Frequently asked questions about greyhound racing

1. I have never seen any cruelty at the track. Are you sure it happens?

Visitors to the track are unlikely to see abuse and cruelty unless they look very closely.  Most welfare issues happen away from the track.  Greyhounds can be discarded when they are young if they don’t show an aptitude for racing and many are discarded at the end of their racing lives once they start to slow down.  Others are put to sleep for minor injuries that owners deem to be too expensive to fix. 

2. But the dogs love to race, don’t they?

Greyhounds love to run on their own terms but are forced to race.  Footage on betting websites shows many dogs being  forced into the traps at the beginning of races and they can be injured when they are forced in. 

They are also forced to run in all weathers. The Swindon track boasts that it provides racing 52 weeks a year.  In the hot weather, most dog owners are advised not to walk their dogs but dogs are still raced in the heat.  In cold weather, the risk of injuries increases.

3. Won’t greyhounds die out as a breed if they aren’t bred for racing?

No.  The greyhound breed has been around for thousands of years and have only been raced since 1926 when the first track opened at Belle Vue in Manchester.

Greyhounds are the oldest purebred dog, dating to the time of the Pharaohs. The first records of greyhound type dogs appear about 8,000 years ago. In ancient Egypt, greyhounds were revered as gods, and only royalty were allowed to own them. They are the only breed of dog mentioned in the Bible.

They are gentle, loving dogs and people would still want them as pets even if they weren’t raced.

4. Dogs can get injured running around a field. Surely racing them is no more dangerous?

There is a difference between a greyhound choosing when it wants to run and injuring itself and running around an oval track with other dogs at speed which greatly increases their chances of injury. They are also forced to run repeatedly to meet the demand of the Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS) which increases their risk of injury, as does racing in very hot or cold weather.

The Great British Greyhound Board (GBGB) was forced by a House of Commons select committee in 2016 to publish injury and death statistics. The latest statistics from 2018 showed that nearly 5,000 greyhounds suffered injuries as a result of racing and over 900 died as a result. 242 dogs died at the track during or after a race[1]

The industry knows to expect fatalities because the GBGB rules of racing specify that every track has to have a freezer to store the bodies of dead dogs[2].

It is legal to euthanise a greyhound on economic grounds. A study carried out by the University of Liverpool found that the average age of greyhounds put down by the industry was only three years old[3]

At the Swindon track, between January and September 2019, 20 dogs have hit the rails, 27 dogs didn’t finish the race, 55 dogs fell (and at 35mph the falls can cause serious injury) and 600 bumped into other dogs (which, again, at 35mph, can cause serious injury).

5. Don’t they all get rehomed to loving homes when they’ve finished racing?

The betting industry is subject to a voluntary levy to pay for the care of unwanted greyhounds but it is only 0.6% of their turnover and some choose not to pay at all (for example: Betfair). The lucky ones are rehomed, mainly through rescue charities which have to fundraise for their care.

In 2006, The Sunday Times did an undercover story on David Smith[4], a builder’s merchant, who, for the previous 15 years had been killing healthy greyhounds no longer considered by their trainers to be fast enough to race.  It was estimated that he had killed around 10,000 dogs in this time.  The Sunday Times covertly filmed him taking greyhounds from trainers before killing them with a bolt gun, dumping them in a plot by his house and covering over the “graves” using a mechanical digger.

Some greyhounds have been discarded with their ears cut off to hide their tattoos which can trace them back to their owners[5].  Greyhounds from the UK and Ireland are now being found in China, having been sent there for breeding[6].  Once they are no longer used for breeding, they are sent on to the dog meat trade.

The RTE Investigates documentary, “Greyhounds: Running For Their Lives”, broadcast in June 2019, investigated the greyhound racing industry in Ireland.  It revealed that around 6,000 racing greyhounds go missing each year.  The documentary is available on YouTube[7].  Undercover footage showed one owner taking his dog to be shot at a knacker’s yard for the cost of a few euros.  The dog took a few minutes to die and the owner waited in the car for the collar to be returned to him before he drove off. 

6. Don’t racing dogs get treated like royalty?

Some owners/trainers have around 50 dogs or more.  Even if they wanted to keep them at the end of their racing life, the dog wouldn’t get the care and attention that it needs. 

A League Against Cruel Sports/Grey2k USA report revealed that many greyhounds are kept in cages for 23 hours a day without social contact with humans or other dogs[8].  Many racing greyhounds have rotten teeth because of poor food and a lack of vet care. 

Greyhounds have been found to have been doped with cocaine, steroids and beta blockers to speed them up or to slow them down.  In  September 2019, newspapers were reporting on the incidents of doping at Shawfield stadium in Scotland.  Some of the tests showed that cocaine had been used which is potentially fatal for dogs and can lead to seizures, strokes and heart attacks.

The RSPCA is currently prosecuting a Swindon greyhound trainer for neglecting seven of his dogs[9]. CAGED (Campaign Against Greyhound Exploitation and Death) has taken out a private prosecution against a trainer in Staffordshire for mistreating her dogs, following video evidence that demonstrated unnecessary suffering to dogs and a failure to ensure dogs’ welfare. 

7. Welfare is increasing all the time, isn’t it? 

The only way to ensure that dogs aren’t abused is to ban the sport altogether.  While greyhounds are treated as commodities, there will always be trainers and owners who treat them badly.  The GBGB statistics and the RTE documentary show that around 7,000 dogs died as a result of the racing industry in 2018. 

We hope that most people would agree that the death of one dog for entertainment is one too many.

8. What will happen to the dogs if you ban it or close down a stadium? 

A phasing out of greyhound racing  will give the owners and trainers time to rehome their dogs. 

Florida voted in 2018 to phase out greyhound racing in the state by 2021.  This is to give rehoming charities time to find homes for all the dogs that are racing now.

No dog left the notorious stadium in Macau in China alive.  There was anxiety when it was shut down in July 2018 because rehoming charities worried that the dogs wouldn’t be able to be rehomed in such large numbers but all 650 dogs were rehomed successfully. 

9. What will happen to the speedway track if the greyhound racing ends?

Stop Swindon Greyhound Racing supports the redevelopment of the speedway track in Swindon. We believe that the stadium – particularly once it is redeveloped – can be put to many other uses to support the speedway without relying on income from the greyhound racing.

[1] https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/gbgb-prod-assets/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/12085443/Final-2018-Stats.pdf

[2] https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/gbgb-prod-assets/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/03131651/GBGB-Rules-of-Racing-June-2018.pdf, regulation 110Bj.

[3] The state of greyhound racing in Great Britain A mandate for change https://www.league.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=0170d4fd-a264-4fe6-a687-c8c8a324fa2d

[4] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/revealed-the-man-who-killed-10000-dogs-h7tkzjj8ghs

[5] https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/last-hope-refused-to-die-2416432

[6] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/brit-greyhounds-raced-collapse-boiled-11630624

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0R2bNG9Vn8

[8] The state of greyhound racing in Great Britain A mandate for change https://www.league.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=0170d4fd-a264-4fe6-a687-c8c8a324fa2d

[9] https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/18005677.swindon-man-due-court-greyhound-animal-cruelty-charges/