Campaigners call for Scottish greyhound racing ban

The Scottish SPCA, one of Scotland’s leading animal welfare organisations, has called on MSPs to initiate a ban on greyhound racing in the country.

In a letter to Scottish legislators, the body’s Chief Superintendent, Mike Flynn, described greyhound racing as an ‘outdated industry’ and pointed to cases of death and injury to greyhounds, as well as alleged use of steroids, caffeine-based substances and illegal veterinary medicines in the sport. 

The Scottish SPCA further reported 197 injuries and 15 deaths of competing greyhounds occurred between 2017 and 2020 at Scotland’s only regulated racetrack, Shawfield Stadium in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire. The country’s second racetrack is an unlicensed venue – a ‘flapper’ track – at Thornton.

“This is 15 deaths too many,” Flynn stated. “We have no doubt that number would be higher if the pandemic hadn’t forced the temporary closure of the stadium.”

As a ban on greyhound racing would result in a significant number of dogs requiring rehoming, the SPCA has pledged to commit itself towards this – outlining that it would care for any ex-racer. 

Additionally, the organisation has stated that it would take on responsibility for studs, breeding female, pregnant dogs and pups in the event of a crackdown on the sport, and would neuter or spay any former racers, in order to prevent continued breeding. 

Flynn concluded: “Scotland needs to lead the way in the UK and put the welfare of racing greyhounds first by implementing a full ban on this outdated industry.”

A petition had previously been filed to the Scottish Parliament by Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation (SAGE), a lobby group calling for prohibition of the sport, which has the support of the SPCA. 

The petition, PE1758, has been under consideration by the Scottish Parliament since 2019, and debates on the issue had previously seen MSPs Mark Ruskell and Scott Greer of the Scottish Green Party and Claire Haughey of the SNP raise their concerns. 

SAGE stated: “We believe the Scottish Government is not only failing greyhounds but is actively condoning a cruel and outdated practice. We believe Scotland is better than that.”

Speaking to The Scotsman, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We expect animal owners to care appropriately for their animals and to adhere to all legislation and standards.

“Where the welfare of any greyhound is not being met, the provisions of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 allow for action to be taken by the relevant agencies to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases.”

Although the Scottish SPCA and SAGE have chiefly expressed concern about animal welfare in support of a greyhound racing ban, the sport’s national governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), maintains that it operates to high welfare standards.

Issuing an update last year, the GBGB maintained that it had met the eight requirements of its Greyhound Commitment, having initiated an overhaul of licensing and residential kennel inspections, published a Code of Practice and the launched Greyhound Retirement Scheme.

These initiatives received the backing of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) in the form of a £1 million financial package, whilst the GBGB now states that 75% of its funding is directed towards welfare and 95% of retired greyhounds were rehomed in 2020. 

As reported by The Scotsman, GBGB Chief Executive Mark Bird said: “What is often overlooked by those who would like to see racing banned is that the protection racing greyhounds receive goes far beyond what is afforded to pet dogs in the UK.

“As a regulator, we closely monitor the welfare of all GBGB registered greyhounds and have a very strict anti-doping policy. There is no place for mistreatment of greyhounds within our sport and we are prepared to take the strongest action if evidence of this is ever found.”

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