Pippa has always been simply a big friendly greyhound girl. She has no expectations from life, she isn’t bothered about her place in the family hierarchy and she thrives on a simple routine. Officially named Dacent Alma, Pippa was owned by a syndicate and ran sixty-eight races at (the soon to be demolished) Belle Vue race track. At the age of 3 ¾, Pippa was discarded into rescue by her award-winning trainer, complete with bald patches, scars from pressure sores, bad teeth and ticks.
Pippa’s story initially seemed very typical of your average greyhound leaving the racing industry, but the closer we looked into her past, the greater the implications became.
Pippa was born in Ireland October 2009, presumably at the Dacent Kennels, one of a litter of five. However, her grandfather was a very famous Australian Greyhound named Bombastic Shiraz who was prolifically bred from (often via straws) once his racing days were over, but was later lucky enough to live out the remainder of his natural life as a companion dog with his trainer‘s family.
His son, Pippa’s father, Bit Chili, was also a well-known and profusely bred greyhound but we were informed that, sadly, he was sent to China for breeding where he eventually died. On further investigation, we discovered that Pippa has half siblings across the globe, including the late Lucy of Busselton Greyhound Awareness in Australia and a number of Greyhounds rescued from the Macau Canidrome. Thus is the nature of greyhound mass breeding.
We adopted a greyhound girl who had not been raced, Rio, along with Pippa. Rio had been cruelly treated in her former life yet she found her niche and adapted to home life far quicker than Pippa who seemed bound by habit and puzzled by spontaneous interaction and more subtle behaviours, which we attributed to her having been kennelled 23/7 with little human contact or enrichment. We didn’t want to confuse Pippa so we just allowed her to be the big friendly greyhound girl that she has always been, no pressure.
Very gradually, over the years, Pippa’s ego has developed and now she’ll throw her fluffy octopus around, scrounge for treats, perform zoomies in the garden and make hefty leaps of satisfaction onto the settee…for whatever reason. We regard this as a major triumph as we weren’t sure whether Pippa would ever really grasp the concept of ‘being more dog.’ Pippa absolutely loves water and will happily wade through any and every puddle, pond and river.
Pippa no longer has any teeth. Her front teeth were completely worn down when she came to live with us and our vet said it was consistent with chewing at bars through boredom. She had half of her teeth removed in 2017 and the rest extracted in 2019 but she manages fine. Pippa will be twelve this year and she appears to be generally healthy and fit…with a good strong heartbeat, the vet told us. She’s certainly happy and we hope she’ll be able to enjoy many more years of contented bliss.
We were recently contacted by a lady who wishes to remain anonymous and whom we shall call, for the sake of this article, Jane.
Now Jane’s personal situation is such that she is the perfect placement for the more neglected or difficult to rehome dogs (she can afford expensive vet bills, lives in the country and has no dependants). Jane is well known for taking the more ‘damaged’ greyhounds so is at the top of the list of who to contact when such a dog comes along in her local area.
Jane adopted her first greyhound in 2009 and since then has had eighteen of them with six currently in residence.
She has asked that I point out that not all have been badly treated but please just look at the list below of those that have been. It’s not pleasant reading by any means and gives a clear indication of the appalling treatment that some of these dogs have had to endure.
I think that it’s worth noting that even though some of the dogs that Jane has adopted appear not to have been neglected they were still rejected once they were no longer of any use.
Over 80% of racing greyhounds come into the UK from Ireland and are tattooed in both ears. All of the greyhounds mentioned below were Irish bred
Archie was adopted at the tender age of thirteen. He had spent his life in kennels as a stud dog and once he wasn’t useful anymore he was going to be put to sleep. Fortunately Jane was there for him once his owner had discarded him.
Casey, an elderly female and an ex Irish racer, was found emaciated and abandoned in the woods in the west of the county that Jane lives in. Quite possibly left to fend for herself and ultimately die alone.
Davie was aged nine when Jane adopted him. He’d been left to rot in a shed after his racing life was over. Davie had to have all his teeth removed as they were in such poor condition and he had to have his tail amputated as his rear was a stinking maggot infested mess. His owner really took care of him eh!
