Dogs Trust, the UK's leading dog welfare charity, has welcomed today's launch of a consultation into the future of greyhound racing in Scotland.
Since 2018, over more than 2,200 greyhounds died or were put to sleep because of racing on licensed tracks around the UK and over 22,000 injuries recorded. These figures do not include those who have died or were injured while racing on independent tracks.
Dogs Trust and other animal welfare organisations including RSPCA, Blue Cross, Scottish SPCA, and One Kind have called for an end to greyhound racing in Scotland to stop the unnecessary and completely preventable deaths of many of dogs every year.
Earlier this year, Mark Ruskell MSP proposed a Member's Bill that, if introduced, would make it illegal to race greyhounds in Scotland. The consultation launched today outlines the proposals to phase out greyhound racing by the time the proposed Bill would come into force, which is likely to be a period of over 12 months.
In 2023, the Scottish Government consulted on licencing greyhound tracks. Following the consultation, it concluded that that was is a strong case for the introduction of a statutory licensing scheme for greyhound racing in Scotland. However, Dogs Trust, along with many other organisations, does not believe that licencing tracks goes far enough to protect the welfare of the dogs involved in racing and instead wants to see greyhound racing come to an end.
Following today's launch of the consultation on the future of greyhound racing in Scotland, Owen Sharp, Chief Executive at Dogs Trust says:
"We welcome this consultation on the future of greyhound racing in Scotland and appreciate the efforts of MSPs like Mark Ruskell who are working hard to bring it to an end. It is simply not acceptable that across the UK, more than 2,200 greyhounds have died or were put to sleep since 2018, and more than 22,000 injuries recorded, all in the name of entertainment.
"We worked with the greyhound industry for many years to try to improve the welfare of dogs involved in greyhound racing. However, it's clear that progress has not been made quickly enough, or on a big enough scale to have any impact, and industry is a long way from ensuring the welfare of all the dogs involved. Therefore, we believe the only option is to bring greyhound racing to a complete stop in Scotland and across the UK."
In Scotland, there are two greyhound racing tracks; the official Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) track at Shawfield in Rutherglen, Glasgow, which has been closed since March 2020, and an independent "flapper" track at Thornton in Fife.
Dogs Trust, along with other welfare organisations, believes greyhound racing is inherently dangerous for the dogs involved. Running at speed around oval tracks causes significant injury to many dogs, and in some cases the injuries are so severe that it is necessary to euthanise the dog.
Comprehensive internal reviews conducted by Dogs Trust, the RSPCA and Blue Cross highlighted serious concerns at every stage of a racing greyhound's life including issues around inadequate welfare standards in kennelling and transporting the dogs. Some of the dogs used in racing are kept in poor, barren conditions, with little if any enrichment and fed a poor diet. The reviews also highlighted concerns around the general health of the dogs including the number and severity of injuries sustained during racing.
There are also serious issues around the racing of greyhounds in extreme weather and the number of puppies that are unaccounted for between birth and racing registrations, so often referred to by the sector as the "wastage".
The reviews also found there to be disjointed and ineffective regulation within the sector, a lack of transparency regarding industry practices, and additional concerns around the enforcement of regulatory standards.
There's also concern around the absence of a sustainable and consistent source of income for the industry which has grossly impacted any meaningful change for the dogs involved. However, even if the considerable finances needed to continue were made available, a complete overhaul of the sport is necessary to ensure it is compatible with good welfare.