Monday, 24 January 2011

Greyhound breeding scandal

There exists in Britain the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 that was substantially amended by the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999.

Under the Act, a person keeping a breeding establishment for dogs will require a licence issued by the local authority. And for the purposes of the Act such an establishment is defined essentially as a business of breeding dogs for sale where a minimum 5 litters are bred across a one year period.

Key detail in the legislation, as you would expect, concerns the welfare and protection of brood bitches with licence conditions stipulating that any one bitch does not give birth to more than 6 litters of puppies, and that bitches do not give birth to puppies within a 12 month period of last giving birth.

It is legislation that is of course applicable to greyhounds as it is any other breed of dog, but as far as greyhounds are concerned the Act seems hardly worth the paper it is written on (what a surprise).

Due to the decline in greyhound racing in Britain the number of greyhound puppies bred annually has fallen dramatically over more recent years (litters recorded with the National Coursing Club (NCC) falling by more than 54% in the last 7 years) and there are now few establishments that require a licence.

Indeed greyhound breeding across the last decade in Britain has been spread very thinly with the infamous Charles Pickering (‘warned off’ in October 2010) being one notable exception. Other key players, however, include Craig Dawson, James Fenwick and David Firmager. All 3 are licensed trainers under the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).

The NCC received 55 litter entries (across 24 dams) for Dawson between 01 June 2000 and 31 May 2010 (puppy total: 361). The total number of litters recorded for the above dams is 74 (other litters falling outside the time frame and/or recorded under a different breeder and/or with the Irish Coursing Club (ICC)).

Dawson, rightly in my view, has held a breeding licence for many years, but research highlights seemingly repeated violation of licence conditions. Looking solely at litters recorded under Dawson with the NCC, bitches gave birth on 14 occasions within 12 months of last giving birth.

When questioned about the above Dawson was to remark: “I didn’t know I was only allowed to breed one litter a year per bitch. Nobody has ever told me any different.”

A litter born September 2001 by Plasterscene Gem/Polnoon Lane and recorded under Dawson was the dam’s seventh litter, and 8 litters are recorded under Dawson for brood bitch Jackies Lady (whelping date for 4 of the litters within 12 months of the dam last giving birth).

Breeding data under Fenwick gives even greater cause for concern. The NCC received 101 litter entries (across 45 dams) for the trainer (attached to Newcastle) between 01 June 2000 and 31 May 2010 (puppy total: 641). A total of 158 litters are recorded for the above dams.

The maximum number of litters born within any calendar year falling within the above dates and recorded solely with the NCC is 18, with 5 or more litters consistently recorded across any one year period for much of the last decade. Fenwick, however, stated recently that he has never held a breeding licence in the last 10 years.

Whelping dates for 40 litter entries recorded under Fenwick with the NCC are within 12 months of the dams last giving birth.

A litter born August 2001 by Droopys Zidane/Ladys Guest and recorded under Fenwick was the dam’s seventh litter. Brood bitches Lydpal Frankie and Ballybeg Pumpkin are both recorded having 7 litters under Fenwick (the latter having a total of 8 litters (the eighth recorded under a different breeder with the ICC)), and 9 litters are recorded under Fenwick for brood bitch Any Chewing Gum (7 of the litters born within 12 months of the dam last giving birth).

In the light of the above it is interesting to note that Fenwick considered the restriction on the number of litters any bitch can have to 6 as “good and proper.” With Fenwick, however, not having a breeding licence he cannot be in breach of licence conditions.

The Act, perhaps drawn up with the best intentions, is clearly not protecting brood bitches in a number of ways: It depends on the honesty of the breeder; breeding establishments are seemingly not being monitored as closely as they should be and of course not all dams are covered by the Act.

Subsection (5) under ‘4A Breeding establishments for dogs’ would on the face it allow a person to breed any number of litters without requiring a licence (and so not be subject to licence conditions) if none of the puppies born are sold within a particular time frame. DEFRA were unable to provide clarification on the above! Of further concern is the fact different authorities have different interpretations of the Act.

The only breeder in research carried out where it is thought subsection (5) may apply is Firmager. Melton Borough Council could not say whether Firmager has held a licence in the past due to records lost in a fire. Firmager was unwilling to talk on the matter stating only: “We’re actually winding down breeding dogs, there’s no money in it and to be honest with you I wouldn’t have anything good to say about the GBGB.”

The NCC received 62 litter entries (across 31 dams) for Firmager between 01 June 2000 and 31 May 2010 (puppy total: 457) with 5 or more litters frequently recorded across any one year period up until October 2009. A total of 74 litters are recorded for the above dams.

Whelping dates for 13 litter entries recorded under Firmager with the NCC are within 12 months of the dams last giving birth, and 8 litters are recorded under the trainer for brood bitch Fast March (6 of the litters born within 12 months of the dam last giving birth).

And worryingly, as the number of breeders that require a licence diminishes, it does not necessarily follow that brood bitches are having fewer litters. Research has identified many dams that function simply as breeding machines with litters from any one bitch commonly recorded under different breeders. A period of only 7-8 months in-between whelping dates in also not uncommon.

The relevant local authorities are in receipt of comprehensive data compiled by Greyhound Watch on Dawson and Fenwick that again brings in question the role of the GBGB in protecting the welfare of greyhounds. It is astonishing to think that in 2010 the governing body was given UKAS accreditation.

Information correct at the time compiled (07 January 2011).


This subject is now covered in Behind the Lights, the Tote and the Non-starters, where additional information is provided.