Greyhound Compassion was established in 2001 by a small group of rescued greyhound owners who were horrified by the plight of the racing greyhounds, the majority of whom are bred in Ireland and exported to the UK.
We came to realise that tens of thousands of these gentle dogs – the canine commodity of the gambling industry serving the nation’s greyhound racetracks – were going missing, changing hands in car parks without any trace by the industry’s regulatory body, or filling up spaces in places like Battersea Dogs’ Home, the RSPCA and the DogsTrust.
We learned about the excessive number of treatable injuries which went untreated or resulted in greyhounds being put to sleep because he or she was of no further commercial value to the racing industry. We could not stand by and see this happen.
We also came to know those rescuing the galgos in Medina del Campo, Spain. Similar to the greyhounds, perhaps even lazier (hard to believe!) the abused and neglected galgos are used for hare coursing and their breeders/owners (the galgueros) discard their galgos at the end of the annual hunting season in January/February.
Traditionally, the galgos were hanged in the pine forests in the environs of Medina del Campo. We heard about the Scooby shelter which was saving hundreds of galgos from a fate worse than death.
At the time, the shelter was just a building with no running water or electricity. It was a safe haven for the galgos. The very small team had ambitions to build a state of the art shelter to rescue and rehabilitate the galgos. We wanted to be part of building a better life for the galgos.
Greyhound Compassion is a registered charity and a registered company. This is based on legal advice to protect our funds and the liability of the Trustees. Greyhound Compassion has three Directors/Trustees and is supported by a faithful group of volunteers who are very practical and committed to improving the welfare of the greyhounds and galgos. We keep admin expenses to the absolute minimum and publish annually how our funds are disbursed.
We have been blessed with the support of two patrons – Malcolm Hebden (Coronation Street’s Norris Cole) and Philip Serrell, auctioneer and antiques expert, of the BBC’s Bargain Hunt, Flog It!, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is and Antiques Road Trip.
Malcolm and Philip are keen supporters of Greyhound Compassion having contributed to our fundraising efforts. Philip very kindly hosted ‘An evening with Philip Serrell’ in aid of Greyhound Compassion and Malcolm has admirably judged our fun dog shows, making some tough choices!
We set about planning an annual events calendar to generate funds for some of the independent shelters we knew were rescuing the greyhounds in the UK and Ireland. Our fundraising efforts were also going to help build the new Scooby shelter for the galgos.
Today, we are still a small but growing group of greyhound advocates who raise funds through jumble sales, car boots, table top sales, tombolas, fun dog shows, walks, garden parties and flag days.
Our group welcomes anyone who shares our concern and can turn their hand to shaking a tin, baking a cake, selling jumble or holding a coffee morning.Join us!
We try to punch way above our weight and keep our overheads to a minimum so that every Pound and Euro we spend stretches to the heart of the greyhound and galgo problem. Gradually, we have invested in the Scooby shelter so that it now offers proper facilities with an on-site clinic for the galgos in its care.
Likewise, we have contributed to veterinary and subsistence costs for the greyhounds at Greyhound Rescue, Lincolnshire, as well as those at Limerick Animal Welfare in Ireland.
Not content with just fundraising, we lobby in a measured way for change. Having seen first-hand the treatment of the galgos from cradle to grave, and having witnessed galgo corpses hanging in the pine forests around Medina del Campo, we worked with Scooby to push the police to enforce the law and shamed the galgueros into bringing their galgos to the Scooby shelter rather than killing them.
Thankfully, a hanging is now rare and Scooby saves about 1000 galgos annually. Many of them are rescued in a poor, neglected state but at least they are alive and can be rehabilitated.
As for the greyhounds, the Seaham killings of 2006 shocked the nation when the Sunday Times revealed that a builders’ merchant had killed 10,000 greyhounds over 15 years using a bolt gun, charging £10 per greyhound, and burying them on a one acre plot at the back of his home in Seaham. This was a catalyst for change from the Government’s point of view.
Greyhound Compassion was among a group of welfare organisations pushing for greater transparency and the independent regulation of the greyhound racing industry. That was not to be and The Welfare of Racing Greyhound Regulations 2010 permitted self-regulation of the racing industry and did little to improve greyhound welfare.
The 2010 Regulations were reviewed in 2015 and in 2016 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) considered them to be broadly successful when compared with their original objectives. DEFRA believed the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB: the regulatory body for greyhound racing) was starting to address concerns and placed it on a 2 year probationary period to 2018. EFRA Select Committee members were, however, still concerned about welfare provision and a two tier racing industry (GBGB licensed tracks as well as independent, “flapping” tracks). DEFRA will consider other approaches, including regulation, if the GBGB fails. George Eustice (DEFRA Minister) commented during a 2016 Westminster Hall debate that DEFRA aimed: “to keep the GBGB’s feet to the fire and to make it understand the stakes”.
In 2016 DEFRA secured the GBGB’s commitment to publish statistics with a full data set to be ready end 2017. In March 2018 the GBGB published the 2017 aggregate injury, euthanasia and retirement statistics. The figures showed that 1,013 greyhounds were put to sleep or suffered sudden/natural death, in the words of the GBGB. We were astounded that 67% (and that’s being generous because some of the other labels for euthanasia seem to fit with convention but lack proper definition) of these deaths were inadequately explained or attributed to the high cost of treatment, or no home being found. Sadly 25.4% of the deaths took place “trackside” which is heartbreaking, knowing that these poor, gentle greyhounds suffered so publicly in the name of gambling and entertainment. That is exploitation and we believe The League Against Cruel Sports was right to repeat its 2016 call for greyhound racing to be “consigned to the ranks of cruel sports which are no longer acceptable”. You can read more about the data in our blog.
The racing industry has failed to respond adequately to the outcry following the discovery of the killing field in Seaham in 2006, which was already too late given that racing started in the UK in 1926. The DogsTrust echoes the view that the racing industry has been apathetic in the face of valid criticism and has stated that if the industry cannot reform itself urgently, a ban may be the only option.