Greyhound Compassion was established in 2001 by a small group of owners of rescued greyhound 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 or public houses 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 an agricultural building on a piece of land 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 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 are transparent about 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 it is fully purpose built with an on-site clinic, running water and electricity, and hundreds of galgos are homed to loving families in mainland Europe, USA and Canada. 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. Over the years, we have funded veterinary fees, dog food bills, winter coats and kennel renovations for the galgos and greyhounds in the care of the shelters we support.
Today, we are still a small but growing group of greyhound advocates who raise funds through 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 at a car boot or holding a coffee morning.Join us!
Not content with just fundraising, we lobby 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 1,000 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 review 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 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) reviewed the 2010 Regulations in 2015 and in 2016. Again Greyhound Compassion provided its input. DEFRA considered the Regulations to be broadly successful when compared with their original objectives. The EFRA Select Committee was less impressed and recommended a 2 year probationary period for the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB: the regulatory body for greyhound racing). DEFRA, however, believed the GBGB was starting to address concerns.
The EFRA Select Committee members are still concerned about welfare provision and a two tier racing industry (GBGB licensed tracks as well as independent, “flapping” tracks). The EFRA Select Committee has kept racing under review, having questioned the Minister in February and the EFRA Chair is adamant that the greyhound racing industry “must not make money out of misery”. The EFRA Select Committee is keen to see greyhound racing receive more money for welfare from the bookmakers. However, the injection of much needed cash does not appear to be forthcoming.
We continue to press for change via every avenue possible, be that through channels at Westminster, petitions, social media, or by lobbying the well-known dog welfare charities to show a stance opposing greyhound racing.