It is four months since our first article with the GBGB’s newly appointed Greyhound Retirement Scheme Coordinator Paula Beniston.
So how have things progressed since then?
You recently released the figures showing the receipts and payments for the first five months of the bond scheme. It must be pleasing to see that there have been 873 greyhounds voluntarily put into the scheme by the owner. Is that above expectation?
It has been really heartening to have so many owners and trainers ring up to voluntarily pay into the GRS. The number of voluntary payments we have received has gone above and beyond our initial predictions and this is something our whole sport can be proud of.
By the nature of dealing with re-homing, you will surely have to deal with organisations that are clearly ‘anti’ greyhound racing. Can you understand why many greyhound folk will question why the industry would want to support organisations like that? In short, how do you ensure that we aren’t ‘financing the enemy?’
Only our approved homing partners receive the matched £400 GRS bond for each greyhound entering their centre. Homing centres that do not wish to participate in the scheme, or openly show negative views of our sport will not be placed on our approved list and will not receive funds directly from GBGB.
How do you stand on the ‘retired’ v ‘rescued’ argument and can you understand why greyhound folk get so passionate about it?
I can completely understand the passion behind this debate and fully agree our greyhounds are retired and not rescued. There is absolutely no question on that front! For many years, this has been a misconception by members of the public and organisations that wish to damage the reputation of our sport.
I think that many people reach for the word ‘rescue’ when describing any re-homed dog. We have all encountered the frustrating question, “Is he/she rescued” when we are out and about with our greyhounds. We do our best to put them right and every interaction like this is an opportunity to inform people.
I do need to point out though, that some of our approved homing centres do not just take in our retired greyhounds; they also work with the police, dog wardens and local council pounds. Likewise, some are multi-breed centres who do rescue different breeds and some even take other animals too.
Many charities have already stepped away from having the word ‘rescue’ in their name and long may this continue. I do feel we need to be mindful that due to our sensitivity over the subject we may be creating our own negative publicity by giving this debate further airtime.
How many of the 108 approved homing partners would you consider are anti greyhound racing and have any changed their stance since you have been liaising with them?
What links our 108 approved homing partners is that they are all pro greyhound welfare and have welcomed the GRS and the vital financial support it is providing, especially at this difficult time. Each homing centre is clearly visible as working with us in partnership and I am under no illusion that this can make them a potential target for anti-racing organisations.
Regardless of their opinion of our sport, it is important that we focus on our shared connection of wanting the best for our greyhounds. It has been encouraging to see so many homing centres re-examine their feelings to greyhound racing and even review the messaging on their website. I am very proud to have played a small part in helping to shift perceptions towards welfare within our sport.
Full credit needs to go to all our approved homing centres as they are the ones who have shown complete dedication to homing our hounds and have welcomed GRS and our welfare commitment with open arms.
How many former Greyhound Trust branches become independent homefinders and how difficult is it for them to make that leap?
I happily work with all our approved partners and do not differentiate between the centres.
What I can say, from experience, is that it is no mean feat going down the route of setting up your own charity or not for profit. It is a long process with lots of criteria and procedures that need to be put in place.
Working as part of a larger establishment gives support that is not always visible and can be easily forgotten in the heat of the moment. For example, networking between branches, national support on welfare, legal and insurance protection and importantly the leadership on meeting Charity Commission guidelines.
Do you think we will ever get to the stage whereby GBGB should insist that all greyhounds must be homed through approved schemes?
Although it seems like a good idea, in practice it could potentially cause more harm than good. Whether the homing centre is pro, anti or ambivalent to racing, they are all actually working to achieve the same purpose which is to find our greyhounds loving, forever homes. The homing centres that do not wish to join the scheme due to their views often have good working relationships with our owners/trainers and I would never want to put this in jeopardy.
I would just ask for caution to be applied when deciding where to send your greyhound at retirement. Our GRS centres are approved for a reason; they are vetted by myself or one of the GBGB team and we know they provide the best care for those dogs and will find them the right homes.
When you hand a greyhound over to a homing centre its condition, happiness and health is not only a reflection of your kennels, but it is also a reflection of our entire sport. I know the vast majority of owners/trainers ensure their greyhounds are in immaculate condition, but the tiny percentage who do not – or who rehome somewhere because it is cheaper than going through the GRS – risk fuelling negative views about our sport.
So much has been achieved over the last 20 years when it comes to rehoming and greyhound welfare. Whenever I speak with homing centres, I am constantly reiterating the huge progress that has been made and encourage moving on from the outdated history. Greyhound welfare within our sport has never been better and I see this demonstrated daily in my role.
As with anything in life people are entitled to their opinions and from my side I have no qualms of using my past and present experiences to help continue raising awareness of how our industry places greyhound welfare at the heart of all we do.