Some label it a sport but to many people, greyhound racing is nothing short of animal cruelty.
Innocent puppies are forced to spend up to 23 hours a day in cramped kennel conditions before being placed on an oval race track for their intense training sessions to begin.
Months before their young, developing bones have reached maturity, the greyhounds are trained to achieve acute acceleration and very high speeds, often reaching up to 30mph.
But if the puppies don’t hit the grade, many are killed. Recent statistics claim that as many as 12,000 pups are being killed every year, however gaps in official records suggest that thousands of dogs ‘disappear’ every year, presumed dead.
Those who are chosen to race are kept muzzled in cages where they spend 95% of their time before being handed over to rescue charities for possible rehoming once their racing days are over..
On Wednesday (March 8), Senedd members will meet to discuss whether greyhound racing should be permanently banned in Wales following a petition containing 35,000 signatures, calling for Wales’ last remaining track – Valley Greyhounds in Caerphilly – to be shut down.
This week The Herald met Caroline Haley who has rehomed two racing greyhounds after they were both cruelly rejected by their respective trainers.
Their first dog, Cydnee, was found abandoned and tied up in a railway station in Essex; it was obvious that she was severely malnourished and had been mistreated at the hands of her trainer.
“It’s truly heart-breaking when you see the condition that so many of these beautiful dogs end up in,” said Caroline from her home in Rosemarket, near Neyland.
“Because Cydnee didn’t have any tattoo markings inside her ears, there was no way of identifying where she had come from and her condition was so extreme that the charity were unable to rehome her for well over a year because she had so many problems.”
Cydnee had spinal and joint problems as a result of the extreme training she’d been subjected to, but one of the most painful things which Caroline and her husband, Antony, soon became aware of was the way in which she’d cower whenever a man walked towards her.
“It was obvious that Cydnee believed she was going to be hit and even now, when I think back to how she’d be, it brings me close to tears. Despite eventually settling into domestic life, Cydnee never really got over those experiences from her early years and she died in my arms from a stroke at the age of 11.”
Throughout our interview the Haley’s second rescued greyhound, Ingrid, stares up at us from one of the many round dog beds which have been thoughtfully placed throughout the house.
“Ingrid was definitely one of the lucky ones,” continues Caroline. “She came from a breeder in Ireland who raced her only three or four times but then handed her over to a charity because she was no good, probably due to hip problems.”
As a result, Ingrid continues to suffer from joint problems and hip dysplasia and will remain on medication probably for the rest of her life. She also suffers from separation anxiety and severe sleep startle which means that if she’s woken up suddenly, she becomes traumatised and extremely frightened.
“But despite all her challenges, Ingrid is a very happy and healthy dog who loves people and who loves her life,” continued Caroline.
“I can’t tell you what this means to us, because anyone who’s ever lived with a rescue greyhound will know how special they are. With a little love, a lot of patience, and a very big sofa, they will bring you happiness every single day.”
Although the rest of the UK still allows greyhound racing to take place, many parts of the world have already banned the sport. But unlike England, no specific statutory regulation or laws exist governing greyhound racing in Wales. It is also one of only ten countries in the world where commercial greyhound racing continues in 2023.
Meanwhile Dr Samantha Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department remains hopeful that Wednesday’s decision will result in a nationwide greyhounds racing ban in Wales.
“This is a huge moment for dog welfare, with the Welsh Government committing to a consultation on cutting the chase, by phasing out greyhound racing in Wales,” she said.
“With no vets at the track in Wales and no requirement to publish statistics on injuries or deaths, it’s hard to gauge the true scale of welfare problems that Welsh greyhound racing is causing. As long as this sport is allowed to continue, dogs are needlessly being put at risk of serious injury and death, all in the name of entertainment.”