ABC 7:30 reported recently about the euthanasia of greyhounds (you can find more info on their Facebook page about this or catch the report on Youtube) who were being drained of their blood under a general anesthetic to be used in transfusions. Upon touring the facilities of Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Greyhound Adoption Program I became aware that this is not common practice in Victoria, most likely due to the existence of Melbourne Universities Canine Blood Bank and regulations by racing industry body, Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV).
I was aware of GAP before I was invited to their kennels, but was fairly ignorant about what they did, the greyhound racing industry in general, and like many people out there assumed that it was a bad thing. One of the main points that I discovered throughout the day is that the greyhound racing industry is very, very different than the horse racing industry.
At a time where the public is calling for a percentage of horse racing profits to be put towards the welfare of the horses, I was interested to learn that that GAP has been funded by Greyhound Racing Victoria and the Victorian Government for the past 16 years.
Larissa Darragh, manager of GAP took me on an extensive tour of the facility and explained that their mission is to find homes for greyhounds who are not suitable for racing, or have retired from the sport. I spent about 3 or 4 hours with Larissa, picking her brain on all matters of the industry and GAP which she has been involved in for over 15 years. She explained to me that before she started with GAP she had her doubts about the industry, but after seeing the changes that GRV have implemented over the last 15 years and the accountability that they take for the dogs in Victoria, she has a much more positive view. In fact, Larissa is now a registered breeder of greyhounds and tries to set the example for others in the industry.
On the day that I toured the facilities there were approximately 20 dogs looking for new homes and another 30 or so who were awaiting surgery, behavioural testing and foster care. Each week GAP take in 15 new dogs, the majority of these come from breeders and also the Melbourne University Canine Blood Bank. Breeders and trainers are encouraged to register their dogs before retirement with GAP as they are often full on admissions (when I visited, they were completely booked for the next 5 months). The majority of breeders understand this and will keep the dogs until a spot becomes available (or try and find a new home for them themselves, only going through GAP for the assessment).
GAP in Victoria has spent the last 6 years on 40 acres of quite peaceful land near Seymour (except for the occasional blast that can be heard from nearby Puckapunyal army base) and boast fairly modest facilities: an isolation kennel area for the new dogs that arrive each week with indoor/outdoor kennels and a separate kennel for the dogs who are up for adoption. The other buildings on site are the feed storage, reception/office and a house which is occupied by the kennel manager, Jenny (a former vet nurse). There are a handful of fenced off yards (and more being built) for exercise and areas for potential adopters and any existing dogs they may have, to meet and greet their potential new family member.
One of the main things that really stayed with me after visiting GAP was the level of accountability Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) takes for their dogs. Larissa showed me that each dog is tattooed in their ears with an identifying number and all of this is kept on a database. If they don’t see anything from the dog, ie. running in a race, for a while they will follow up with the owner to see what’s happening. They have strict breeding guidelines and stud dogs need to be registered at a cost of $1000 (so not just any dog can be used to stud) and females can only be bred twice over an appropriate period. If the owner wants to breed from a bitch again GRV will look at the results of the previous litters. If there were no starters, or very poor results then they will not allow her to be bred again.
This database of dogs allow GRV to keep track of all greyhounds in the industry from birth to death and means they can regulate the number of dogs being bred each year. In the last 16 years of GAP there have been over 5000 adoptions with an 80% pass rate on green collar assessments (which will be discussed in the next article) and the number of adoptions is increasing every year, which is promising, due to the work of GAP in promoting greyhounds and removing some of the myths surrounding them as pets.
Check out the GRV’s website to find out more about their commitment to improving animal welfare within their industry.
Correction: Post has been edited to reflect that the ABC 7:30 story was not focusing on the NSW industry. The Vet Nurses interviewed on the program were from Vic and QLD, with a vet from QLD. No NSW representative was interviewed for the program.