It’s the penultimate race of the mid-day meeting on 13 January at
Hall Green greyhound track, Birmingham. As the dogs hurtle down the back
straight a stomach-churning crack is heard across the stadium and Gulleen
Star quickly pulls up. According to the dog’s trainer Alan Bodell,
the black male had “smashed his hock (left) completely in half.”
The trainer further ads: “You just have to put them out of their misery
as quick as possible… I’ve been in it (greyhound racing) long
enough now to know what happens, it’s just not nice.”
The average age for a greyhound to retire from racing is about 3 ½
years after competing in approximately 50 races. Length of career, however,
varies greatly and is frequently brought to an abrupt and sometimes horrific
end through injury.
It is thought as many as 1,000 greyhounds are put-to-sleep annually following
injuries sustained in races and trials on British tracks. And to put that
into context, the figure is more than 10 per cent of new registrations in
2009 for greyhounds to compete on tracks regulated by the Greyhound Board
of Great Britain (GBGB).
Bodell justifies the death of Gulleen Star by saying greyhounds are for
racing and the dog was doing what he enjoyed. It’s a line repeated
by trainers over and over again who further justify the exploitation and
abuse of greyhounds by referencing horse racing - a sport that in the state
of Victoria, Australia, will see a ban on jump racing at the end of the
2010 season following the death of ‘just’ 20 horses over a two
The extreme and unusual weather seen across much of Britain in January saw
many greyhound meetings cancelled but where racing was not interrupted it
was business as usual with an ever increasing number of greyhounds getting
For Loughmore Boy race eight at Peterborough on 2 January was to be his
last. The beautiful black male collided with Kangaroo Brice on the back
straight putting Loughmore Boy into the fence and shattering his left foreleg.
Trainer Bryn Ford said the dog was in “such distress, frothing at
the mouth… it looked like he was dying of shock.” The track
vet quickly ended the animals suffering out of sight of spectators watching
from the restaurant and bars.
At Oxford the following day Kilkeedy Blue was PTS after breaking his right
hock whilst negotiating turn one and a week later Ardera Express broke his
neck after he was bumped and knocked over on the Kinsley track, again whilst
negotiating turn one.
Incidents such as the two above bring into question the configuration of
tracks that essentially comprise long straights leading into tight bends.
Put six greyhounds into the mix and its a recipe for disaster with numerous
incidents occurring as the dogs hurtle into turn one (109 dogs recorded
falling/brought down in turn one in January alone against dogs not finishing/finishing
at distance (with the true figure likely many more)).
Malbay Katie survived the first corner but sadly not the second when running
at Doncaster on 22 January. The steward’s comment read as follows:
Blk1, Ck2 (baulked 1, checked 2). In reality the blue female was brought
down and her right hind leg was “ripped-off” from above the
hock, according to trainer Keith Davis, who further added: “Every
dog went into the corner together and she was the meat in the sandwich.”
Davis, who described the accident as both “horrendous” and “freak,”
sounded genuinely upset when talking about the loss of Malbay Katie but
was philosophical also: “Once the dogs leave the trap unfortunately
they are on their own and you have to take what comes.”
Many greyhounds are rightly PTS following injury but a large number are
also destroyed solely on economic grounds. Indeed the GBGB conveniently
provide a box for owners to tick on the ‘retirement’ form for
precisely such an occasion (not applicable to national champions that are
worth their weight in gold as breeding machines).
Another greyhound to break a hock at Hall Green in January was Glenske Sky.
This dog, however, was to possibly escape the veterinarian’s needle.
Trainer Gerry Ballentine had the greyhound examined the following day but
apparently the injury was a “big job” with “no guarantee
there’s going to be any results at the end of it.” The small
detail of which hock it was Ballentine couldn’t remember and the black
female was PTS on 12 January.
Hock fractures are one of the most common career ending injuries and invariably
result in the animal being euthanased. Skywalker Brenda was no exception
when her right hock gave way whilst competing at Poole on 15 January. The
black female was just 24 months old.
And snapping a foreleg at Perry Barr, Birmingham on 24 January saw Fida
Cascada join the tally of greyhounds to lose their life in the first month
of racing this year, all in the name of sport, all soon forgotten. There
is little room for being sentimental in greyhound racing and dogs can be
replaced for a relatively modest sum of money.
In January stewards recorded greyhounds not finishing/finishing at distance
346 times - a figure covering 344 dogs. A further 93 dogs were recorded
lame or ‘brokedown’. How many are to race again remains to be
seen. How many were PTS is impossible to say - the industry makes sure of
that. Injuries to greyhounds (believed a five figure total annually) and
greyhounds PTS following injury is the most sensitive and guarded subject
What the GBGB will tell you is in excess of quarter of a million pounds
has been spent on track safety improvement projects in recent years but
if feedback from trainers is anything to go by, it has had at best only
a marginal impact on the frequency and nature of injuries greyhounds sustain.
Who would have thought that in Britain we have animal welfare law intended
to protect animals from pain, suffering and injury.