Lisa Morris should be replaced at the CEO of the Greyhound Trust – but she should not be hounded out of her job by social media.
In addition – the Greyhound Trust trustees should consider root and branch changes to the model in which the organisation operates – writes Floyd Amphlett.
Those are the views of Kinsley promoter John Curran, a man immersed in greyhound industry administration until his retirement as a GBGB and BGRF director 15 months ago.
Mrs Morris has been under fire from various sections of the industry following the publication of the ‘February Fundraiser’ leaflet which proclaimed that the racing life of a greyhound was at best mundane, and at worst cruel.
Following complaints from various individuals and organisations, including the Greyhound Board of Great Britain and the Racecourse Promoters Association, the Trust Chairman Steve Dean issued an apology with an assurance that a similar tone would not be considered in future.
Meanwhile, a number of details claims have emerged on Twitter relating to Mrs Morris’ private life.
Curran feels strongly that whatever his views on Mrs Morris’ role at Greyhound Trust, he abhors trial by social media.
He said: “Myself and my family were subject to intimidation and lies on a particular website, as have various members of the Greyhound Board. It is disgraceful.
“I am aware of the allegations being made about Lisa Morris and it is up to the Trust to consider their validity. But nobody deserves this, and as an industry we should be above it. We are better than that.”
Curran believes that a series of decisions made by the Trust, including rebranding (losing ‘Retired’ from its title), the decision to build an expensive retirement kennel in Sussex and a general distancing itself from the racing industry, is a huge mistake.
Curran said: “I have met Lisa Morris on numerous occasions and in my opinion she is very bright and committed. However, I don’t think she is the right person to do the job that is necessary.
“She refuses to, or seems unable to, engage with the homefinders and they are absolutely vital to our welfare ambitions.
“I have spoken to many who simply will not deal with Lisa. She has alienated so many people and that can only damage the organisation.
“I know from personal experience that not all the homefinders are pro greyhound racing. But whatever their reservations, they always put the greyhound’s welfare first. They are fantastic.”
Last year Kinsley homefinding scheme found homes for 262 greyhounds at an average of £350 each.
In 2016, the last year for which an annual report is available on-line, the Greyhound Trust 3,811 greyhounds at a cost of £3.634m (Roughly £953 per dog).
So why the difference?
Curran said: “The Greyhound Trust model is based on keeping dogs in kennels and then not having enough money to do it.
“In some cases, kennels are paid a set amount, then they are told that the daily rate is being reduced or that they have to keep other dogs and not charge for them. No wonder there is resentment.
“You also have dogs sitting in kennels for months, either with the trainer, because they are on a waiting list, or in holding kennels waiting to be re-homed. That model just doesn’t work.
“Our waiting list is often non-existent or at most, four weeks.”
So how does the Kinsley funding work?
Curran said: We work to a figure of £350, of which the trainer is expected to contribute £130 which we will take at a rate of £10 per run for 13 races. So, for example, if a dog was to get injured after ten races, the trainer still has to pay, but it would only be £30.
“The rest of the money is paid by the track, either through fund raisers such as raffles, or from the money that has come in from streaming.
“Within the cost of £200, we pay for the neutering and any dental work that is necessary.
“It also includes a kennel coat and walking out cost, food bowl, lead and muzzle, plus any inoculations or veterinary treatment.
“When the dog leaves, the homefinder is paid £150 for every dog towards re-homing costs.
“They rehomed all our dogs last year, and could take even more than we have available.
“For example, we were aware that we had a few dogs on the strength who weren’t even capable of grading any longer. But the owners were quite happy to keep taking the £30 prize money.
“So I sat down with the racing manager and we wrote a list of those dogs who we didn’t think should still be racing and advised the owners to retrial them.
“If they didn’t do grading time, there was a home waiting for them. Sure enough we had another seven for re-homing.
We even had one dog who was still running well at six years old, but I said to the owner, ‘we’ve had a request from the homefinders for a slightly older dog’ and he signed him over.
“We have also just had a litter of four British bred pups who were too slow to grade. In the old days, they might have been euthanased, but they were GBGB registered and we re-homed them even though they never raced.”
Whatever Curran’s reservations about the Greyhound Trust, he conceded that the industry cannot operate without it.
He said: “The Trust was run by greyhound people such as Ivor Stocker and Peter Laurie, but starting with Andrew Higgins, they began to distance themselves from greyhound racing.
“We know that they needed to become better fund raisers, but they have lost so many good dedicated people.
“The Trust is critical to greyhound welfare, but they have to change and become more efficient.
“The bookmakers have just agreed to pay the off-shore money and the Trust were first in line looking for more funding for their grand kennel scheme.
“That is all very well – but they never actually re-home any more dogs for their extra funding.
“I wouldn’t want to take money away from them. Keep giving them the £1.4m, but then say, ‘if you want more, you will be paid £400 for every extra dog you re-home. We hope you re-home another thousand’.