Friday, May 16, 2014

Is it time for greyhound racing to retire?

A retired racing greyhound goes to the beach.

The Animal Welfare League of Australia has just released a policy on greyhound racing, which clearly calls for the end of the sport (see here). It is interesting that in the US, 43 out of 50 states have reportedly implemented a ban on greyhound racing.

Will Australia follows suit? The biggest concerns about the greyhound industry from an animal welfare point of view are a) the overall husbandry of the dogs involved and b) the huge "waste" - not really an appropriate term but all of those dogs deemed not fit for racing, or those that are retired that no one wants.

As a companion animal vet who treats a number of rescued greyhounds that are then kept as pets (really the tip of the iceberg of the numbers affected), I see conditions commonly in these dogs that reflect poor husbandry. For example, more often than not they require extensive dental work or teeth extractions, secondary to a poor diet or biting of cages, at a reasonably early age. Some suffer chronic gastrointestinal upsets. Numberous greyhounds that I currently treat require fluoxetine (aka Prozac) to reduce anxiety. Many have separation anxiety, some are hypervigilant, some have noise phobias.

Of course there will always be trainers who do really look after their animals, but there can be no doubt that there is a systematic failure to protect the welfare of racing greyhounds in Australia and overseas. Just look at the current parliamentary inquiry into greyhound racing in NSW: animal welfare is included within the terms of reference - well and truly AFTER financial matters are discussed (i.e. it is listed from item "j"). Little wonder that some animal welfare groups see no alternative but to call for a ban of the entire industry.

The Animal Welfare League's statement reads:

AWLA does not support the exploitation of dogs for sport, gambling or entertainment purposes. Racing greyhounds face negative welfare outcomes during training, transportation and racing. An unacceptably high number of healthy greyhounds are injured, discarded and euthanased annually across Australia. Also, the industry has proven incapable of safeguarding the welfare of the vast majority of dogs considered unviable for racing.
Because of these issues, we advocate for an end to greyhound racing in Australia. While greyhound racing remains active, we support:
  • revision of the current regulatory regime to ensure effective and transparent control of all aspects of the industry
  • the introduction of mandatory and enforceable welfare standards for the breeding, sale and post-racing treatment of greyhound
  • registration and identification requirements applying to other breeds of dogs also applying to greyhounds
  • consistent and rigorous enforcement of the Rules of Racing