Local greyhound stadium 'one of worst for injuries and deaths' says animal rights group

(Above) Mullingar Greyhound Stadium.

Two greyhounds “died on impact” after hitting a trackside wall and fence at Mullingar Greyhound Stadium in the first six months of this year, figures recently released by Greyhound Racing Ireland (GRI) have revealed.

According to the GRI, on February 8 of this year, a “greyhound collided with boundry [sic] wall [and] died on impact”, while on April 19 a greyhound “fell at [the] first bend – died on impact with boundary fence”.

The figures, which were obtained by Independents4Change TD, Joan Collins, also revealed that of the 16 greyhounds that were injured in Mullingar in the first half of the year, 12 were “put to sleep” by the track vet.

In a statement released to the Westmeath Examiner, the Mullingar-based animal rights group, the Irish Council Against Bloodsports, said that Mullingar Greyhound Stadium is “one of the worst tracks in the country for injuries and deaths”.

“So far this year, it has recorded the highest number of deaths, ie the two fatalities and a further 12 injured greyhounds destroyed by a track vet. It also had one of the highest ratios of injured greyhounds destroyed (12 out of 16 or 75%).

“They are among the 73 greyhounds who died or were killed at tracks around Ireland in the first six months of 2021. A total of 169 were reported injured.

“The sickening figures – obtained by Independents4Change TD, Joan Collins (Dublin South Central) – confirm that there is no end to the suffering and death at tracks and have prompted renewed calls for a ban on greyhound racing.

“The GRI data shows that greyhounds sustained injuries and were killed at all tracks. The injuries were to hock, wrist, front leg, back leg, hip, neck, shoulder, back/tail, tendons/muscles, claws and toes.”

When contacted by the Westmeath Examiner, the Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCÉ), the body with statutory responsibility for the operation of greyhound racing issued a statement saying that following a recent full inspection of the track “to further minimise the risk of injury to competing greyhounds”, “it has been determined that a further realignment of the first bend may be beneficial”.

RCÉ full statement

RCÉ works closely with greyhound owners/trainers in Westmeath and surrounding counties Offaly, Longford, Cavan, Meath and Roscommon to ensure every effort is made to minimise injuries to racing greyhounds at all tracks.

3,767 greyhounds started races at Mullingar in the year up to August 25, of which 16 were injured (0.42% injury rate). 12 of the 16 injured dogs were euthanised by attending veterinary practitioners, who attend all race events and who are the appropriate competent person to make decisions regarding the welfare of a greyhound. Separately, two greyhounds died on impact with a boundary wall on February 8 and April 19 respectively. These fatalities are included in the information provided to Joan Collins, TD, by RCÉ.

Mullingar would be commonly known as the sharpest track in the country with a unique shape which resembles an egg shape. RCÉ commissioned a full inspection of the track running circuit in 2021 to further minimise the risk of injury to competing greyhounds.

While the inspection found the track surface to be in very good condition, it has been determined that a further realignment of the first bend may be beneficial.

Most of the injuries that have occurred in Mullingar appear to be collision injuries which generally take place at the first bend. The realignment of the first bend will involve moving the hare rail out approximately 1 metre, thus increasing the straight/run up to the bend.

Comprehensive track maintenance procedures are operated in Mullingar to ensure that the best possible arrangements are provided for greyhound racing.

Stadium management uphold a focused scrutiny on the seeding of greyhounds to alleviate the possibility of race crowding, while greyhounds that underperform or in general have run poorly in consecutive races must undertake a performance trial to prove their wellbeing.

RCÉ, in conjunction with members of the greyhound racing community, has progressed and expanded an extensive range of programmes to cater for the care and welfare needs of racing greyhounds in Westmeath and across Ireland over the past two years.

These schemes include the provision of care and foster care centres, the operation of a Greyhound Injuries Support Scheme, and the commissioning of the Rásaíocht Con Éireann Traceability System.

Under the expanded inspection programme for greyhound establishments, 521 announced and unannounced inspections of ‘greyhound establishments’ and welfare inspections were carried out in the year up to July 31. 90 welfare investigations carried out/initiated involving matters such as stray or neglected greyhounds/reports received of greyhound welfare concerns/non-notification to ICC of sales or transfers of greyhounds.

RCÉ Welfare Officers have served 5 Welfare Notices under the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011, 2 Welfare Notices under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 and 26 Fixed Payment Notices.

RCÉ has secured 2 successful convictions in respect of breaches of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and breaches of the Welfare of Greyhounds Regulations 2016.

3,995 greyhounds also have been rehomed (974 in 2019; 1,775 in 2020; 1,336 in 2021 up to 31st July) with the support of RCÉ and the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust.