I first became aware of the cruelty behind greyhound racing in 2006 when I saw the exposé that the Sunday Times carried out on David Smith, a builder’s merchant in the north east, who killed ex racing greyhounds for a few pounds a time and buried them in a mass grave on a plot near his house. He boasted to the undercover reporter that he thought he had killed around 10,000 greyhounds over the last 15 years. Up to that point, I had naively assumed that all greyhounds were rehomed with their owners or trainers at the end of their racing lives.
I think most people don’t have any idea of the cruelty behind the greyhound racing industry. Many people are horrified when they find out the reality behind the life of a racing greyhound. We are supposed to be a nation of dog lovers yet we are one of only seven countries in the world in which this activity is legal.
I would like the government to ban greyhound racing but, while it is still legal, I will continue to raise awareness with members of the public.
It is very heartening to get such great support from those driving past on Saturday evenings and I hope that the tide is turning for the popularity of the track in Swindon. It is time that greyhound racing was a thing of the past.
When we lived in Manchester my husband and I were looking to rehome a rescue dog. We went to a dog rehoming centre and saw a very sad tripod (3 legged) greyhound. Sadly we were not in a position at that time to offer a home due to the greyhound’s needs. We adopted Rosie and Tyler in the years after that but never forgot the soulful eyes we saw that day. We never forgot that greyhound and knew when we lost Rosie and Tyler due to age where our hearts lay. Blue, ex Irish racer, was dumped and left to die in Sheffield. He was thankfully found on Boxing Day 2013. Tired, scavenging, emaciated, cigarette burns down his tail and dead behind his eyes. He was only 5 years old.
When Blue came to live with us he had no interaction with us and didn’t trust us. The biggest challenge was him believing we wouldn’t hurt him. That took over a year which was heartbreaking.
Blue lived kennel life taking himself to bed at 7pm and waking at 5am. Food was a big issue for him, never believing he could keep it, and initially he stole whatever he could. Fear, psychological damage and abuse is hard for most of us to understand but is a way of life for a racing greyhound. Blue now has a life but so many don’t.
The plight of greyhounds shipped out to Macau in China brought the systematic abuse of greyhounds into the international arena. Sadly that shipment after ‘racing life’ ends continues for many greyhounds who end up on China’s meat markets.
People really do not have any idea of the cruelty behind the greyhound racing industry or what happens when the pounds stop rolling in for the owners. Websites, tracks and online promotions continue this activity which now needs abolishing.
We first got involved in the world of greyhounds when we adopted our first retired racing greyhound Archie in 2011. He was wonderful and changed our life for the better in so many ways. He sadly passed away in 2017 and we still miss him dearly.
Greyhounds are lovely gentle dogs that make great pets – they need no more exercise than the average dog, they love to sleep, they’re fine with being left for a few hours, and we find them really relaxing & uplifting company.
We got Dolly, also an ex-racer, in 2012, and we were really sad to realise how totally stressed and terrified she was of everything. But, with the help of a holistic dog behaviourist, we helped Dolly to relax and learn to trust us. We still marvel at the first time she wagged her tail in happiness and the first time she made it clear that she wanted more strokes. She’s 11 now and a little character who rules the roost, and who we love dearly.
We rescued Bridie Boo in 2017. She was a failed racer and had been sent to the pound in Ireland to be put to sleep! Thank goodness she was saved by the rescue charity Bristol Dog Action Welfare Group (DAWG), as she’s such a sweet, funny, loving girl. And Leonard is our latest rescue who was also destined for death at the pound because he didn’t run fast enough to go into the racing industry. He’s a goofy, handsome and really affectionate boy and again we’re so grateful that he was saved.
As the years have gone on, and the more we learnt about the greyhound racing industry from people involved in rescuing the dogs, the more we worried about all the other greyhounds that weren’t saved…the thousands that are killed every year by various methods, and the ones that suffer and die as a result of racing injuries. We feel really upset about the terrible treatment of greyhounds, especially knowing how sensitive and gentle they are, so when we saw an invitation on Facebook to join this local group raising awareness of the cruelty in the industry – with the hope of enlightening people so they won’t support greyhound racing – we thought we really should join and do what little we can to help be a voice for these gentle souls.
Since joining this group we’ve met some lovely people and we’re really impressed with their energy, commitment and dedication in speaking up and being a voice for the greyhounds.
I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent woman and am not sure how I reached my 50’s without really knowing anything about dog racing. On 6th July 2019 we were invited to join friends and family for a night at the Swindon greyhound races and, being a dog lover, I thought “ooh, food, drinks and a fun night watching gorgeous dogs happily race around – what’s not to love?!”.
Arriving at the stadium and seeing protestors outside was a complete shock. I had no idea why they would be there! One sign I clearly remember was “Shame on You” and I felt quite anxious going into the stadium without any real knowledge of why I felt guilty.
As the evening went on, I was increasingly uncomfortable. The dogs being paraded out for the start of each race looked nervous, tails between their legs, and agitated with many immediately defecating on the track. They did not look happy or excited to be there.
In the final race of the night, the worst happened and I was left utterly traumatised. A gorgeous black 3-year-old greyhound – Brookend Harbet – flipped over and fell badly about 20 metres out of the gates, in obvious distress. The race was immediately abandoned, but the dog was raising himself on his front paws and trying to drag himself off the track, with his pelvis and back legs obviously paralysed. As the TV screens in the stadium replayed the whole horrific episode, someone ran to the dog and clumsily tried to pick him up to awkwardly scoop him off the track. The person was clearly not a vet or worried about causing even more pain to the terrified dog.
We left the stadium immediately and I barely slept that night. In the early hours, I emailed the Swindon Stadium. Two weeks passed with no response and I thought about that dog every day (I still do). I remembered the protestors outside the Stadium and wondered if I could find them. I searched Facebook and there they were. It took me a few more days to pluck up the courage to ask to join the group and tell them what had happened (I was so ashamed and embarrassed to even have gone to the race night) but they couldn’t have been more welcoming, sympathetic or lovely.
I’ve now learned they rarely get first-hand honest accounts of what happens at the track. They suggested I contact GBGB (the UK’s governing body for dog racing) and I did. I finally received the response that Brookend Harbet had suffered “career ending injuries” that night.
I’ve since learned so much about the dog racing industry and am more appalled every day with the treatment of these beautiful dogs. As a voice for Brookend Harbet and all dogs injured, killed or abused through racing, I now join the Saturday night protests outside Swindon stadium pretty much every week.
The group is such an amazing bunch of empathetic, warm and truly caring people and I’m genuinely humbled by the commitment they have to try and end greyhound racing for good. It’s a group I feel of which I feel very lucky to now be a part.