Sunday, 26 April 2009

Thousands of greyhound pups unaccounted for

The breeding of greyhounds for the purpose of racing is a hit and miss affair at the best of times. Illness aside, both injury and temperament frequently dictate the fate of such dogs. Factor in the understandable desire for only the highest performing animal, and the ‘wastage’ figure rises enormously.

Even the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) who govern racing on Britain’s 28 major tracks concede that a greyhound may never contend a race because the dog “is too slow …, because he or she is disinterested in chasing the artificial hare or because he or she simply interferes or plays with other greyhounds whilst running on the track.” Interfering with another dog commonly refers to fighting.

The GBGB admission is backed up in a Greyhound Watch survey that is the largest of its kind ever undertaken. And the disparity between figures for greyhounds bred and pups to subsequently contend a race is alarming to say the least.

The survey covered all Greyhound Stud Book litter entries received between 1 June 2005 and 31 May 2006 (Vol. 125), and showed that only 2,267 of 4,332 pups born are recorded racing. In other words, just 52% made the grade.

And with the figure of 2,267 accounting for just 23% of greyhounds to be registered for racing in Britain over a twelve month period (comparison made against the registration total for 2007 (9,751)), above statistics only hint at the scale of unwanted pups.

Looking solely at the number of greyhounds bred as a result of racing in Britain, the findings indicate that over a one year period about 8,882 pups are judged not fit for purpose.

We have in Britain, however, still meetings held on flapping (independent) tracks for which no figures exist. Such tracks are though minor players and attract both dogs that have previously been recorded racing as well as pups new to the track. Flapping tracks will, therefore, not impact greatly on numbers.

Members of the racing fraternity would also be right to point out that the best bitch in a litter will, on occasion, be retired directly for mating. In other words, used as a breeding machine and spending the rest of her life in a kennel.

Most bitches used for mating have though competed on the track, if only in a few races. Any Chewing Gum is recorded contending 6 ‘opens’ and one feature race and subsequently had a litter in October 2000, August 2001, June 2002, March 2003, December 2003, August 2004, April 2005, February 2006 and March 2007.

The survey also collated data relating to specific breeders and the findings make for interesting reading.

Litter entries received for Charles Pickering over the same period (June 2005 – May 2006) total 39 (38 identified in the index), and out of 198 pups born, just 90 reached the naming stage and only 46 (23%) are recorded racing (figures in the survey relating to ‘naming stage’ are based on information in Vol. 125 and all subsequent volumes of the Greyhound Stud Book that have been published).

All pups from 9 litter entries for Pickering that include a mating between Goahead Atlantic and El Premier - El Premier being the sire of the brood bitch, appear to have vanished. Pickering was the subject of an article in The Sunday Times (11 May, 2008) in which he was reported offering slow dogs to be killed for research.

Litter entries for breeder and trainer Ann McCarroll (attached to Newcastle) total 11, and out of 62 pups born, just 35 were named and 23 (37%) are recorded racing. One of the brood bitches - Agile Milly - was, along with other greyhounds, later rescued after the animals were booked-in at Marske Vets Ltd to be euthanased.

And just 9 (16%) of 55 pups from 11 litter entries for Ian Taylor are recorded racing. Pups named total 34 of which 18, curiously, are recorded under Pickering.

So what happens to the thousands of pups bred every year that never contend a race?

Interestingly, the GBGB ask the same question under ‘FAQ’s’ on the governing bodies website (without, not surprisingly, giving even a suggestion of numbers). Read further down and you will see the GBGB fail to provide an answer and use clever wording to imply such dogs are homed.

Homing figures for 2007 given within the Greyhound Forum, June 2008 report for all greyhounds are as follows: 4,479 homed through the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT) and an “estimated” 3,500 homed by owners, trainers and other welfare charities.

How credible the above figures are, is, however, in question. RGT Director, Ivor Stocker, was recently to say: “There was certainly instances in the last two or three years were dogs have been counted on more than one occasion because the trainer put in a form and we (RGT) put in a form.”

And through the media, the governing body invariably compare similar figures solely against the number of greyhounds that retire from racing annually (about 10,000) and so, at the very least, imply all greyhounds homed are ex-racers (it looks good and negates the subject of non-graders).

The public are being misled. Most, but not all greyhounds homed, are ex-racers. The RGT have estimated that about 30% of greyhounds homed through their branches were not registered for racing.

If that percentage is applied across all greyhounds homed and if we assume no greyhounds were counted on more than one occasion (for sake of argument) that is 2,394 non-graders accounted for in 2007.

Homing figures for 2007 are up slightly on 2006, but have risen little subsequently. No matter how you look at it, it isn’t possible to account for the vast majority of greyhounds that are not recorded racing.

Eight breeders with litters recorded in the survey showing high ‘wastage’ were asked about the fate of the pups. Only one breeder responded, and the response did not address the specific issue of the animal’s fortune.

In a one page fanciful article (courtesy of Our Dogs, 15 August 2008), Greyhound Star Editor, Floyd Amphlett, was to state: “Greyhound breeders do not dispose of young pups through colouring or genetic issues.” Amphlett, on that point, was correct. What, however, he conveniently forgot to mention is pups are killed and killed in their thousands because they are simply judged not suitable for racing.


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