Relations between Greyhound Racing Ireland (GRI) and one of the country’s foremost animal welfare charities have deteriorated following an investigation into two mistreated greyhounds.
The GRI investigation found the two dogs had been locked in padlocked “dirty kennels” for up to three years and were infested with fleas and ticks.
The dogs were said to be ‘covered in filth’ because they had nowhere to lie but in their own faeces, with one having bled due to a severe flea infestation.
Following their rescue, the DSCPA posted an image on social media of one of the dogs, Katie, curled up on the ground after being picked up.
However, Greyhound Racing Ireland, which regulates and promotes the sport, asked for the post to be removed as none of the dogs had ever raced, according to records released under freedom of information.
In emails last summer, officials said it was “sheer sensationalism” to say the dog was nervous simply because it was a racing greyhound.
“Similar to other dog breeds, Greyhound puppies can also be born very nervous and this nervousness can stay with an animal for life,” wrote Barry Coleman, GRI’s care and welfare manager. “I’ve seen situations in the past where an extremely nervous greyhound around strangers would spot its owner and walk straight up and start wagging its tail.”
Former GRI Director General Ger Dollard also wrote about how the social media post “seems appalling online”.
“One of our authorized agents could inspect and see if we can find this greyhound,” he said.
Mr. Dollard then wrote to the DSCPA, asking him to remove the message from his social networks and if his staff could carry out an inspection. “It is disappointing that such a distressing image is being used to generate donations. You might consider deleting it from your social media platforms,” he said.
In response, the DSPCA said its fundraising posts simply reflect the animal welfare work in which it was involved. “The last time one of your inspectors visited our site had an unsatisfactory result, with the DSPCA holding animals at our expense for months,” he said.
Mr. Dollard replied that the placement of a social media donate button “next to such a distressing image is very disappointing”.
After an GRI inspector went to investigate, it emerged that the two dogs had at some point been kept in padlocked kennels. “They were in bad shape because [owner] is unable to take care of greyhounds. [They] had a man taking care of them… who locked them up for a few years and the kennels were padlocked,” read a heavily redacted internal email.
“With the help of a [relative] … [they] took them from the property on Thursday July 22, 2021. The dogs had fleas and ticks. The kennels were filthy.
The people who rescued the dogs then put them up for adoption on Facebook. This was spotted by the DSPCA, which took charge of them.
It also emerged that the two dogs – who were then aged five and seven – had never raced, despite being tattooed and bred as racing greyhounds. A later official report stated: “It is inaccurate to describe greyhounds [redacted] and [redacted] as being former racing greyhounds both do not have trial or race form lines.
Subsequent emails detail how an GRI inspector went to visit the premises where the two greyhounds had previously been held.
An email from Enda McCabe, GRI’s Integrity and Welfare Manager, read: ‘The kennel is padlocked but a half door upstairs opened and I was able to take a photo. The kennels look good but the problem is that they have been indoors for a considerable amount of time, probably a few years.
Mr Dollard later wrote to the DSCPA, saying the GRI investigation was continuing but the information about the dogs being racing greyhounds was “false” and “damaging the reputation of the industry”.
“I would formally request that the DSPCA remove all references to ex-racers or ex-greyhound racing or greyhound racing as they are not correct,” he wrote.
In response, the DSCPA said it took note of the investigation but dismissed any suggestions that it made misrepresentations. However, he agreed to remove the reference to “race” or “ex-race” from his posts out of “prudence”.
He also said he would no longer facilitate unannounced visits by GRI inspectors, as these were “unappreciated and disruptive to operations”.
Mr Dollard said he was appalled by such an “aggressive email” and the GRI would continue to carry out its animal welfare duties.
The case continued in September, when the GRI was accused of having underestimated the poor condition of the dogs and the place where they had been confined.
Asked about the records, GRI chief executive Dearbhla O’Brien said he responds quickly and proactively to any cases of greyhound neglect or abuse. “We recognize that the DSPCA is motivated and concerned about the welfare of dogs, and although we are different organizations operating within different parameters, the care and welfare of these dogs is at the heart of our concerns,” she said.
The DSPCA expressed dismay at the condition of the two greyhounds and urged the Ministry of Agriculture to carry out an survey.