Concerns over greyhound racing in Sheffield during recent heatwave

Concerns have been raised for the welfare of greyhounds being raced at Owlerton Stadium near Hillsborough amidst the recent soaring temperatures.

Friday, 27th July 2018, 11:10 am
Updated Monday, 30th July 2018, 5:33 pm
Concerns have been raised over racing Greyhounds in the heat
Concerns have been raised over racing Greyhounds in the heat

This comes after the Greyhound Board Great Britain - the self regulatory body for greyhound racing - issued a hot weather advice note to all tracks following public pressure.

However, it stated that the final decision would lie with the track itself, meaning that many across the UK carried on racing dogs in the unbearable heat.

Clare Tollick with rescue dog Taylor at the GRSY. Taylor is now with his new forever family.

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Owlerton Stadium went ahead with races yesterday afternoon, despite it being the hottest day of the year so far, as temperatures reached 33C in some areas of the city,

The stadium has now faced criticism online, with many branding the decision 'disgusting' and 'inhumane'.

Jo Dimler, founder of Greyhound Rescue South Yorkshire, said: "We take dogs in all sorts of conditions, many finish racing through injury and require vet treatment. We've had 3 dogs arrive with broken hocks with the trainers all failing to mention this. So obviously we don't agree with racing at any time of year.

"That said this time of year is far too hot for dogs in general, it can make them very ill and even be fatal. The extreme temperatures put racing Greyhounds at a much higher risk. We along with other rescues, vets and the RSPCA are stressing to dog owners to keep them cool, hydrated and avoid walking dogs in the high temperatures.

Clare Tollick with her Greyhounds Jez and Sally

"We're seeing constant reports of dogs overheating and stressing the importance of taking every care to avoid this yet Owlerton and other tracks allow Greyhounds to race during the afternoon of the hottest day of the year.

"This puts the racing Greyhounds at risk as well as sending out the message to pet owners that the heat doesn't pose any risk when that couldn't be further from the truth. Greyhounds have very little body fat and very thin skin resulting in them being less able to regulate their body temperature than other dogs.

"When Greyhounds are racing they are chasing flat out at their top speed. This puts their bodies and organs under immense stress. That stress is massively exaggerated during this heat and the risk of them overheating is very high.

"A lot of Owlerton's Greyhound trainers don't live local to the track so this means the dogs can have a long journey in a hot vehicle prior to racing. The crates they travel in are very small, the vans can be full if the trainer has a lot of dogs racing on the same day and not all vans are air conditioned in the back where it would benefit the dogs.

John Gilburn, managing director of Owlerton Stadium

"The racing industry likes to give the impression to the general public that they love their dogs and treat them like athletes so why would anyone who supposedly loves their dogs treat them with such little regard, putting them at such risk purely for their own financial gain.

"With the RSPCA warning of the risks of walking dogs in the heat we really don't understand why they haven't done anything to protect racing Greyhounds'‹ from being raced during the heatwave. While ever the GBGB is self regulating the dogs have no protection and greed will continue to be put ahead of the dogs welfare."

Sheffield blogger and Greyhound owner, Clare Tollick, said: "I am deeply concerned to hear that Owlerton Stadium continue to race dogs in the midst of a heatwave. Heat exhaustion, which can be fatal in dogs, is a worry for all dog owners at this time of year, but Greyhounds are particularly sensitive to the heat.

"As they have very little body fat and a thin coat of hair they have little to protect themselves and their vital organs from the heat. As a greyhound owner and volunteer at Greyhound Rescue South Yorkshire, I am very careful when walking the rescued racers in the summer months.

"Jez and Sally are currently being walked early in the morning before the sun takes hold and last thing at night and I am disgusted to find that Owlerton Stadium forced the dogs to run in the mid-afternoon sun on the hottest day of the year."

However, John Gilburn, Managing Director of Owlerton, Stadium says there are measures in place to keep the dogs cool, and that their welfare is the top priority.

He said: "The Greyhounds are brought to the track in air conditioned transport. When they arrive at the track they are inspected by a licensed vet, and at every meeting and every time a greyhound runs a licensed vet is present.

"They are then put into air conditioned kennels, and shortly before the race they are taken out the kennels where they are again inspected by the licensed vet.

"During the hot weather we don't have a parade, instead the dogs go straight into the starting traps. They then take part in the race, which is over in approximately 30 seconds.

"The Greyhounds are then taken into the racing paddock which is shaded from the sun.

"At that stage they are then inspected again and also washed down by their trainers and that process also acts as a cooling down process for the dogs. They are then put back into the air conditioned kennels. The dogs are outside for a total of around five minutes at a maximum.

"The forecast maximum temperature for the Owlerton area was 27C, and we always monitor the temperature. Greyhound welfare is paramount and given top priority at Owlerton Stadium."

Campaigners from the League Against Cruel Sports and the greyhound welfare group Greyt Exploitations have now joined forces to highlight that greyhounds are being raced at 20 tracks across the UK over the next couple of days.

Nick Weston, Head of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This is a clear case of putting cash before care. Any dog owner will know this has been a particularly difficult summer, with man’s best friends struggling to regulate their temperature in this heat – to make greyhounds race in soaring temperatures goes beyond the pale.

"The GBGB has offered hot weather advice, but has not gone far enough. Why are there no rules to put the best interest of the animals first and put a cap on the temperature in which dogs are forced to race? If the GBGB is not able to protect racing greyhounds, then it is not fit for purpose – that is, unless its real purpose is to protect profits.”

Trudy Baker, Coordinator at Greyt Exploitations, said: “The Greyhound Board of Great Britain has consistently failed to introduce Rules of Racing that would make it an offence to transport – parade and race greyhounds within a normal range of temperatures.

"Tragically there is only a requirement – under the 2010 Greyhound Welfare Regulations – for tracks to have kennels for just 20 per cent of the greyhounds racing at any one meeting – leaving dogs in stationary trainer’s vehicles during extreme temperatures – both hot and cold.

“It's time the Government appointed an independent authority to enforce the Animal Welfare Act as regards racing greyhounds and give them the protection they deserve and have earned through the millions of pounds revenue generated for the Government and millions more profit for the gambling industry.”