~ Independently verified track injury and retirement data shows that licensed greyhound racing continues to uphold the highest standards of welfare ~
~ Data shows the sport is working hard to combat the challenges of the current cost-of-living and associated homing crises yet is not immune from them ~
~ Figures indicate that without successful welfare initiatives the impact of these crises would be felt much more acutely ~
~ Fatality and injury rates remain consistent with last year, consolidating the significant progress achieved in recent years ~
Today the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), the regulator of licensed greyhound racing, has published its track injury and retirement data for the sport in 2023.  The data is consistent with that of recent years, consolidating the significant progress around welfare that the sport has achieved since the Greyhound Commitment was launched in 2018.
GBGB is required by DEFRA to publish annual injury and retirement data by the end of June the following year.  As part of its commitment to transparency and accountability, the data published by GBGB is independently audited and goes beyond what has been asked for by DEFRA.
Whilst the data shows how licensed greyhound racing is continuing to make good progress on most measures, it shines a light on how the current cost-of-living and much-publicised associated homing crisis are having an impact on the sport.
Most notably, the data for 2023 shows that because there are fewer places available in homing centres, there has been an increase in the number of greyhounds being retained by their owner or trainer.  In 2023, 1,499 greyhounds continued to be looked after by their owner or trainer once their racing career had ended compared to 715 in 2022.  GBGB has commended these trainers and owners for keeping their greyhounds and covering all their feeding, accommodation and any medical costs whilst they wait for a place in a homing centre.  Whilst the greyhounds are no longer registered with GBGB, a team of Stipendiary Stewards and Regional Regulatory Vets check on their welfare during their regular visits to licensed residential kennels.  As such, whilst in their trainers’ care, these greyhounds continue to receive far more protection than domestic pets.
Importantly, the data also shows that without welfare initiatives such as the Greyhound Retirement Scheme (GRS), the number of greyhounds requiring places in homing centres would be much higher because of the national pressures these charities already face due to the cost-of-living crisis.  Through the GRS, homing centres receive a £400 bond (paid for jointly by GBGB and the greyhound’s owner) to cover the costs associated with the greyhound’s stay with them.  Without this funding, homing centres would be able to accept far fewer greyhounds and find loving, forever homes for them.  Since the scheme was launched in 2020, over £4.4 million has been paid to 101 approved homing centres supporting over 11,000 greyhounds.
It is also thanks to the success of the GRS that the number of greyhounds put to sleep because no home could be found is not higher.  After four years with no greyhounds being put to sleep for this reason, six were put to sleep in 2023.  Whilst regrettable, it is clear that the current homing crisis, which is having an impact on all breeds of dog, is affecting licensed racing to a limited degree.  GBGB is committed to bringing this figure back down to zero.
The data published today also shows:
  • The sport is making encouraging progress around track injury rates signalling that the improvements around track safety are beginning to bear fruit:  As part of its long-term welfare strategy, ‘A Good Life for Every Greyhound’, which was launched in 2022, GBGB has focused heavily on improving track safety.  Working closely with track safety experts, STRI, and through the excellent work of its Track Liaison Officer as well as a comprehensive training programme for grounds staff, GBGB is supporting tracks to ensure their racing surfaces are as safe as possible.  Whilst this work is still in its early stages, the data for 2023 shows a slight fall in the track injury rate to 1.16%.  Importantly, the data shows that injuries are becoming less severe with a decrease in long bone injuries (108 hind and fore long bone injuries in 2023 compared to 133 in 2022).  Preventing and minimising track injuries remains a key focus for GBGB which has already commissioned two academic research projects looking at injury detection and prevention.
  • The track fatality rate continues to be low: The track fatality rate continues to be 0.03% – half what it was three years ago when it was 0.06%.  This is due to multiple initiatives including safer racing surfaces and GBGB’s Injury Recovery Scheme (IRS) which provides financial support for the veterinary treatment of injuries sustained at GBGB-licensed tracks.  Since the scheme was launched in 2018, GBGB has paid out over £1.15 million towards veterinary costs.
