Thursday, 6 October 2011

Drugs, greyhounds and self-regulation

The variety of drugs injected or fed to greyhounds that can potentially affect the animal’s performance - improve or impair - is matched only by the variety of excuses when the trainers are caught.

More recently two cases stand out not only because of the substances involved but also because of how each case was dealt with and the outcome.

In September last year the police interviewed trainer Anthony Fowler on reports he was selling cannabis. It transpired, however, Fowler was giving both cannabis and Viagra to a greyhound called Jake to affect the animal’s track time.

The matter was brought to the attention of the RSPCA and though Fowler had got rid of the greyhound - put down due to a shoulder injury… apparently - a successful prosecution was brought against the trainer at Hartlepool Magistrates Court.

On 9 August Fowler was banned from keeping dogs for life. The trainer was further given an 18-week custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

There are two key points concerning the above: Fowler was not a licensed trainer and so not subject to the Rules of Racing under the Greyhound Board of Great Britain and the case was dealt with by a magistrates’ court.

The second case concerns a black and white greyhound bitch called Steer Me Home and trained by David Puddy. A urine sample taken from the dog at Central Park Stadium, Sittingbourne, in March this year was found to contain methamphetamine and amphetamine.

Both are central nervous system stimulants. The former is a Class A drug known colloquially as crystal meth. The latter is a Class B drug known as speed.

Puddy is a licensed trainer (attached to Sittingbourne) and at a GBGB disciplinary hearing held on 19 July was found in breach of rules 152 (i), 174 (i)(b) and 217. The disciplinary committee ordered that Puddy be “severely reprimanded” and fined £750.

A magistrates’ court is of course independent and the GBGB are the governing body for 25 tracks across England and Scotland. Puddy is still running dogs at Sittingbourne.

The GBGB press office stated this week that “with all cases relating to drugs the relevant authorities are informed.” Puddy’s partner, speaking on Monday, said neither the RSPCA nor the police had made any enquiries.

If there’s one positive to take from any of the above, it’s that Fowler was banned from keeping dogs for life. The fact, however, Fowler was caught in the first place had nothing to do with protecting animals.

Ultimately one is again left questioning whether the welfare of racing dogs is best served by a self-regulating industry. Furthermore, one has to question the relationship between the GBGB and other “relevant authorities.”