I agree that greyhounds deserve our best protection. Anyone failing to provide for the welfare of a racing greyhound in their care could face prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act, as well as enforcement action from the sport’s governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). New legislation came into force in 2021, increasing the maximum sentence for the worst animal cruelty offences from six months to five years.
I am aware that an e-petition relating to greyhounds was debated in the previous Parliamentary session. Significant progress has been made to improve greyhound welfare, and I understand that the Government does not believe that a ban on greyhound racing is necessary. The Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010 was reviewed in 2016, both by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the House of Commons' Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
The review found that, judged against their original objectives, the regulations have been broadly effective. The review also identified areas where the industry could take further action and Defra has been working closely with GBGB to ensure these actions are taken. This includes the annual publication of injury, euthanasia and retirement statistics, and addressing welfare issues at GBGB affiliated trainers’ kennels. GBGB has launched its new long-term welfare strategy to further promote and protect welfare at all stages of a racing greyhound’s life, not just its racing career.
I understand that the GBGB has introduced initiatives such as the Injury Recovery Scheme. This provides financial support to trainers to treat career-ending injuries to greyhounds where otherwise they might be put to sleep. In addition, the Greyhound Retirement Scheme attaches a £400 bond to each greyhound at the point of registration, paid for jointly by the owner and GBGB, in order to pay for rehoming costs at the end of a dog’s racing life. The Government has welcomed these initiatives.
I am glad that the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF) collects a voluntary levy from bookmakers. These funds directly support greyhound welfare and the sport’s integrity, and to a lesser extent the development and promotion of the sport. The Government will continue to encourage any remaining bookmakers that have not signed up to the voluntary arrangements to follow suit. I am aware that around 95 per cent of all licensed betting offices, including those online, are now contributing to the voluntary greyhound levy.
I note the specific concerns about Valley Greyhound Stadium, the only greyhound stadium in Wales, which currently operates independently from the GBGB, receiving its licensing from the local authority. I understand that the stadium is redeveloping and seeks to operate under the GBGB from January 2024. As part of this, it will have to abide by the GBGB's rules, regulations and licensing conditions. The GBGB is accredited by the UK Accreditation Service in relation to its greyhound racing track licensing and inspection processes.
I am troubled by reports of greyhounds being sold to the meat trade abroad. I am reassured that anyone failing to provide for the welfare of a racing greyhound in their care could face prosecution and potential imprisonment under the Animal Welfare Act, as well as enforcement action from the sport’s governing body, the GBGB. The GBGB has made clear that it does not support the export of greyhounds to countries where welfare standards cannot be verified and once a dog is retired the owner or trainer is required to state where the dog will be relocated to.