Nearly early 350 retiring greyhounds were killed last year because a suitable home could not be found for them, or because the costs of treating them were deemed too high, The Telegraph can reveal.
Retirement figures compiled by greyhound racing’s governing body show that in total more than 1,000 retiring greyhounds either died or were put to sleep last year, with 257 killed trackside on “humane grounds”.
Battersea Dogs and Cats home, which took in 139 greyhounds in 2017, has said it is “concerned” by the number of dogs that have been killed trackside, and called for “immediate, demonstrable action”.
The data has been released for the first time by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), which has launched a new commitment to putting animal welfare “at the heart” of the sport.
The move follows recommendations from the government for the sport to be more transparent with figures regarding retirement, injuries and euthanasia.
Peter Laurie, Battersea’s deputy chief executive, called on bookmakers and betting organisations to contribute more to greyhound safety as the GBGB unveiled plans to direct at least 75 per cent of the funding received from the betting industry towards animal welfare.
Last year, 86 per cent of retiring greyhounds were successfully homed by charities or kept within the sport, compared to the 14 per cent that died or were put to sleep.
Of the 1,003 greyhounds that died upon retirement, 348 were put to sleep because no home could be found or because of the high treatment costs that would be required to keep them healthy.
“Battersea welcomes the disclosure of these figures, as greater transparency can only help to improve the welfare of racing and ex-racing Greyhounds,” said Mr Laurie.
“However, whilst the release of these figures is a step in the right direction, we are concerned that they reveal that 4,837 injuries were recorded at tracks last year and 257 dogs were killed. The GBGB needs to take immediate, demonstrable action to reduce these numbers.”
The GBGB said the UK’s racing injury rate of 1.15 per cent was the lowest independently verified injury rate in the world. It added that 257 dogs suffered racing fatalities last year, at a rate of 0.06 per cent, compared to a 0.18 per cent fatality rate in British horse racing.
“The publication of today’s data demonstrates the levels of care and attention already being provided to the welfare of dogs in our sport and proves that the overwhelming majority of greyhounds are successfully homed when they retire,” said Mark Bird, the chief executive of the GBGB.
“But there were 348 dogs this year for whom no home could be found and our mission is to reduce this number to zero.”
The GBGB has launched its “Greyhound Commitment”, setting out how dogs must be treated within the industry.
The commitment includes introducing further safety measures at racing tracks and the launch of a new injury-recovery scheme to help pay for medical costs involving greyhounds who have been injured in races.
Lord Gardiner, the minister for animal welfare, welcomed the new measures but said there is “still room for improvement”.
“I welcome the GBGB’s commitment to improving greyhound welfare and the publication of today’s data, a key recommendation of Defra’s review of the Greyhound Racing Regulations, is a welcome step to improving transparency in the sport,” he said.
“The figures show there is still room for improvement so it is right GBGB has set out plans to reduce injuries and deaths further and have a mission to cut the number of greyhounds put to sleep due to treatment costs or inability to find a new home to zero.”