Then there was Kelly. Kelly was left with an untreated broken leg which had to be amputated.
Teal was found in woodland tied up in a barbed wire “harness” and left to die a slow and painful death.
Freddy was yet another greyhound that was left in kennels after his racing days were over and was so withdrawn and depressed that he was almost catatonic when rescued.
Well William never raced and was brought over from Ireland aged two. He has lots of scars and was totally terrified of being touched when he was rescued. Four years on he still avoids men. We’ll never know what happened to William but he still suffers with the psychological damage of those unknown traumas.
Snuff was trial raced in Sunderland and broke his back leg at that race. He was only eighteen months old at the time and was left without treatment until he was rescued fourteen weeks later! It’s beyond comprehension how anyone could leave a dog in that amount of pain for so long.
Percy received a massive head trauma whilst racing and his skull is visibly dented. This initially caused him to have frequent fits which, with time, have thankfully now diminished both in frequency and severity. Percy has a sweet nature but Jane says that he is definitely “special needs”.
Stevie is Jane’s most recent adoption and came from a rescue in July 2020. Blind Stevie, as he’s now known, was never raced. However ‘somebody’ had obviously decided that he was no longer of any use to them so had taken it upon themselves to try to kill him with a hammer. Fortunately for Stevie they failed but in the process they destroyed Stevies optic nerves leaving him blind.
Jane goes on to say that the remaining eight dogs that she has adopted came into her care as their previous owners weren’t able to care for them any longer.
I’m sure that you’ll all agree that the above makes for sickening reading. So many of these greyhounds suffered either directly or indirectly at the hands of the Racing Industry and all of these cases are from 2009 up to and including 2020 with the most recent cases clearly indicating that there is still a massive problem within the Industry contrary to their protestations of improvements in the welfare and treatment of the racing greyhound from cradle to grave.
As Jane quite rightly says
“I abhor the exploitation of dogs (indeed any animals) in any shape or form and am well aware that the betting industry’s multi million pound profits are chief drivers for horse and dog racing..and have never understood how these are allowed to be self regulating, in the face of all the evidence of animal cruelty”
We would like to thank Jane on behalf of all the greyhounds that she adopted and covered expensive veterinary bills for. Thank you for being there for them.
The greyhound racing industry have shown us time and time again that they are not to be trusted regarding their empty promises about the welfare of the dogs, and that is why we at the Alliance Against Greyhound Racing feel that seeking a total ban is the only way to protect these sentient souls from the atrocities bestowed upon them in the name of entertainment.
Misha was born in 2007 and raced at Belle Vue in 2009 and 2010. After she was raced 28 times she was kept at her trainer’s kennels until she was rescued in January 2011 – 10 months after her last recorded race.
Misha had worms, her coat was in very bad condition, she had a number of scars and every time she stretched or got up after sleeping she would ‘crack’.
When Misha was first brought home she was very scared of men and extremely scared of anyone holding a stick – she would position herself so I was between her and the stick. It took about 6 months for her to be comfortable around men she didn’t know.
Over the years Misha’s health in general was good but this all changed in 2017 when she was diagnosed with a sarcoma above her eye. Misha was subsequently diagnosed with 4 more sarcomas, had them removed and received radiotherapy on two areas.
For the last few years of her life Misha suffered from arthritis and this impacted on her exercise and ability to get in and out of the car. Towards the end of her life Misha could only cope with a short walk of less than 5 minutes. Misha was on painkillers, anti-inflammatory medication and supplements to ease the symptoms and discomfort from her arthritis.
My name is Lenny and I’m 2 years old, born in December 2017. I was bred in Ireland and named Ballymac Prancer. I was bought at 6 months old and came to Wolverhampton to race at Monmore. I raced 13 times and won 2 of them. The rest of the time I did pretty badly. We eventually found out that I was inexplicably injured my whole life. My previous ‘owner’ has been in contact with my doggy mum and has said this, “he has always had little injuries but we could never really find out what they were and he left the vets at the track perplexed as well”. If I was injured, why did I run until January 2020? I injured myself in a race and had to rest for 54 days afterwards, before my last qualifying trial. Thankfully I didn’t win. My foster family pre warned my forever family that I had some balance issues and would frequently trip up. Everyone was unsure as to why I had difficulties even walking over flat ground. By the time I came to my forever home (4 months after ‘retiring’) I was mostly okay in walking and running. But I did have physio at my foster home.
