THE LONELINESS OF BLACK GREYHOUNDS: REFLECTIONS UPON RETURNING FROM IRELAND
There are some dogs in Europe which are systematically bred, exploited and then killed in silence, amidst the general indifference and ignorance about their situation: they are Irish greyhounds.
Every year at least 10,000 of them end up underground or God knows where, after having been killed in silence, maybe by a blow to the head. Hundreds more end their lives in dog pounds, where for 30 euros a head greyhounds end their lives in a few hours, without the outcry evoked by the Spanish kill stations, the perreras. There aren’t a lot of them, these ‘lucky ones’, about 500 a year, and that’s because it costs the enormous sum of 30 euro to euthanise a dog in a pound. A bullet costs a lot less.
If you try touring Europe with greyhounds, you will not find anyone who says “oh, they are the dogs that are abused and killed in Ireland”, but they might say “oh, they’re galgos, the dogs that are abused and killed in Spain”.
Irish greyhounds live in the solitude of a cage and die in the solitude of indifference and ignorance about their situation. And that is not only the fault of the Irish greyhound racing industry, which is very good at avoiding that what happens in Ireland becomes known. In my view, it is also the fault of the many – too many – European rehoming groups who are completely uninterested in the situation of Irish greyhounds, or spread inaccuracies about them.
A small percentage of these dogs manages to survive and ends up in rehoming circles. And that’s where the solitude continues for some of them: the black ones. And if they are getting on just a little in years their situation is even more difficult. Because – let’s be honest here – most people looking to adopt a greyhound don’t want them.
Most people (in Europe) want galgos: because galgos are better known, because according to mistaken clichés galgos are ‘easier’, because it suits the rehoming groups, because it is less difficult and less costly to rescue them, because they are ‘better looking’ and more photogenic.
Black greyhounds when they are living (in kennels outside) in Ireland have an awful looking kennel coat, which is a kind of brownish grey that doesn’t do them any favours in photographs. To appreciate them one has to get to know them, have one at home, and be able to see what splendid companions they will become in time, even more so if they are no longer very young.
The truth is that most people who adopt greyhounds prefer the pretty and photogenic young ones, so let’s not pretend that’s not the case.
I’m not saying that in a judgemental way, I am not sorry if a pretty young dog gets adopted. But I am sorry and sad because I saw some truly fabulous dogs in Ireland, whose only fault was to have the wrong colour coat and a few extra years on their shoulders, and because of that they will be the last to be adopted. Which is what happened to Tilly, one of the best dogs I have seen in recent years.
Black greyhounds and older greyhounds are often alone, even when they have been rescued. This is what has stayed with me from my latest trip to Ireland.
By Massimo Greco
Translated by Isobel Deeley