THE REALITY OF GREYHOUNDS IN IRELAND
According to some people, racing greyhounds in Ireland are well looked after as they are athletes. The reality is very different.
The number of litters registered in Ireland went up from 3,003 in 2010 to 3,190 in 2013. At an average of about 6.4 puppies per litter that means about 20,400 puppies in 2013, by an average conservative estimate. The data as far as Ireland is concerned are never precise due to the reticence of the racing industry, which for instance never registers single puppies but whole litters.
Of these 20,400 greyhounds, 6,203 were registered for racing in the UK, also in 2013. The number of Irish greyhounds used overall in the UK has diminished as there were 7,640 in 2006, but the percentages (of Irish dogs racing in the UK) have gone up from 76% in 2006 to 83% in 2013.
The number of greyhounds registered for the Irish racing industry in 2013 was 4,280.
Also in 2013, the number of greyhounds killed in Irish pounds was 427.
The number of dogs rehomed through the industry’s rehoming programme (the Irish RGT) was little more than 420, much less than the 680 declared in 2011.
So let’s look at the maths: 20,400 puppies born in 2013, less 6,203 registered in the UK, less 4,280 in Ireland, less 427 killed in Irish pounds, less a handful of dogs adopted outside of the industry, amounts to about 9,000 greyhounds which have DISAPPEARED INTO NOTHINGNESS, swallowed up by the darkness. But one would need to add even more dogs to this figure: those coming out of racing that are replaced by those coming in. So if the number of dogs racing stays more or less the same we should calculate about another 4,000 more dogs.
We can realistically assume the rate of exchange of racing dogs to be about 50% a year, given that the average duration of a dog’s racing career can be estimated at around 2 years. So around 2,000 and not 4,000 dogs go into racing and around 2,000 and not 4,000 come out, but the balance stays the same: about 4,000 more dogs unaccounted for. So that’s around 13,000 greyhounds just VANISHED INTO THIN AIR in Ireland in 2013.
As one can see from the data (but not only), despite the recession litters upon litters are still being churned out, but the number of greyhounds that the industry is able to rehome has actually diminished. The industry rehomes about 5% of the greyhounds that are bred each year. A paltry amount. This is because the rehoming programme is financed via income from winnings, so a lessening of profits generates a lessening of adoptions.
Many dogs continue to get seriously injured on the tracks and this generally implies that they will be put to sleep, even if they could be treated.
Irish Greyhound Spotlight followed 144 dogs racing in the Saturday evening races in Ireland from February to March 2014: of these, 36 stopped racing due to injuries.
At the Drumbo Park track in Northern Ireland, 4 greyhounds were destroyed in one night. (http://greytexploitations.com/resources-and-reports/4-dogs-destroyed-at-drumbo-park-in-one-night)
What happens to the greyhounds that disappear? The discovery of the decomposing corpses of greyhounds found near Limerick in April 2012 and Kilcorkey in May 2013 gives some idea. Other greyhounds are abandoned with their ears mutilated, which is what happened to Norman in Northern Ireland, (http://greytexploitations.com/resources-and-reports/norman-brutally-mutilated-and-dumped) or abandoned in appalling conditions like Tamara, a four year old greyhound rescued by Limerick Animal Welfare.
A recent report by the League Against Cruel Sports and GREY2K USA Worldwide revealed that Dublin University acquired and killed a total of 212 grehounds over the course of 6 years.
What happened to the greyhounds found in Limerick is symbolic of the failure of the supposed welfare policies of the industry. The racing industry in Ireland is self regulated, in other words it marches to its own drum, thanks to the Greyhound Welfare Act of 2011. The dogs’ ear tattoos (the barbaric custom of a self regulated industry which does not use microchips) were traced back to one John Corkery, owner of two dogs, who declared he had given the dogs to someone else who he refused to name, to get rid of them. John Corkery was fined the paltry sum of 800 euro (!) for having omitted to declare the change of ownership.
How do the remaining greyhounds, these pampered ‘athletes’, spend their time?
Deprived of the opportunity to play as pups, often kept caged and muzzled nearly all day, trained for racing but deprived of everything else.
Greyhounds in Ireland are the cogs of the industry and are classified as ‘agricultural goods’, like tractors. But whereas when a tractor breaks down it is convenient to repair it, that is not the case with a greyhound who is no longer competing well. It’s a lot cheaper to get rid of him. The industry speaks of wefare, but as long as greyhounds are considered objects it is pointless to speak of welfare, as well as unrealistic.
This is the real situation of greyhounds in Ireland. It is an appalling situation, the responsibility for which lies specifically with all the breeders, the trainers, the owners, the punters – i.e. the industry run by the IGB, the Irish Greyhound Board.By Massimo Greco Translated by Isobel Deeley