Animal advocates have voiced concerns for the welfare of greyhounds being raced at tracks across Britain despite the current heatwave.
Campaigners from The League Against Cruel Sports and greyhound welfare group Greyt Exploitations have joined forces in a bid to bring attention to the plight of the dogs forced to race at 20 tracks over the next couple of days. The Greyhound Board Great Britain [GBGB] – the self-regulatory body for greyhound racing – has issued a hot weather advice note to all tracks, but left the final decision is with the tracks.
"The extreme conditions the dogs are raced in put them in danger of heatstroke and fly in the face of all the advice being given to animal lovers caring for their own pets during the current heatwave," says a spokesperson for the groups.
'Cash before care'
Nick Weston, Head of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "This is a clear case of putting cash before care. Any dog owner will know this has been a particularly difficult summer, with man's best friends struggling to regulate their temperature in this heat – to make greyhounds race in soaring temperatures goes beyond the pale.
"The GBGB has offered hot weather advice, but has not gone far enough. Why are there no rules to put the best interest of the animals first and put a cap on the temperature in which dogs are forced to race?
"If the GBGB is not able to protect racing greyhounds, then it is not fit for purpose - that is, unless its real purpose is to protect profits."
Trudy Baker, Coordinator at Greyt Exploitations, added: "The Greyhound Board of Great Britain has consistently failed to introduce Rules of Racing that would make it an offence to transport – parade and race greyhounds within a normal range of temperatures.
"Tragically there is only a requirement - under the 2010 Greyhound Welfare Regulations - for tracks to have kennels for just 20 per cent of the greyhounds racing at any one meeting - leaving dogs in stationary trainer's vehicles during extreme temperatures - both hot and cold.
"It's time the Government appointed an independent authority to enforce the Animal Welfare Act as regards racing greyhounds and give them the protection they deserve and have earned through the millions of pounds revenue generated for the Government and millions more profit for the gambling industry."
The John Gilburn - Managing Director of Owlerton Stadium - told The Star: "The Greyhounds are brought to the track in air conditioned transport. When they arrive at the track they are inspected by a licensed vet, and at every meeting and every time a greyhound runs a licensed vet is present.
"They are then put into air conditioned kennels, and shortly before the race they are taken out the kennels where they are again inspected by the licensed vet. During the hot weather we don't have a parade, instead the dogs go straight into the starting traps. They then take part in the race, which is over in approximately 30 seconds.
"The Greyhounds are then taken into the racing paddock which is shaded from the sun. At that stage they are then inspected again and also washed down by their trainers and that process also acts as a cooling down process for the dogs.
"They are then put back into the air conditioned kennels. The dogs are outside for a total of around five minutes at a maximum. "The forecast maximum temperature for the Owlerton area was 27C, and we always monitor the temperature. Greyhound welfare is paramount and given top priority at Owlerton Stadium."