Monday 22 July 2019

Greyhound industry in the dock

Local shock and anger as RTE Prime Time Investigates shines light on the industry

A malnourished greyhound found by the NWSPCA
A malnourished greyhound found by the NWSPCA

Cathy Lee

An RTE Prime Time Investigates programme which shone a light on the greyhound industry in Ireland has been met with shock and disappointment locally.

'I was shocked by what I saw during the programme, but I hope people will now start to see the animals in a new light because what we actually need is an attitude change around these dogs,' said Joe Murray, Vice Chairperson of the North Wexford SPCA.

'It's not about the dogs, it's just people thinking financially and the dogs are a commodity for some people but we as rescuers have to pick up the mess. The popularity of hunting, coursing and lamping is also part of the problem,' said Joe Murray.

Joe explained that last year the shelter took in around 250-300 dogs, and about 15% of these were greyhounds or a greyhound-cross.

'There never seems to be a shortage of greyhounds, and there's local interest in re-homing them but with the high level of breeding going on, re-homing would be more manageable if the numbers went down,' he said.

'What we tend to see coming in are malnourished dogs in poor condition, having never been vaccinated, and they often have injuries on their skin. The good thing is we can get them back to health after about four-five weeks, and the transformation is fantastic. They make great family pets as they are calm and laid back dogs. They can chase things, so if you are a cat owner be weary, but they are generally low maintenance,' he said.

Christy Murphy, chairperson of Enniscorthy Greyhound Track said the programme did the sport no favours.

'I wasn't very happy about the whole thing, I'm not condoning what went on as right in any way but it wasn't good for the sport. There were obvious inaccuracies in the report, as natural causes of deaths weren't highlighted,' said Christy Murphy.

'The vast majority of greyhound owners love their dogs, they mind them and look after them and keep good kennels. I have kennels and I don't hide it, anyone is welcome to come in and see that my dogs and pups are well fed and looked after properly,' said Christy Murphy.

Larry Earle Ltd in Camolin, which runs a Fallen Animal Collection Service, featured in the RTE programme.

When contacted by this newspaper, a spokesperson for the business said that Larry Earle Ltd had 'no comment to make' about the programme.

A subsequent letter sent to this newspaper by Larry Earle Ltd stated that the company are 'considering legal action against some media bodies in relation to some matters regarding the programme'.

The documentary revealed that the industry is breeding thousands more puppies than it needs, leading to an over-populated amount of racing dogs every year.

A review commissioned by the Irish Greyhound Board in 2017, found that of 16,000 dogs born, 5,987 of these dogs died in the same year.

Chief executive of the Board, Gerard Dollard, said that any person who knowingly harms a greyhound brings shame upon the industry.

The Board also released a statement saying it 'strongly condemns the practices' outlined during the programme, and that these actions are of the minority.

The Enniscorthy Greyhound Track shared this statement from the Board on its Facebook page.

'The industry is getting harder as people aren't going to sporting events like they used to, attendance is down at race meetings. There's very little gambling as there's no business in it for bookies, all the big betters are gone. In Enniscorthy we used to have nine book makers, now we only have two. It is suffering,' said Christy Murphy.

'Quite a lot of people still enjoy a night at the dogs, only recently Enniscorthy was humming during one of our many benefit nights. They are not just coming for greyhound racing anymore and we have to do something as we are not getting the crowds through the gates, the money isn't there in rural Ireland,' he said.

Joe Murray feels that going forward, further legislation around the industry needs to be better enforced, and ultimately he would like to see the industry shut down altogether.

'If the greyhound industry can't stand on its own without government funding, in my view it shouldn't be there. We are spending our own funds on rescuing greyhounds which is costly and we aren't getting the same level of funding. It's ridiculous because greyhound racing isn't a sport, it should be shut down,' he said.

The Dublin SPCA have also launched a petition against all state funding the industry receives from the Department of Agriculture.

Gorey Guardian