The highly anticipated Commons Select Committee report on Greyhound Welfare has been published following a five-month inquiry.
The report, produced by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committe (EFRA), says bookmakers must contribute more and should not “prioritise profit over high welfare standards”.
Neil Parish MP, committee chair, said: “All racing greyhounds should enjoy high welfare standards both during their racing career and retirement. Bookmakers who profit from greyhound racing should contribute to welfare standards regardless of whether the profits are from high-street stores, online or overseas betting.
“The welfare of racing greyhounds shouldn’t be at the whim of bookmakers who can simply choose to contribute or not. The Government should consider introducing a statutory levy or an alternative betting rights model to protect animal welfare.”
EFRA also recommended changes to the 2010 Regulations so that welfare data related to injury, euthanasia and rehoming numbers is recorded and published.
The report finds that the lack of publicly available data on injuries sustained by racing dogs makes it difficult to judge the current level of welfare provision. Legislation introduced in 2010 requires the industry to keep data relating to injury but it is not required to publish it.
So far all records have been closely guarded in spite of clear demand among charities, trainers and veterinarians for greater transparency within the industry. MPs highlight that the lack of transparency sustains the suspicions of critics.
Simon Hart MP said: “Defra should amend the 2010 regulations to make the publication of welfare data mandatory in order to help the industry challenge external criticism, and show that all efforts are being made to avoid preventable deaths.”
One major concern is the number of healthy dogs potentially being destroyed due to oversupply. This was brought into sharp focus in 2006 when The Sunday Times revealed that healthy greyhounds were being systematically killed and dumped in “canine killing fields”.
During this latest inquiry, MPs found that there is still a significant lack of information concerning the fate of greyhounds surplus to racing requirements. The committee calls for greater transparency about the destiny of racing dogs and that rehoming data is made available.
“We simply do not know what is happening to all greyhounds after they finish racing,” stated Jim Fitzpatrick MP. “If the destruction of healthy dogs is happening on a large scale it is clear that the industry should bear a greater financial responsibility for funding rehomed greyhounds.
“We want to see that all efforts are being made to rehome these animals at the end of their racing lives.”
The committee says that the 2010 Regulations should extend beyond the race track to include trainers’ kennels, which could be independently scrutinised by a suitably authorised body.
The regulations introduced in 2010 have brought the same minimum standards to all racing tracks, but 95% of a dog’s racing life will be spent in private kennels. At the time, it was clear to animal welfare organisations, including Greyhound Compassion, that the Regulations would be ineffectual.
As part of the government’s five-year review, Greyhound Compassion believes EFRA’s report is a significant milestone on the road to improving greyhound welfare in the UK.
The report states that within the five years since the introduction of the 2010 Regulations, there is little evidence of the industry going further than necessary to drive up welfare standards.
Greyhound Compassion welcomes the commitee’s proposals which push for the need for greater transparency, improved welfare and an extension of responsibility to trainers’ kennels. It acknowledges the problem of over-supply of greyhounds. The surplus of greyhounds is not confined to after racing, we know that something also has to be done to protect the “saplings” which don’t make the racing grade.
The report also rightly raises concerns about the financing of higher welfare standards and makes clear the responsibilities of the bookmaking industry, whether they operate on the high street or online.
It remains to be seen whether or not the industry as a whole will implement the committee’s proposals during the recommended two-year probationary period of self-regulation. If self-regulation is to work, all sections of the industry, including bookmakers, must now take responsibility for, and play a shared role in, driving up the welfare of all greyhounds.
We look forward to the next steps.