done to raise welfare standards across the industry, but animal welfare charities stress this is not enough.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).