I also have been diagnosed with having degenerative heart failure which is treated by medication for life. We do not know at which point this started but it is highly unusual for my age and breed. Either way, without medication I should not have been racing.
Also I have a scar on my left flank from being caught in a trap. My teeth have signs of being ground down from chewing on kennel bars.
I was 29kg when I should have been 34kg.
As with most ex racer greyhounds, I did not know how to play, how to interact with other dogs. I am reactive if a dog jumps on me and paws at my face or rear end.
This girl was rescued by one of our members from a trainer who raced her at a flapping (unlicensed) track in Thornton, Fife. She had a degree of brain damage caused by repeated beatings by her trainer. He admitted to beating her unconscious with a metal bowl if she spilled her food. He also admitted to dragging her out and ‘giving her a kicking’ if he came home drunk and in a bad mood. This girl was so unbelievably traumatised by her experience that it took years of hard work to rehabilitate her. Fortunately, she was in a loving home with people who vowed to try to undo the damage caused by her trainer. Due to the severe head trauma sustained, she developed full blown dementia by 6 ½ and sadly had to be put to sleep at 8 years old. She will always be sadly missed.
My girl Jenny was a ‘damaged’ greyhound when we rescued her at 4 years old. We rescued her from Sheffield 10 years ago, she was an Irish dog originally who was brought over and raced at Owlerton until an injury saw her get left at the rescue.
When we took her in she was terrified of everything, would only sleep by our front door, her skin and fur were in terrible condition with hair loss and a huge bald patch on her hind leg. Her injury was a severe sprain on her back leg which bothered her all her life until we lost her last year as it was never treated properly when it happened. Jenny was absolutely terrified of kennels and loud bangs and refused to run in all the time we had her. Sadly she passed away last year at 14 years old but even though she had a rough start to her life we did everything we could to give her a new and better life where she was loved and spoiled rotten.
“I had been taking two of my rescued greyhounds, who are also trained PAT dogs (Pets As Therapy), into the Norwich University of Arts each week for therapy sessions with the students. On one occasion I was approached by one of the final year students, Beth, who told me that she was making a ‘dogumentary’ about greyhounds and wondered if we could help. Obviously, I am always keen for greyhounds to be portrayed as the wonderful, gentle and patient animals that they are and this proved to be a great opportunity. Beth has been kind enough to allow us to share”, Sue Cole.
Eddie raced 59 times at Newcastle track and won his first race at only 20 months old. He was callously discarded and dumped into a rescue by his trainer at exactly 3 years old, where he languished for a further 5 months. Eddie was severely underweight when he was rescued, his skin was so dry it resembled fish scales and he suffered from bad hair loss all over his body. His upper and lower incisor and canine teeth were ground down to stumps – presumably from chewing on his kennel bars – and his molars and premolars were covered in thick tartar which had to be removed under general anaesthetic. His body was covered in scars, his legs being particularly bad, but his neck is also scarred along with a deep circular scar on his shoulder. He also has muzzle scarring on his face.
When Eddie was taken to the vet the day after he was rescued, his family were told that the wide, four inch long scar on his chest had never been stitched but should have been. Eddie weighed in at 24.5kg and had to gain 7 kilos, slowly, to reach his minimum weight. He is now a healthy 36.5kg. Eddie’s body has healed but by far his biggest problems have been in his mind. After 4 years in a loving home he is still too frightened to go for a walk in the big wide world and many everyday household noises still scare him. He is a creature of habit and has many foibles which his family have grown used to. The first few weeks after rescue were extremely hard for them all and for the other dog who lived in the house, but there was never any question of him being sent back.
