Greyhound racing in Britain appears to be on the verge of cracking the issue of rehoming of ex-racers for the first time in its history – writes Floyd Amphlett.
Even allowing for the progress already made by GBGB with 90% of ex-racers finding a retirement home, the double whammy of the Covid pandemic combined with the introduction of the Greyhound Retirement Scheme (GRS) has seen demand massively outstrip supply.
In the words of trainer Kevin Hutton recently: “Any kennel that has any greyhounds that it can’t rehome really isn’t trying.”
The national media has reported huge uptakes in the number of households adopting pets and planning for a post Covid world where working from home is more commonplace. It has led to certain breeds of puppy have doubled in price in the last six months.
That has filtered through to the greyhound racing industry, and most kennels are now reporting having no ex-racers waiting for new homes; unique situation in the history of the sport.
Few people are better placed to assess the context than Kevin Stow whose Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust recently re-homed its 2,000th ex-racer.
This week, LGT Tweeted the following: “Any owner or trainer who pays the GBGB £200 to register their greyhound on the Greyhound Retirement Scheme and has their dog neutered and health checked can contact us and we will take the greyhound in at no extra cost”
Stow said: “The number of greyhounds that have been re-homed has been absolutely astonishing. We would normally have 12-14 dogs waiting to be re-homed at all times. We currently have three, with another four due in tomorrow.
“But we have already set a new record for re-homing this year, 161 dogs following 155 last year and a previous highest of 157 in 2018. We are now at the 2,035 mark since we started.
“But lots of home finding branches are empty and are phoning around kennels looking for dogs. There are spaces throughout the country. If GBGB were to phone me today and ask me to re-home 50 greyhounds, I would ask for a couple of hours to make some phone calls to other branches and I would guarantee that we could find spaces for all of them.
“Go back ten years and I would usually warn an owner or trainer that it might take between five and seven months to find a home.”
The freeing up of spaces for racing dogs should make racing kennels more viable; the so called ‘dog glut’ has been a major drain on tight resources for many years.
The question is, will this last? Should we anticipate a huge version of ‘a dog is not just for Christmas’ with a potential tidal wave of abandoned animals as Covid recedes and ‘normal life’ returns?
Stow said: “I really don’t think so. In my view, working practices have changed forever and although some people will eventually return to their old life styles, many millions of people never will.”
Not always a fan of GBGB in the past, Stow believes the organisation has made massive steps forward in the last couple of years with GRS (designed and formulated by director Rachel Corden and finally approved by GBGB) as a masterstroke.
He said: “I have had a number of dealings with (Managing Director) Mark Bird and have made my views known on various points. But the setting up of the Scheme was exactly what was needed. I have had a few dealings with Paula (Beniston GRS coordinator) already, and she is doing a cracking job.
“There are still points of concern. For example, I am aware of trainers in the North East who are refusing to get their dogs neutered and with branches so short of dogs, they may be tempted to take them in for the £400 cheque, just to keep going.
“I really hope the stipendiary stewards don’t let those trainers get away with it. Everyone else is trying so hard and it is wrong. In fact the only way this scheme fails is if it isn’t correctly policed.”
But there is a delicious additional twist to the story. It isn’t just the recognised homing kennels that are struggling to fill their kennels with ex-racers. . . .
Kevin said: “I was messaged this week by XX (one of Britain’s most active anti-racing activists) asking whether there were any greyhounds needed re-homing.
“Now I would like to say that there weren’t any, but there were. The North East trainer who I mentioned earlier, had offloaded four dogs on to one of the anti racer kennels. But otherwise the antis are struggling too.
“I have already spoken to Paula about this – and I realise that it is controversial – but should GBGB insist that to qualify for the grant, the homing kennel must be GRS approved?
“Unless it is done, there are some very good established, pro racing kennels that will close while the antis take the money.
“Besides, how can you claim to have ‘rescued’ a greyhound, if you’ve accepted a £400 cheque for it?”