Animal rights campaigners have welcomed a report which called the end of greyhound racing in Scotland “desirable”.
The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) published a new report on Wednesday into the welfare of greyhounds used for racing in Scotland.
The only track operating in Scotland currently is the unregulated Thornton Stadium course in Fife.
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB)-regulated track at Shawfield Stadium in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, has been inactive since 2020.
The SAWC was asked to undertake the research by Holyrood’s Rural Affairs, Island and Natural Environment Committee following the consideration of a petition which called for the end of greyhound racing.
Its report recommends that no further new greyhound tracks are permitted in Scotland due to concerns over the safeguarding of the dogs and the animals’ “overall quality of life”.
“If Thornton were to close, Scotland would be in the position of having no organised greyhound racing taking place, which on balance we consider desirable,” the report said.
The commission suggests as a “minimum requirement” that an experienced, independent veterinarian is present during races to assess fitness and provide immediate care for dogs.
Report authors visited the Thornton track during their research and noted “no negative contact” between handlers and dogs and no signs of “poor welfare”.
Independent tracks such as Thornton’s are not required to collect or publish information on the number of owners, trainers or greyhounds, meaning figures for injuries and fatalities in Scotland are unavailable.
However, elsewhere in the UK there were 4,422 injuries and 120 fatalities, according to the GBGB, with the commission report estimating an injury risk rate of around 24.1% if all 18,302 eligible dogs raced in 2021.
Bob Elliot, director of animal welfare charity OneKind, welcomed the report. He said: “We are pleased that the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission has explored the welfare of greyhounds racing in Scotland and has concluded that the welfare of these dogs would be improved if they were not involved in racing, thus stating that the end to organised greyhound racing in Scotland would be ‘desirable’.
“Greyhound racing is an incredibly cruel industry, with these beautiful, gentle and loving dogs treated as commodities.
“The industry has absolutely no place in a modern Scotland.”
The charity went on to urge Scottish ministers to commit to phasing out the greyhound racing industry.
Meanwhile, Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said the report is a “vital step forward” for the debate around greyhound welfare.
He added: “The commission is right to call for an end to new race tracks and to note the serious welfare concerns at the heart of the sport.
“There is no excuse for greyhound racing. The dogs that are made to take part face an utterly unacceptable risk of injury and death.
“The risks are even greater at unlicensed tracks where there is no guarantee of any welfare standards being met or of any vets being present.
Scotland is a nation of dog lovers. We cannot stand by and allow this to continue any longer.”
Mark Bird, chief executive of the GBGB, said he was “disappointed” by the conclusions and stressed the organisation is committed to strong and effective regulation.
He said: “Under our remit, racing greyhounds receive far more protection than domestic dogs. We have over 200 rules governing those within the sport, including the requirement that a veterinary surgeon is present before, during and after any racing, and setting strict standards on the care of greyhounds at tracks, during transportation and at home in their trainers’ residential kennels.
“SAWC has been bounced by the animal rights lobbyists to conclude that domestic dogs already have better welfare protection than this, but this is clearly untrue, and it is frustrating that they have fallen foul of the activists’ agenda.”