Racing severely damages these dogs and Eddie is, unfortunately, one of thousands…
Aged just 2 years old, this girl was dumped on an independent rescue as she was no longer of use to the trainer who raced her at Shawfield track. She suffered from severe anxiety and behavioural problems and her small body was covered in multiple confirmed cigarette burns and scars. Shortly after rescue she was diagnosed with severe cervical spondylosis, chronic back pain and myoclonic epilepsy. Her injuries were thought to be due to trauma received during her short ‘career’. She required daily painkillers, anti-epilepsy drugs and medication to control her anxiety and received regular physiotherapy and behavioural therapy.
The cervical spondylosis worsened over time and this had an impact on the nerve supply to her forelegs. Her pain levels and coordination problems were increasing and in April 2020 this resulted in an emergency admission to the vets. It was discovered shortly afterwards that she had developed osteosarcoma in her humerus. Due to her neck injury, amputation was not a viable option, so she was sent home to make the most of her final months. Her condition worsened rapidly, and it was also discovered that she had a tumour in her lumbar spine. She passed away peacefully with her family in July 2020, just days after her 7th birthday.
We are thankful she found her forever home where she was valued and loved and not seen as a commodity. She was a very much loved little girl by everyone who knew her.
She is one of the many reasons our group will continue to campaign to end Greyhound racing.
Endless thousands of greyhounds have suffered the consequences of greyhound racing since it began 94 years ago. They continue to do so despite the industry’s now desperate attempts to sanitise its existence.
In 1959 I took employment in a trainer’s kennels and witnessed the insensitivity and suffering involved, including dogs often permanently muzzled as a solution to stressed behaviour caused by the conditions and lifestyle they were obliged to endure. No provision was made when injury, loss of speed or unsuitability for purpose ended their usefulness. The common instruction of owners to trainers was: “Give it away or have it put down.” I was taken aback.
Naively, I began advertising for homes, hoping they could then experience some kindness and comfort. I was swiftly instructed by the industry’s ruling body, the National Greyhound Racing Club (nowadays Greyhound Board of Great Britain) to stop immediately. I was told it made it look bad for greyhound racing, presumably because it made it publicly known that the discarded dogs were not provided for, but I discovered a darker side: it was quicker and more profitable to channel them into vivisection laboratories.
The callous instruction was ignored. Owners were always keen to offload their responsibility and glad if a home was found. Only a tiny minority of owners adopted their dogs themselves. Sadly, the need for homes exceeded the supply and as trainers wanted kennel spaces for new stock, I was still regularly required by my employer to despatch surplus discarded dogs by rail to an individual in Norfolk. I was told that he also found homes.
In order to home more dogs myself, I had begun advertising nationwide and contacted the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) for the help of the experienced volunteers of its Derek Roy Homefinding Scheme for Greyhounds to check the responses for suitability. I asked them to also investigate the Norfolk individual who apparently could take any number of dogs. Responsible homefinding takes time, so he aroused suspicion. In fact, he supplied the dogs to vivisection laboratories. The trainers had lied. When confronted, it emerged that they knew of the dogs’ real fate. “At least they’re doing something useful” was their excuse.
Between 1959 and 1974 I was fortunate to build up a nationwide network of volunteer helpers and worked in association with the BUAV. Understandably, in response to pressure from its supporters who wished their donations to be used towards finding alternatives to vivisection, the BUAV eventually approached the NGRC and embarrassed it to address its own responsibility for the greyhounds. Having opposed advertising for homes for 15 years, the NGRC then had the audacity to ask for my list of contacts to form its Retired Greyhound Trust. Other homefinders, by then attached to various tracks, were also incorporated and required to cough up all monies raised, but fundings subsequently issued towards their homefinding expenses were virtually non-existent.
Eventually a £5 fee was added to the NGRC’s registration charge, similar to the so-called ground-breaking strategy recently employed by the GBGB, with most likely the same inadequate and worrying outcome. Many owners baulked at the imposition, then demanded or expected immediate homes for their retired dogs. This was rarely possible. The best that could be offered was that owners should advertise personally for homes, then contact RGT homing groups to check responses for suitability. Many did not bother with that time-consuming and possibly disappointing refinement, so dogs were off-loaded uncaringly. No records were requested.
