UK greyhounds seen at risk as racing industry declines

Wed Mar 6, 2013 3:24pm EST
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By Chris Helgren

HEBDEN BRIDGE (Reuters) - A bundle of skin and bones, Alice did not seem to be a lucky greyhound at first glance.

Alice was bred to race but was not fast enough. She was used for hare coursing but failed at that too.

So Alice was discarded outside the English city of Doncaster, abandoned like many unsuccessful greyhounds in Britain's multi-million dollar industry that is in decline as the popularity of watching dogs race around a track wanes.

She would probably have died of starvation or been hit by a car had it not been for a volunteer who picked up the shivering dog from the streets and took her to a sanctuary in 2011.

"She weighed 14 kg (30 lb) - half (the usual) body weight, absolutely flea-ridden," said Debra Rothery, who runs the facility. "It's absolutely appalling."

The treatment of racing greyhounds in Britain, a country where many pets are pampered and are cared for like children, highlights a darker side of the highly competitive business that dates back about 90 years and is often accused of cruelty.

Dog racing was once highly popular with 80 licensed greyhound tracks in Britain governed by the self-regulating Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) but this has fallen to about 26 although there are some unregulated racetracks too.

Attendance has slumped. In 1947, 60,000 spectators were recorded at the Derby at White City, one of 21 tracks operating in London. In 2011 the Derby was held at Wimbledon Stadium — now the only dog track left in London — and attendance was 2,423.   Continued...

Alice, an abandoned six year old greyhound who was found wandering the busy Doncaster Road, stands in her kennel at Tia Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire July 29, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Helgren