|Emily the abandoned greyhound. Photo by the Irish Sun.
In Ireland itself, a large number of dogs are discarded by the racing industry each year. The issue was summarized in 2010 by Michael Watts of Society of Greyhound Vets and Countryside Alliance Ireland:
"We have a large number of young greyhounds that, in the nature of things, are perhaps not handled much, not very socialised and not house trained. In many cases, they do not make good pets. There are a large number of them, and what are we to do with them?"Similar concerns were raised only months ago by Irish Times Racing Correspondent Brian O'Connor. In a well-reasoned column, O'Connor called for a culture change within the racing industry and specifically highlighted the challenge of greyhound overbreeding:
"The question of overproduction is a particular issue for greyhound racing. A horse produces a single foal every year; a dog can produce a litter of pups every two months. It is much cheaper to maintain a dog until establishing if it can run fast, so the more produced, the more chance of a good runner ... They can’t all run fast, and the slow ones, and old ones, aren’t all rehomed. So where do they end up? Some will tell you plenty of animals don’t make it to registration in the first place. Of those that do, some are sold and exported, and some unwanted animals get rehomed. Others are, to use the anodyne phrase, 'euthanised' in a proper and professional manner. But those involved in welfare still talk of thousands 'disappearing' each year, with all the sinister connotations implicit in that word."There certainly are greyhounds that suffer greatly in Ireland after being discarded by the racing industry. In January, an emaciated dog named Emily was dumped in a ditch in County Tipperary after having her racing tattoos burned out with acid and her tailed hacked off. Incredibly, she survived her ordeal.
Enter the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB). Rather than address this serious problem, the industry promoter has released a plan that will make things worse. It has earmarked 250,000 Euros in new funding for a "breeders incentive scheme" as part of a a total industry support plan worth 700,000 Euros. Meanwhile, no new funding whatsoever has been allocated for greyhound welfare. Ironically, this new breeders incentive scheme was announced shortly after a legislative report identified problems with the current Irish stud book, including "ongoing issues concerning the breeding of greyhounds with dogs which were dead for two years or more."
This is a serious miscalculation by the Board. It will not only cause the death of dogs, it will harm the industry in the long run. Rather than ramp up breeding, industry promoters in Ireland should follow their colleagues in Australia, who are decreasing breeding as part of an overall animal welfare plan.