Further to the recent and well researched article by Greyhound Watch – ‘Why Britain’s Greyhound Tracks are Inherently Lethal’ – BBC radio Nottingham’s Frances Finn invited the author Clive Ellis to talk about the issues he raises in the article.
During the interview Clive spoke passionately about the cruelty and dangers of racing dogs on oval tracks and expressed not only his concerns but also those of GOBATA – the Greyhound Owners Breeders And Trainers Association.
The GBGB declined their invitation to respond stating ‘It is not our policy to enter into broadcast debates with people who were ‘spurious, unknown or unconfirmed’
In the absence of a response from the GBGB – eminent vet Graham Oliver gave an independent and professional view on track injuries. Graham Oliver runs East Midlands Referrals – who have recently installed revolutionary scanning equipment to help animals with muscle and joint disorders – are highly specialised in dog orthopedics.
Mr Oliver said “It is a matter of fact – in racing – dogs do get inured. The fact they race round an oval circuit means that as they all come together at the first bend there are a number of collisions and that can result in injury. A lot of injuries may be minor – there may be bruising but some of them can be more major and involve fractures – particularly hock fractures and the majority of dogs that suffer a significant fracture do get euthansed – which is a shame. My involvement tends to be in that a small proportion of these dogs end up as pets and I’m more concerned with them and welfare – post racing or maybe have more secure financial means who will actually come on to have the animals repaired”
Frances asked Mr Oliver “Because when you own a greyhound as a pet you obviously want to do the best for that dog – you love that dog – but often an owner of a racing greyhound will have it as business and if its not cost efficient to repair that dog – then its goodbye isn’t it?”
“I’m afraid that’s the case. We deal with pets with orthopaedic injuries in the majority of cases but I see a lot of racing greyhounds – many of whom can be returned to perfectly healthy and happy lives but a proportion of which are not suitable for racing – probably the larger proportion – so these dogs are bred to race and once they are no longer suitable for that…..then if they are lucky they will be retired and treated out of their retirement and if they’re unlucky they’ll be euthansed. It’s quite a hard world………
“The dogs that you see Graham that have injuries can you just be more specific about whether or not running around a circular track is causing injures that could be avoided? Dogs run……..dogs fall………dogs frolic with each other and they do get injured and with an animal that has very lanky limbs like a greyhound they will get fractures – wont they?”
“Yes they are very finely built like a thoroughbred horse and they’re more prone to injuries than even dogs that are pets that injure themselves in the park – as you say. And whippets are run on both the straight and oval tracks – sometimes the same dog and we do see injuries in dogs run on straight lines. I think there isn’t any doubt that adding bends does create another possibility for dogs coming together – yes it would be safer if they ran in straight lines but obviously it’s not as convenient and maybe not as exciting for the viewers”
“Same as horses though isn’t it – or do you think horses are injured for some other reasons?” – asked Frances.
“I think the argument is that they have riders who can steer them away from one another whereas dogs are more single minded after that hare. Experienced dogs will learn where to be on the track but younger dogs quite often get tangled up”
“So would you support an idea to have more straight race tracks or would you just still think you’re still going to get injuries – it’s the nature of racing?”
“I think you would still get injuries – I think it would be very difficult to achieve that change nationally and there are probably other things that can be done to try and improve the lot of the greyhound – educating those involved in racing as to which injuries can actually be recovered from to race. Try to make sure the dogs are allotted the right position in the traps so that they don’t generate unnecessary collisions – making sure that experienced dogs are in with experienced dogs etc.”
Sadly – the decision to destroy an injured dog is rarely taken out of ignorance by the owner or trainer – it is invariably a financial decision whereby it is cheaper to destroy the dog and replace him/her with a younger and faster ‘maintenance free’ dog.
Graham Oliver’s interview