A year after publishing its first injury and euthanasia figures for racing greyhounds under its control, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain will be quietly satisfied that it is making meaningful, if not yet, substantial progress.
When the first figures were released in March 2018, the general consensus was that the figures were not as bad as anticipated with 87% of greyhounds re-homed. The industry knew that the ‘tens of thousands destroyed’ myth was absurd, at last there were concrete numbers to deal with.
Inevitably, the ‘anti racing’ lobby began to focus on the dogs who were destroyed, including the 257 ‘trackside euthanasias’ and the 348 who were destroyed because no suitable home could be found.
Fifteen months on though and the industry was braced for bad news.
- Had the Board made a special but unrepeatable effort to get as many ex-racers into homes for their inaugural report?
- What would be the effect of the significant increase in the number of races/meetings caused by the media rights issue?
- How badly would last summer’s unprecedented spell or warm weather with an alleged spike in injuries affect the overall figure?
In fact, the Board’s report is revealed to be largely very good news. As can be read below, the percentage of greyhounds re-homed has increased, the number euthanased has declined, and although the injury stats is marginally higher, the injury data only fluctuated by 0.01%.
The Board’s framework for improving welfare standards is called the Greyhound Commitment. It is now fully operational, though progress will inevitably take time.
Firstly, there has been a shortage of funding to fully implement some of the ideas, a situation which will have eased marginally following an agreement from more bookmakers to contribute to the BGRF from their on-line trade.
Secondly, the benefits of many of the plans will take years to build and produce significant and measurable improvements.
Nevertheless, this is a positive report, and has been acknowledged as such by Government – see below.
Floyd Amphlett (editor)
The GBGB Injury and Rehoming Report for 2018
Today, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) is setting out the progress that has been made in meeting the Greyhound Commitment.
The Commitment, which was launched just over a year ago, sets out GBGB’s expectations of how the sport should be run with greyhound welfare at its heart. It has been welcomed across the industry and has become the sport’s manifesto for improving welfare standards further.
As part of the Commitment, GBGB has introduced a number of initiatives over the past year which are already having an impact on welfare standards. Initiatives include:
- The Injury Recovery Scheme (IRS) which provides funding to help owners meet the costs of veterinary treatment for orthopaedic injuries. Through IRS funding more dogs are able to go on and enjoy a full and active life in retirement;
- The Animal Care and Welfare Assistant Apprenticeship which seeks to train the next generation of people entering the sport as well as upskilling those already working within the industry. The Apprenticeship, developed alongside other prominent animal welfare organisations, teaches the ‘gold standard’ for caring and raising racing greyhounds;
- Holding national training conferences for track vets and trainers, to share the latest veterinary research and best practice guidance;
- A Greyhound Ambassador Scheme to actively support and promote both racing and the successful retirement of greyhounds;
- Launching a new Welfare Hotline so that anyone concerned about the welfare of registered racing greyhounds can report information anonymously;
- Working with the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), the world’s leading sports surface consultants, to ensure greyhounds are racing on the safest possible surfaces.
Talking about the progress which has been made in meeting each of the eight commitments, Mark Bird, Managing Director of GBGB, said: ““Whilst greyhound welfare has always been at the foremost of our sport, the Commitment was the first time we had publicly set out the various ways in which everyone across the sport safeguards the health, wellbeing and happiness of our greyhounds.
“The Commitment has very quickly become the blueprint for the way this sport is run and while it was launched by GBGB, it is clear that the whole industry has thrown its weight behind it. We have been pleased by the enthusiasm across the sport and for the partnership and support of welfare charities in taking it forward.”
As part of their first annual update on the Commitment, GBGB is releasing the 2018 injury and retirement figures for the sport.
Headline figures from the data, which has been independently verified, are:
- In 2018, there were 426,139 runs; the racing injury rate was 1.16% which is consistent with last year’s figure of 1.15%;
- 242 dogs suffered racing fatalities – down from 257 last year; this is a fatality rate of 0.06%;
- Over the year, 88% of retiring greyhounds were successfully found new homes by their owners, trainers or charities or were retained within the sport by owners, trainers and breeders (up from 87% in 2017); of the remaining 12%, the vast majority of greyhounds either died of natural causes or were put to sleep following vets’ advice for legitimate medical or welfare reasons;
- 324 dogs were unfortunately put to sleep because no suitable home could be found for them or because there was no viable alternative – such as because of the high cost of medical treatment. Overall this number is fewer than last year but GBGB still considers these to be avoidable and unnecessary deaths and wants to eradicate them from the sport.
Alongside the release of the data, GBGB is announcing ambitious but realistic targets to improve injury and retirement figures further within the next five years. These are:
- To halve the number of greyhounds being put to sleep on humane grounds at the track due to injuries within three years;
- To halve the number of greyhounds being put to sleep because either no home was found for them or on economic grounds in three years – with the ultimate aim of bringing this down to zero.
GBGB has also pledged to further its work with welfare charity partners to establish assessment protocol for those dogs deemed unsuitable for homing and will be embarking on a collaborative project with Dogs Trust to explore ways of better preparing greyhounds to join their forever homes. Through this work, it is hoped that more dogs will be found suitable homes in retirement.
To achieve these targets, GBGB has today announced a new raft of measures aimed at safeguarding welfare standards further. These include:
- Publishing an evidence-based policy for Racing in Weather Extremes;
- Reviewing the role of Welfare Officers;
- Launching a Code of Practice for all trainers and kennelhands for residential kennels;
- Publishing an Owners’ Charter and introducing Owners’ contracts to ensure the needs of greyhounds always come first;
- Conducting a Trainers’ Licensing Review.
Commenting on the data, Mark Bird said: “This year’s fgures 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 horse racing in the UK and elsewhere.
“Likewise the data gives us a very clear picture of where we need to be doing more so that we can eradicate any unnecessary injuries for our dogs and ensure that, throughout their racing lives and through retirement, every greyhound is treated as we would hope and respect. Whilst the key initiatives launched since last April have not yet had sufficient time to demonstrate as significant impact on the 2018 figures, we are confident that this will be evident by the time of the data release.
“We have set ourselves some interesting targets to achieved over the next few years demonstrating our determination to eradicate all avoidable injuries and any unnecessary deaths. To achieve this however, not only requires the commitment of everyone in the sport but also the availability of adequate and sustainable funding that allows welfare to flourish. Whilst we have made some good progress this year in terms of securing a contribution from the bookmakers of a small proportion of their online income, it is not secure for the long term.”
Jeremy Cooper, Chair of GBGB said: “GBGB should be proud of how much has been achieved in the first year of the Commitment. It is clear that improving welfare standards ever further is the driving force behind everyone in the sport. There is no complacency whatsoever in this year’s data and, as a Board, we have every confidence that everyone working in the sport will come together to meet the ambitious targets launched today.”
Speaking on behalf of the Government, Animal Welfare Minister David Rutley said: “Transparency is key to understanding how we can improve welfare standards, which is why I welcome this data for the second year running. Although it is too early to talk about trends, clearly there is still more to do.
“We want more greyhounds to find new homes and to enjoy a healthy retirement when they leave the sport. I welcome today’s commitment by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain to make this a reality for more of these animals.”
The Greyhound Commitment: The First Year is available on the GBGB website, alongside the full 2018 data: www.gbgb.org.uk