The industry’s necessity to achieve UKAS accreditation and the implementation of imposed welfare changes, without any increased funding from the gambling industry, is already proving disastrous for the GBGB.
The introduction of new kennel inspections, micro chipping and drug sampling, have culminated in the Greyhound Trainers Association chairwoman – Norah McEllistrim – calling for a ‘Vote of No Confidence’ in the GBGB and Stuart Lock-Hart, who represents greyhound owners on the GBGB board declaring ‘I believe the CEO’s [Ian Taylor] position has become untenable and he should resign’.
The Racing Post’s coverage of the rows also forced an impromptu meeting to discus what Jim Cremin – the greyhound editor – has described as ‘the biggest crisis the sport has faced in the 36 years I have worked within it’
Concerns were immediately raised over a new kennel inspection form, which had been hastily produced following the exposure of the Eve Blanchard’s kennels.
The new criteria details a time consuming inspection of the premises and of individual greyhounds by an RCVS registered vet. The form’s accompanying guidelines stipulate ‘All dogs should be inspected and be free from signs of disease including bed sores, and dental disease’ and ‘All greyhounds must be free from external parasites’. The inspecting vet also has to certify whether a dog has any infectious diseases.
In an interview to the Greyhound Star, Norah McEllistrim responded to the perceived extra costs, stating ‘Knowing the exorbitant charges administered by some vets, that could work out to hundreds of pounds that we simply don’t have. If the GBGB want the job done, then they should pay for it because we cannot and will not!’
In order to pacify the trainers and dismiss the extra cost as minimal, the newly installed Veterinary Director – Simon Gower – has trivialised the inspection of dogs, stating ‘‘When kennelling dogs for racing, a vet should be able to examine 80+ dogs within a 30- 40 minute period. I would expect that a suitably trained veterinary surgeon would be able to do the same during a kennel visit’.
Mr Gower also sates ‘As a guide, local authority inspections of boarding kennels can be expected to be charged at up to £120, and I would anticipate that most greyhound trainers kennels would command a fee of up to this. The welfare of our racing dogs is the prime concern for us all’
Despite Mr Gower’s apparent concern for the welfare of racing dogs, he fails to consider in his comparison of £120, the local authority inspection of boarding kennels do NOT include the inspection of any animals but focuses purely the establishment.
However, perhaps Mr Gower would care to make a video similar to the ‘Microchip Training Guide for Vets’ – showing us exactly how a greyhound can be diagnosed free from infectious, dental and skin diseases, in less than 30 seconds.
The next issue of contention has been the introduction of micro chipping, which the GBGB claim will be a requirement of the new welfare regulations, as yet to be announced following Defra’s recent consultation.
However, a six month pilot scheme conducted earlier this year by the GBGB has – not surprisingly – been unable to dismiss any long term welfare problems associated with micro chipping a working racing greyhound.
Although the GBGB Veterinary Director Simon Gower assures us the Datamars chip is ‘least likely to migrate when inserted by a vet’ – many trainers remain unconvinced of the safety and the need for both micro chipping and earmarking, resulting in a campaign for micro chipping to be withdrawn.
Regardless of the welfare concerns, there is insurmountable evidence the chip can be removed, replaced or reproduced and will do nothing to improve the traceability and therefore the welfare of greyhounds.
The most recent and certainly the most controversial issue of dispute has been the GBGB’s covert change in drug sampling.
Reports were leaked to trainers and the media of urine samples being tampered with and pooled – in breach of Rules of Racing – before being dispatched to the HFL forensic laboratory.
Long term serving employees raised their concerns, which resulted in the swift dismissal of the Chair of the Disciplinary Committee and the resignation of a senior sampling steward.
Caught well and truly with their pants down, the GBGB attempted to excuse the tampering with forensic evidence by suggesting the ‘pooling’ was an intelligence led operation to pinpoint those tracks/races which were prone to a higher rate of drug problems and did not have the funding to run the ‘intelligence led operation’ in parallel with the existing drug sampling scheme.
Clearly an analysis of previous year’s samples would have provided this intelligence and the GBGB have since been forced to admit the covert procedure was an attempt to show UKAS they could operate independently of its stakeholders.
What the pooling of urine samples won’t have detected, of course, is any offending trainers and drugged dogs – individually.
The welfare of greyhounds has never been a consideration when banned substances and illegal drugs are administered but how very convenient for the GBGB the pooled samples will not have resulted in Disciplinary Hearings, which to the outside world would have appeared encouraging but in complete contrast to the reality of a gambling industry where drug abuse is inherent – A Lawless Industry