Veteran trainer and charity fund raiser Maurice Newman is asking GBGB to reconsider its decision to phase out the owner trainer licence which is due to end in the new year. The reasons for the cessation are explained here.

As previously reported, the introduction of the licence – to allow a hobby trainer to keep and train up to a couple of greyhounds in their home – has been very successful. However, there have been a number of issues. The most concerning relate to a number of ‘cocaine positives’ attributed to Shawfield owner trainers which attracted expected media attention north of the border.

Of wider concern is the welfare issue relating to the kennels themselves. GBGB report that at a random check of 30 owner trainer premises, in only ten cases were greyhounds living in the house. In other cases there were kept in unsuitable outbuilding, or even on allotments.

From January, GBGB will be implementing a new system for independent kennel checks, which will involve updating dozens of professional trainers kennels, in accordance with agreement with DEFRA. This states that all trainers must comply with a PAS (‘Publicly Available Specification’) on kennel construction. There is no longer a provision for greyhounds to be kept in family homes.

Newman said: “The first point that I want to make is that I am fully behind GBGB in looking to improve the quality of kennels. There are a lot in this industry that were built in the 1950s and before and the prospect of updating them to these standards doesn’t bear thinking about. I understand that the welfarists are on the case, and that GBGB has to be seen to be doing the right thing.

“My point is this. No greyhound will ever have more comfort than living in a family home and I think the sport is losing something when you take that away. I used to have beautiful kennels and now keep the one little bitch for a bit of fun. I knocked my kennels down, and at 85, have no intention of building another one. I am being selfish about this, because it affects me, but it also affects a lot of other people.

“I fully understand that GBGB can’t be seen to stand by if people are keeping greyhounds in old sheds or poor buildings. But there is a simple solution to this – take their licence away. Job done. The steward turns up, sees that the greyhound isn’t being kept in the house, suspend the trainer from that moment onwards. I don’t have any sympathy. But the way GBGB are operating, its like punishing the whole class because one kid is naughty.

“We are going to lose good people from the game; people who can’t have a kennel at home. I have been on RPGTV several times and everyone is on side. I am yet to speak to anyone who thinks what GBGB are doing is right. I am not anti GBGB and I think Mark Bird is doing a great job. But please look at this again.”

(The GBGB are between a rock and a hard place on this. When first flagging this up several weeks ago, I did hope that a solution could be found – if there is a will.

The first deliberate distractor though is the urgent desire ‘for professionalism’. That is betting mentality, not welfare, and was the creed of former NGRC Senior Steward Frank Melville. Eleven times champion trainer Mark Wallis started out as a permit trainer (the previous name for an owner trainer) at Mildenhall. And does anyone want to suggest that old dog men like Maurice Newman aren’t ‘professional’ in their handling of their dogs?

The care of the dogs should be THE only priority and shouldn’t be based on whether you have the space or money to erect a building. It is interesting that when we first canvassed for the concept of owner trainers (remember the petition?), one of the first people to stand up in favour of the scheme was the most highly respected advocate of greyhound welfare, Clarissa Baldwin.

Is it even possible to take a welfare stand on the basis that greyhounds shouldn’t be in houses?

The solution is simple. Take the immediate responsibility away from the stipendiary stewards and place it with the tracks. In the days of permit racing, no villain survived too long. Any racing manager who suspected that a permit trainer was ‘a jockey’ pretending to be the trainer, would simply make an unannounced visit. The same would apply to hounds in homes

Yes it is an additional burden, an hour, maybe once or twice a year, but how badly do you want the dogs . . . and people like Maurice Newman to remain in the sport? – Ed)