Following complaints by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA), the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB), also known as Bord na gCon, sent a welfare officer to evaluate the dogs at Banteer Greyhound Schooling Track at Lyre. A veterinary inspector from the Department of Agriculture also attended.
Trainer Robert Green, the owner of Banteer, had tried to send the dogs to race at the Yat Yuen Canidrome in Macau, a former Portuguese territory near Hong Kong.
The greyhounds had been taken from Ireland by ferry to Holyhead on Wednesday. Their journey was filmed by animal activists, and footage by Caged North West, a Manchester-based greyhound protection group, shows the activists repeatedly confronting a group of men.
Activists then staged a protest at Manchester airport in the belief that the Irish greyhounds would be shipped to China from there. The protest was retweeted by the comedian Ricky Gervais, a greyhound advocate, to his 11.2m followers.
The dogs were taken instead to Heathrow, but the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, which checks that animal shipments meet International Air Transport Association regulations, refused permission for an airline to transport them because the crates in which they were carried did not meet regulations, according to a spokesman for the City of London, which runs the centre.
The airline was Qatar Airways, which flies from Heathrow to Hong Kong via Doha, said the spokesman. The dogs were taken back to Ireland by road and ferry.
Green, who has advertised online offering to buy greyhounds for cash, regardless of whether the dogs have pet passports, did not respond to requests for comment.
Animal welfare organisations in Macau and Ireland have seen Green’s name on greyhound export documents.
Andrew Kelly, chief executive of the ISPCA, said: “If the IGB or the Department of Agriculture has any concerns over the welfare of the dogs, they could potentially seize them. The ISPCA and Dogs Trust have offered to take any dogs that might be surrendered or seized.
“While there’s nothing to prevent him [Green] from attempting to export to China again, we have seen what trouble he’s been under over the past few days.”
The IGB said it is investigating the matter under the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011.
Greyhounds at the Yat Yuen Canidrome that are injured or deemed too slow are reportedly killed at a rate of 30 a month.
At least nine Irish greyhounds have been sent to race at the track over the past two months, according to Anima, an animal protection group.