News of the government’s £300 million emergency Sports Winter Package in spectator sports has been met with howls of disappointment by the dog rescue sector.
This is because among the benefactors will be greyhound racing.
Even though the typical night out at the dogs is in decline – the sport is still popular online. According to the website OnlineBetting, bookmakers make £250m a year in profit from greyhound racing (with £60m of that figure going to the Treasury).
Behind the scenes, racing greyhounds are often kept for long periods in lonely kennels and may suffer painful injuries from racing and training, drug abuse, illness and neglect. Many of the dogs that didn’t make the grade or have ended their racing career either die on the track, go unaccounted for or are exported abroad every year.
Some of the lucky ones make it into rescue, largely from direct relationships established with owners/trainers. But a largely unrecognised issue is the impact this has on rehoming charities resources.
When they come into a rescue organisation, many ex-racers will need expensive veterinary treatment to repair the damage to their bodies from their racing career, and a large number will require extensive dental treatment, resulting from an inappropriate diet and a lack of appropriate care. These significant veterinary costs are met by the rescue charities, which also use their valuable time and resources to rehabilitate these dogs, who may never have lived in a home environment, to ensure they can be successful pets in their forever homes.
In contrast to the funding announcement for winter sports, is the lack of emergency government funding for rescue charities. There are 1,200 rescue and rehoming charities in the UK according to the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes, many of which have missed out on vital funds this year owing to the forced cancellation of many regular income streams.
The National Animal Welfare Trust and more than a thousand of our supporters wrote to the government in July asking for ministers to consider helping smaller charities like ours but so far this has not been forthcoming.
Therefore, to hear this news about funding for greyhound racing is very disappointing.
Almost 50 years ago NAWT started rescuing and rehoming racing greyhounds whose working life had ended when the charity was still part of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).
Over the years, much pressure has been put on the greyhound racing sector by welfare charities and politicians to improve welfare standards.
It’s only as recently as 2018 that its governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) published injury and end of life data for the first time in racing’s history in the UK in response to a 2016 DEFRA review on greyhound racing welfare standards.
As a charity, we believe that dogs should not suffer or die for entertainment or for the profit of the dog racing industry.
If the government deems it appropriate to continue to fund greyhound racing, the very least it should do is provide the same emergency funding to the animal welfare charities who are expected to continue to fund the canine consequences of the racing industry.