Scotland urged to ban greyhound racing following petition support

By Ralph Trayfalgar, Updated:

In the wake of major oversights and failings in upholding animal welfare, a strong turnout from a recent petition may finally urge the Scottish government to ban greyhound racing in the country.

In a report from Sky News, activists from Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation (SAGE) have petitioned the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs, Islands, and Natural Environment Committee to declare a total ban on greyhound racing. In their petition, the activists cite a lack of regulations to safeguard the animals from injury and doping.

Doping, deaths, and underreporting

Stakes are high in greyhound racing, due to it being so popular amongst UK online gambling punters.  According to SAGE, drug testing is carried out in less than 2 percent of the races happening on Shawfield Stadium, the country’s only regulated racetrack. 

Thirteen dogs were found positive for doping at the racetrack in the period from 2018 to 2019, with five of them being found positive for the Class A drug cocaine. However, these incidents were often withheld by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) and went unreported to the police or the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) for up to months at a time.

According to the GBGB's statistics, more than 3,000 dogs died and an estimated 18,345 dogs were injured in greyhound racing in the United Kingdom between 2017 and 2020. However, because there was no regulation at Scotland's Thornton racetrack in Kirkcaldy, Fife, the true death toll of dogs was likely higher than the official figures. 

A dog that sustains a severe injury at the racetrack will not be able to be put down promptly since there is no veterinarian on site.

Beyond reform

The petition to ban greyhound racing in Scotland has gathered more than 130,000 signatures. Said petition was sponsored by Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell, who publicly claimed that the greyhound racing business was "beyond reform."

Ruskell argued that the responsibility imposed on animal owners under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to safeguard their animals from suffering did not go far enough to prevent the harm done to greyhounds.

A total ban on greyhound racing in the UK could hurt the bottom line on leading sportsbooks like Betfred, but animal welfare is far more important.  Greyhounds require far more protection than domestic dogs in the United Kingdom, according to the GBGB's chief executive Mark Bird, who also noted that the wellbeing of the animals is the most important goal in legal greyhound racing.

He went on to say that each greyhound is examined by a veterinarian before and after the race, and that their trainers' kennels are subject to frequent inspections to verify that they are in accordance with welfare requirements.

Also in place are strong anti-doping regulations, and any transgressions might result in a lifelong suspension for trainers, while all instances of doping are being reported to the right authorities, Bird added. 

Members of the committee will consult the Animal Welfare Commission and other key parties before bringing the petition forward. 

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