Greyhound racetrack death toll rises for first time since records began

Greyhound racetrack death toll rises for first time since records began

The number of greyhounds dying at racetracks rose last year for the first time since records began six years ago, prompting calls for the sport to be banned.

In total, 109 dogs died at the UK’s 20 official tracks, according to figures from the sport’s regulator, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).

And 427 died or were put down away from racetracks – a one-year rise from 5.5 per cent to 7.2 per cent of the racing population – for reasons including treatment costs, vets’ advice, or no home being found for them.

Opponents of greyhound racing say the dogs’ welfare is sacrificed for entertainment and betting profits (Getty)
Opponents of greyhound racing say the dogs’ welfare is sacrificed for entertainment and betting profits (Getty)

When the board began recording official tallies in 2017, some 257 greyhounds died at runs in one year, its statistics show.

For each of the following five years, the death toll dropped, reaching 99 in 2022, before rising again last year.

Over the five years, the proportion of deaths among dogs at tracks fell from 0.06 per cent to 0.03 per cent. Last year’s deaths still represented 0.03 per cent.

There were 4,238 injuries recorded, a slight drop on most years except 2020.

Leading animal-welfare organisations the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and the Cut the Chase Coalition – which includes Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and the RSPCA – both renewed calls for greyhound racing to be banned.

Navigating bends means dogs are subjected to asymmetrical forces, and their instinct to catch the mechanical hare means they go as fast as possible, so they risk collision with other dogs racing, which is where injuries and deaths usually occur.

Emma Judd, the LACS head of campaigns, said: “The inherently unsafe nature of racing greyhounds around oval tracks is causing an unacceptable death toll and an inordinate number of injuries.

“It’s time for greyhound racing to be banned – greyhounds are currently being sacrificed for the profits of the gambling industry and people’s entertainment.”

Official figures 2020-23 (GBGB)
Official figures 2020-23 (GBGB)

The Cut the Chase Coalition said there are concerns about the welfare of racing greyhounds at every stage of their lives, including welfare standards in kennelling and the way in which the dogs are transported.

“Some of the dogs used in racing are kept in poor, barren conditions, with little, if any, enrichment,” such as play, socialising and walks, said a spokesperson.

They may also be “fed a poor diet, and there are concerns around the general health of the dogs involved in racing”, they said.

“This year’s GBGB data reveals a significant increase in the number of greyhounds that remained with their owner or trainer following retirement. We are concerned that this may result in dogs being kennelled in unsuitable conditions for the rest of their non-racing lives.”

MSP Mark Ruskell has introduced a bill at Holyrood that would ban greyhound racing in Scotland. The move needs support from a minimum of 18 MSPs.

The board says welfare is absolutely paramount and that “everyone within the sport is committed to optimising the care greyhounds receive”.

GBGB chief executive Mark Bird said: “It is clear that our sport is not immune to the current cost-of-living and homing crises affecting so many charities and homing centres across the country.

“Whilst our preference is always for a retired greyhound to move into a loving, forever home as quickly as possible, it is testament to our committed trainers and owners that so many of them are prepared to keep their retired racers and give them the care and attention they deserve, whilst continuing to cover all their costs.

“We can never be complacent when it comes to welfare, but it is pleasing that our work around track safety is beginning to show positive results and our many welfare initiatives are limiting the impact of the homing crisis.

“We remain focused on delivering our welfare strategy in its entirety, and continue to call on the betting industry to fulfil their own responsibilities in helping us meet our welfare ambitions, which are vital for the long-term success of our sport.”