Almost 1,000 racing greyhounds died last year, industry figures have revealed, sparking calls for an end to the sport in the UK.
Hundreds of dogs were “put to sleep” in 2018, according to research by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).
This was largely due to the high cost of medical treatment, absence of a “viable option away from the racecourse”, or lack of suitable homes for the dogs, the GBGB report revealed.
The revelations come as part of the board’s pledge to improve welfare standards in greyhound racing.
But animal charities argue the sport should be banned owing to the dangerous nature of the tracks, as well as the failure to properly rehome the dogs after they retire.
Trudy Baker, coordinator of charity Greyt Exploitations, said welfare commitments could not address the “suffering and deaths of thousands of dogs”.
“The truth is hundreds of dogs listed as ‘retired’ by the GBGB still remain in a commercial environment, confined to trainers’ kennels that have failed to comply with an agreed British Standard Institute specification, either used for breeding, forced to routinely donate blood or simply awaiting rehoming,” she told the Guardian.
“Hundreds more are sold or given away again for breeding, to be raced abroad or on independent tracks, or used for research and dissection.
“No amount of ineffective ‘window dressing’ welfare commitments will address the suffering and deaths of thousands of dogs racing on dangerously configured tracks,” she added.
Nearly 250 greyhounds were put to death at the racetrack last year due to injury, while scores died from “sudden death”. Another 190 were killed because they were “unsuitable for homing”.
The GBGB has announced its intention to halve the number of dogs being euthanised “within three years”, calling the deaths “avoidable and unnecessary”.
In a statement shared with the Standard, GBGB’s Managing Director Mark Bird said: “The welfare of racing greyhounds is at the heart of everything we do.
“We ensure that everyone working in the sport safeguards the health, well-being and happiness of our greyhounds."
However, he added: “The data gives us a very clear picture of where we need to be doing more.
“We have set ourselves some challenging targets to achieve over the next few years demonstrating our determination to eradicate all avoidable injuries and any unnecessary deaths.
“To achieve this, however, requires not only the commitment of everyone in the sport but also the availability of adequate and sustained funding that allows welfare to flourish.”
Commenting on the future of dog racing, animal welfare minister David Rutley said: “Transparency is key to understanding how we can improve welfare standards ... We want more greyhounds to find new homes and to enjoy a healthy retirement when they leave the sport.”
A growing number of greyhound tracks have closed in recent years, including those at Wimbledon and Towcester, Northamptonshire.
It comes as attendance at dog races has reached historic lows.