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Scottish Animal Welfare Commission opposes unlicensed greyhound track

The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) has backed the closure of an unlicensed greyhound racing track in Scotland.

The move follows pressure from an animal welfare group and a series of reports by The Ferret highlighting deaths and injuries to greyhounds.

SAWC is opposed to racing at Thornton Greyhound Stadium in Kirkcaldy, Fife, which is unlicensed.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee, SAWC said it does not support the continuation of unlicensed, also known as flapper, tracks in Scotland.

Its letter stated: “If greyhound racing is to continue then this should only be under specific regulations to protect dog welfare and with the presence of a veterinarian at the track to inspect fitness to race, to ensure that dogs are not over-raced and welfare regulations have been met, and to administer prompt veterinary care should this be required.”

The move was welcomed by campaign group Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation (SAGE) which gave evidence to the committee in April about abuse, doping and neglect within the greyhound racing industry.

SAGE said Thornton Greyhound Stadium did not have vets present in order to ensure the welfare of the dogs, and it claimed the track did not conduct drug testing.

A statement on SAGE’s Facebook page said: “The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission backs the closure of Thornton Greyhound Stadium – the last remaining active greyhound racing track in the country – and an end to all unregulated greyhound racing in Scotland!

Scottish
Fifteen greyhounds died and 197 injuries to animals were recorded at Shawfield Stadium between 2017 and 2020. Photo Credit: iStock/JenDeVos

“At our evidence session in front of the RAINE committee in April of this year, we described to MSPs the abject lack of welfare measures at unregulated tracks, stating that the dogs racing at Thornton Greyhound Stadium in Fife are among the most vulnerable dogs in the country.”

The doping of greyhounds has been a problem at Scotland’s only licensed greyhound at Shawfield Stadium in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, which has not reopened since the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Greyhounds & Scottish Racing Tracks

In 2019, The Ferret revealed that greyhounds had tested positive for banned drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine dozens of times.

Steroids, beta blockers and prohormones – used by bodybuilders – were among other prohibited substances found in the bloodstreams of greyhounds at Shawfield since 2009.

Sending dogs at 40mph round a track where they can collide with each other is barbaric and all the data shows it comes at an unacceptable cost of death and injury

Mark Ruskell MSP, of the Scottish Greens

Five of the 28 positive tests at Shawfield involved cocaine, which is potentially fatal for dogs and can lead to seizures, strokes and heart attacks.

We also reported in 2020 that a greyhound trainer at Shawfield had been banned for breaching animal welfare rules after neglecting a dog so badly it had to be euthanised.

Earlier this year The Ferret revealed that fifteen greyhounds died and 197 injuries to animals were recorded at Shawfield between 2017 and 2020, prompting calls for greyhound racing to be banned completely.

Mark Ruskell MSP, of the Scottish Greens, said greyhound racing “belongs in a by-gone age where animal cruelty masqueraded as entertainment”. Claiming its “days are now numbered” he added: “Just as we banned the use of wild animals in travelling circuses so the last remaining active greyhound track in Scotland should now close. 

“The weight of expert and scientific opinion must not be ignored by government. Sending dogs at 40mph round a track where they can collide with each other is barbaric and all the data shows it comes at an unacceptable cost of death and injury.”

You can read more of our coverage on this issue here.

Photo Credit: iStock/JenDeVos

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