The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission has recommended that no new greyhound tracks should be permitted in Scotland due to animal welfare concerns.
A new report by the commission (SAWC) also said that a“desirable outcome” would be for no organised greyhound racing to take place in Scotland. But dog racing will continue at the last remaining Scottish track in Thornton, Fife, despite calls for a ban.
SAWC examined greyhound racing in Scotland following revelations that between 2018-2021 there were 2,412 greyhound deaths and 17,930 recorded injuries amongst registered raced greyhounds.
Animal welfare groups have welcomed the report — thought to be the most comprehensive review of dog racing in Scotland for decades — but reiterated calls for the Scottish Government to “phase out” what they view as a “cruel sport”.
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain said it was “disappointed” by some of SAWC’s conclusions and accused groups who campaign against greyhound racing of “propagating misleading, inaccurate and unevidenced facts”.
The report follows pressure from animal welfare groups and a series of articles by The Ferret highlighting doping scandals, and deaths and injuries to greyhounds.
Between 2017-2020, 15 deaths and 197 injuries were recorded at Shawfield Stadium in Glasgow, as revealed by The Ferret.
In 2019, we revealed that greyhounds had tested positive for banned drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine dozens of times at Shawfield.
Steroids, beta blockers and prohormones – used by bodybuilders – were among other prohibited substances found in the bloodstreams of greyhounds.
Five of the 28 positive tests involved cocaine, which is potentially fatal for dogs and can lead to seizures, strokes and heart attacks.
Following its investigation, SAWC concluded that “no further new greyhound tracks are permitted in Scotland”. Its report said: “We are not convinced that any of the current proposed measures can safeguard greyhound welfare appropriately and believe that this will help to reduce suffering in Scotland.”
The report also recommended that greyhound racing should only continue at Thornton, in Fife, if a veterinarian is present when dogs are racing, and all injuries are reported. The continued operation of Thornton would be subsequently reviewed after a period of three to five years.
Mark Ruskell MSP, of the Scottish Greens, welcomed the report and said it is a “vital step forward” in the debate about greyhound welfare. “The commission is right to call for an end to new racetracks and to note the serious welfare concerns at the heart of the sport,” Ruskell added.
“Today’s report confirms that this cruel industry is on its last legs. It’s time to finally phase out greyhound racing before any more dogs are hurt.”
Bob Elliot, director of the Edinburgh-based animal welfare charity, OneKind, cited “doping scandals, and the appalling treatment of raced greyhounds on and off the tracks” — pointing out that “once these dogs no longer make money for ‘trainers’, they can also be killed on ‘economic grounds’”.
He added: “The strong support for a phase out to greyhound racing amongst animal welfare organisations and grassroots groups and the Scottish public is clear. The wealth of welfare risks in the industry has also now been well-documented by the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission. It is imperative that the Scottish Government listens and commits to a phase out of this cruel industry in Scotland.”
In defence of greyhound racing, Mark Bird, CEO of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, claimed his organisation “shares a common goal with SAWC” of protecting and promoting greyhound welfare in Scotland. He argued that “strong and effective regulation is the only way to do this successfully” pointing out he has been working with Holyrood officials to support Thornton — which is currently unregulated — to be licensed.
“Under our remit, racing greyhounds receive far more protection than domestic dogs. We have over 200 Rules governing those within the sport, including the requirement that a veterinary surgeon is present before, during and after any racing, and setting strict standards on the care of greyhounds at tracks, during transportation and at home in their trainers’ residential kennels,” Bird said.
He continued: “We are disappointed that this activism (by groups opposed to racing) has influenced SAWC’s ultimate report, in which anecdote has been prioritised over data, accuracy and transparency. We will, however, continue to engage with members and officials in Holyrood to support greater regulation, as what we know to be in the best interests of racing greyhounds.”
Featured illustration thanks to iStock and insima