Dogs could still be channelled into laboratories or abandoned with their earflap tattoos cut off to avoid traceability, so I asked the NGRC to require owners and trainers to provide details of their dogs’ destinations when their track careers ended. The request was not welcomed and, apart from RGT adoption forms eventually provided, the whereabouts of most discarded dogs remained unrecorded until more recent times when the industry has finally had to comply due to pressure by concerned animal welfare organisations. Even so, figures do not tally and concerns remain.
There are many skeletons in the greyhound industry’s cupboard, not least those of the discarded tools of its trade. A layered mass grave area of thousands of discarded racers was discovered by the Sunday Times in 2006. Low grade racers exported to appalling conditions in Spain, whose suffering the industry ignored for years, are just two examples.
Proof exists of the history outlined so denial is inappropriate and pointless.
Public exposure of the greyhound industry’s welfare failures prompted a balanced Parliamentary enquiry by APGAW in 2006. Fourteen years later its recommendations of a broadened regulatory body and compulsory contributions towards welfare by bookmakers remain unobserved. DEFRA fails its named responsibility for welfare by permitting it to be so.
Under the industry’s continued self-regulation, the dogs remain vulnerable and continue to suffer.
The GBGB states that stewards’ inspections are made twice yearly. The sad condition of dogs in a trainer’s kennels, as reported in the GBGB Calendar of 14th February 2020, indicated longer term neglect than six months. His welfare failures would, therefore, have been evident and should have been noticed much sooner if all stewards were competent and honoured their welfare responsibility. Retribution after the event is too late: the dogs have already suffered by then.
Without a broadened regulatory body, as recommended by APGAW and which could make proper care and conditions compulsory, the GBGB’s recently issued Code of Practice will continue to be ignored by the many trainers who favour their own traditional insensitive practices, including permanent muzzling as a solution to stressed behaviour. The more compassionate measures recommended are considered too time-consuming and unnecessary. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 is contravened and stewards apparently turn a blind eye unless of a conscientious nature.
The GBGB recently stated the figure of 16,800 greyhounds in registered trainers’ kennels. Others have already been born to follow in their footsteps. More are being bred. They all remain vulnerable despite the GBGB’s claim of Commitment to Welfare.
The GBGB’s claim of 90% homing is misleading. It does not cover unregistered dogs, even though they are all part of the industry’s production line and, dogs stockpiled in trainers’ kennels cannot fairly be classed as homed in the recognised sense of the word. There is no real quality of life and saturation point will quickly be reached, as homing groups already struggle to cope with the number needing help. What then?
The solution of ‘bolt gun and bury’ can provably be surreptitious and need not be declared as euthanasia which the industry is now committed to minimise. Research laboratories have also long been a favoured disposal channel. In due course, it will not be out of place to investigate.
Meanwhile, the coordinator of the recently launched GBGB’s Greyhound Retirement Scheme plans to harvest the services of other homing groups in addition to Greyhound Trust groups, thus depriving abandoned dogs and cruelty cases of their chance of a safe haven until lovingly homed. They often arrive as a result of careless homing. The suggestions that the industry should instead use approved and licenced boarding kennels nationwide for dogs on the waiting list for homes, financed from bookmakers’ bulging pockets, have so far been ignored, yet it would also advantageously provide opportunity for the greyhounds to socialise and other customers might often pursue the idea of adopting one.
Despite everyone’s efforts for whatever reason (cosmetic image or genuine compassion) the need for homes far exceeds the supply, even given the services of concerned volunteers and those who are opposed to greyhound racing. The latter are vilified by the industry, yet blatantly used to its own advantage, including many members of the public on whom the industry prevails to provide homes. Unwittingly, they protect its image by doing so.
It cannot be an offence to be opposed to greyhound racing. It is an offence to contravene the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Covid 19 has already proved that life can well go on without live greyhound racing, plus: it can be replaced by virtual greyhound racing to raise equal revenue and accommodate people’s gambling requirements without causing endless more thousands of greyhounds to suffer.
Live greyhound racing is a disgraceful 94 year old chapter in our history. On humane grounds, may it never make it to a hundred years.