GREYHOUNDS whose racing careers are behind them are finding new roles as pets for families far from the tracks where they made their names.
Under the Irish Greyhound Board's (IGB) retired greyhound adoption scheme, 30 dogs left their Irish "families" yesterday and headed off to new homes in Italy where they will be kept as pets.
The board is keen to spread the word in Ireland and beyond that greyhounds – once they've finished their racing days, been neutered and taken off a diet geared towards the track – make affectionate, quiet and relaxed pets for families.
Some are rehoused here but others are shipped off to a host of European countries, where they see out their days in comfort.
"I hate letting them go," said Justine Stanton from Ballingarry, Co Tipperary, yesterday as she waved goodbye to Lily's Quest and Prince of Passion.
"The only reason we let them go is that we know they're going to great homes and are going to get 24/7 care. We do have a couple of retired greyhounds at home but we can't keep them all."
In a matter of days, Justine and husband Ger will be able to keep track of their former dogs via the internet and ensure that they're being well looked after. It costs an average of €200 to transport one dog to Italy, with about half paid by the Greyhound Adoption Centre of Italy (GACI), the agency in charge of finding new homes for the retired greyhounds.
The rest is paid for by the Retired Greyhound Trust, a charity part-funded by a deduction from all greyhound racing prize money in Ireland.
Greyhound board welfare officer Barry Coleman said this week's is the sixth batch of about 30 greyhounds to leave Ireland this year and the programme has run since the mid-1990s.
For many, he said, the idea of a greyhound as a pet is an alien concept but the reality is different.
"They make wonderful pets and we'd like to try and have the public perception changed here. Anyone that does have a greyhound as a pet swears by it."