GBGB offsets lockdown impacts to deliver ‘high standards’ of welfare

The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) has reported on the ‘continued success’ of its commitment to delivering ‘the highest standards of welfare’ despite the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Meeting the eight pledges of the Greyhound Commitment, the GBGB has launched a range of initiatives including the Greyhound Retirement Scheme, the publication of a Code of Practice for residential kennels and an overhaul of licensing and residential kennel inspections.

A range of vital statistics were uncovered by the report, which noted that the number of greyhound’s put to sleep due to the high cost of veterinary treatment had fallen substantially from 123 in 2019 to 24 in 2020.

Additionally, no greyhounds were put to sleep due to an inability to rehome them for the second consecutive year, a huge improvement on the 2018 figure of 180.

Reducing this number was a core objective of the GBGB, and the sporting regulator placed rehoming efforts as one of the central aims of the Greyhound Commitment. The updated figures show 95% of greyhounds leaving the sport were successfully rehomed in 2020, up from 90% in 2019.

These initiatives, and others, have received the support of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) previously in the form of a £1 million commitment, and 75% of the GBGB’s funding is directly spent on greyhound welfare.

“When we began to put in place our programme of improvements for 2020, we could have no idea that the COVID-19 pandemic would be the major battle we would face that year – nor that we would still be experiencing the after effects now,” said Mark Bird, Managing Director of GBGB.

“It was a hugely challenging year for the UK and for the world, and it really has been through the hard work and fortitude of everyone within greyhound racing that we have pulled through it as an industry and driven further progress through our Greyhound Commitment.”

Furthermore, the track injury rate has also been reduced to 1.12% (2019: 1.21%), whilst the fatality rate remains consistent at 0.06%. The GBGB maintains that reducing this figure ‘continues to be a priority for the entire sport going forward’.

As referenced by Bird, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns was expected to have a ‘detrimental impact’ on the sport and its ability to maintain its welfare initiatives, having been forced to close permanently in March and later reopened but with the absence of spectators in June. 

However, the figures demonstrate that the GBGB was able to successfully achieve its objectives. The organisation also recently committed to ‘raising welfare and integrity standards by making amendments to its Rules of Racing

“With the March 2020 lockdown in particular, we saw the detrimental impact that the loss of greyhound racing – albeit temporarily – had on livelihoods across our sport,” Bird continued. “And the consequences of that on our greyhounds could have been tragic.

“But with the emergency financial support we were able to introduce and the efforts of owners, trainers, vets, stadia and our own Stipendiary Stewards, we were able to prevent the very difficult scenarios which we may have otherwise faced. 

“The success of these measures is borne out in the figures released today and I would like to thank everyone across our sport who acted to maintain the highest standards of care and attention for our greyhounds throughout.”

Jeremy Cooper, GBGB Chairman, also commented on the data: “Whilst the impact of COVID will continue to be felt for some time, everyone can be proud that British greyhound racing continues to be a thriving sport with world-class welfare standards,” he said.

“The data being published today demonstrates the success of the Greyhound Commitment and many of the initiatives contained within it. To have achieved such a sharp fall in the number of greyhounds put to sleep on economic grounds is highly commendable and reflects the determination of everyone within the sport to ensure every greyhound enjoys a long and healthy retirement. 

“Looking ahead, we remain steadfast in our commitment to further reducing the track fatality rate and we look forward to working across the sport to achieve this.”

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