  • Fewer greyhounds than ever were recorded as being put to sleep for economic reasons:  GBGB has been clear that it finds it unacceptable that greyhounds are put to sleep for economic reasons.  In 2019, GBGB set itself the target to halve – within three years – the number of greyhounds being put down for this reason.  This target was met a year early and GBGB remains committed to bringing the number of dogs being put down for this reason to zero.  It is therefore pleasing that in 2023, the figure reduced further to just six – compared to ten in 2022 and 123 in 2019.  This has been achieved through the success of the GRS and IRS, and, as part of GBGB’s ‘Responsible Homing Policy’ whereby trainers are required to explain why they have not taken up financial support offered through the IRS.
GBGB is very concerned that the number of greyhounds put down because they were considered unsuitable for homing is higher than it should be and this issue has been reviewed by GBGB’s Welfare and Veterinary Standing Committee.  Like any breed of dog, there will always be rare cases where a greyhound is behaviourally unsuited to life in a domestic environment.  For a dog to be put to sleep because they are designated unsuitable for homing, it is essential that a consultation takes place between the attending veterinary surgeon and the individuals who have full knowledge of the greyhound (e.g. their trainer or owner).  Euthanasia may only be carried out following discussions with and on the recommendation of a veterinary surgeon based on the greyhound’s current and potential future quality of life and with the vet abiding by the guidance set out by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.  It should be noted that the figure for 2023 (49) is significantly lower than it was in 2018 and 2019 (where the respective figures were 190 and 83).  However, analysis of the data shows that the number of dogs put down for this reason decreased over the course of 2023 as the result of additional measures and trainer guidance put in place.  GBGB will continue to address this issue as a priority, including through the work on behavioural assessments already being undertaken by Dr Sarah Heath as part of GBGB’s welfare strategy.  The data so far for 2024 indicates that it will be lower.
GBGB continues to implement its wide-ranging welfare strategy which was developed under the leadership of Professor Madeleine Campbell.  Through the strategy, GBGB is focused on driving further improvements to ensure registered greyhounds receive the very best care and attention at every stage of their lives both on and off the track.  To date, this has included enhancing its veterinary resource and expertise through the appointment of a Veterinary Executive and a field force of Regional Regulatory Vets as well as providing more comprehensive advice and guidance for trainers, owners and track staff and undertaking significant work on track safety.
Commenting on the data released today, Mark Bird, Chief Executive of GBGB, said:
“This data once again demonstrates the importance of a licensed sport with key safeguards around welfare and the impetus to continually drive improvements.  It is clear that our sport is not immune to the current cost-of-living and homing crises which are affecting so many charities and homing centres across the country.  Whilst our preference is always for a retired greyhound to move into a loving, forever home as quickly as possible, it is testament to our committed trainers and owners that so many of them are prepared to keep their retired racers and give them the care and attention they deserve, whilst continuing to cover all their costs.  There is no better proof of how seriously people in our sport take their responsibilities to their greyhounds and ensuring they are responsibly homed.
“We can never be complacent when it comes to welfare but it is pleasing that our work around track safety is beginning to show positive results and our many welfare initiatives are limiting the impact of the homing crisis.  We remain focused on delivering our welfare strategy in its entirety and continue to call on the betting industry to fulfil their own responsibilities in helping us meet our welfare ambitions which are vital for the long-term success of our sport.”
Jeremy Cooper, GBGB Chairman, added:
“Once again, it is pleasing that licensed racing has consolidated the strong progress it has made in recent years.  I know how hard everyone within the sport works to give their greyhounds the very best care and attention and, despite the current challenges which are beyond our control, their commitment to their greyhounds remains steadfast.
“It is important to recognise that in presenting this data, we have been open, transparent and honest about where further improvements need to be made.  The current external climate is challenging but this has made everyone across the sport even more determined to uphold the very highest standards of welfare for our greyhounds.”