Cork greyhound professionals defend integrity of sport
RTE programme’s figures on culled dogs disputed but traceability issues admitted
Greyhound racing at Curraheen Park in Cork: Claim that up to 6,000 unwanted dogs are culled in knackeries each year provokes anger in dog owners and punters. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
It’s a balmy July evening and the slowly sinking sun is slanting in from the west over Curraheen Park Greyhound Stadium in Cork where greyhound owners, trainers and punters are gathering for a meeting.
The crowd is smaller than usual but the meeting is broadcast on SIS Greyhound Channel, so that has dulled the numbers. Everywhere, people want to talk about the Prime Time investigation into the sport. Few are happy.
The charge that up to 6,000 unwanted dogs are culled in knackeries each year sparks an angry reaction from owners and punters alike, while allegations of widespread doping are challenged by those at Curraheen Park.
Greyhound owner Pat O’Donovan from Bishopstown fully accepted that doping happens, and that dogs were shot in knackeries, but he insists that the majority in the sport are innocent.
“You’d want to be a fair shrewd man to use an anabolic steroid like Stanozol to get the amounts right but as far as I am concerned anyone caught using drugs on their dogs, should get life bans – end of story.
“It’s the same with the knackeries – any licensed knackery that was killing dogs as was shown in the Prime Time programme should be put out of business,” he said, “Anyone who breaks the rules should face the full rigours of the law.”
“The Irish Greyhound Board has a problem because they have no traceability, [but] the figure of 6,000 dogs being culled every year is completely wrong,” he said, “I have a retired dog at home and she’s not accounted for anywhere.”
“In England, there is a system if a dog doesn’t run for three months, you are asked if is the dog retired, put down, injured. We don’t have that sort of traceability here and that’s what we need.”
The IGB’s own Irish Retired Greyhound Trust rehomed 1,025 dogs last year, Harrington says. He also disputes that 16,000 greyhounds are born each year in Ireland.
“If you have only 2,200 matings as happened last year – and the numbers of matings has gone way down – with an average of five pups per litter you are talking about 11,000 dogs, not 16,000.
“The picture is being put out there that greyhounds are being badly treated by all greyhound people but that’s not the case – the IGB chief steward Michael Falvey does unannounced spot checks and they did 491 kennel inspections last year.
“They check my dogs, my meat, my meat feeding licence, my freezer, my cooking facilities, the dog’s bedding and it doesn’t matter if you are big or small, if you have anything wrong, you are going to get the chop from him.”
Winter echoes Harrington’s opinions: “The better I rear them the better their chance of winning and the better my chance of making a couple of quid at the end of the day, so there’s no question of neglect.”