Kevin Boothby, Oxford Stadium MD: An open letter to the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross

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A little over a month has passed since the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross collaborated to campaign for an end to greyhound racing in the UK within five years.

The campaign was launched at a time where fatality rates (0.03%) in our sport are at an all-time low and injury rates (1.23%) remain consistent with data released in previous years.

In addition, rehoming rates are at an all-time high with 94.4% of retired greyhounds in 2021 successfully rehomed or retained within the sport once their racing careers had finished. To put this number into context, fewer than one in six retired greyhounds were rehomed back in 2002.

The sport has made drastic changes to its operation to protect its reputation and – most importantly – deliver the highest quality welfare standards to all greyhounds before, during and after their racing careers.

It therefore remains puzzling to me that the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross have taken this stance when welfare and care standards in greyhound racing have never been better.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for domestic pets in the UK.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite with the RSPCA themselves recording 22,908 reports of abandoned animals in England and Wales between January 2022 and July 2022 – a 24% rise year-on-year.

It is never acceptable to abandon an animal, regardless of an individual’s circumstances, as help is out there and heartbreakingly these figures are expected to rise even further.

The charities’ sudden U-turn on greyhound racing has been prompted by an internal report, which they are refusing to release to the public or the greyhound industry – despite calls to do so.

The claims made against our sport via the report are highly damaging and misleading. Frustratingly, the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross are yet to present evidence to back up any one of its claims.

We’ve had enough – and now demand the three charities to release the report and justify what to date has been a botched campaign.

The greyhound is the most accountable breed of any dog in the UK. From birth, every puppy born into racing is registered to the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) and later microchipped and earmarked. They are assessed weekly by dedicated greyhound vets who are experts in their field and can identify and treat any health concerns with immediate effect.

They are fed highly nutritious foods including beef, vegetables, fruits, eggs, honey and seaweed. They are allowed to run free with their kennelmates in spacious and open paddocks, walked twice daily and live in purpose-built kennels complete with air conditioning and central heating units.

If only the same care requirements and knowledge of the owner applied to all registered pets in the UK. What’s important to remember is greyhound racing is a sport. And no sport takes place without risk of injury, especially when it involves animals.

Another reason behind the RSPCA’s U-turn on greyhound racing is because it views the sport as a “dangerous and risky leisure activity”.

This is a somewhat confusing position, especially as injuries and fatalities are not – and never will be – exclusive to greyhound racing. They happen in other animal sports too including show jumping, cross country, flyball, dog agility, polo, lure coursing and canicross. 

To make matters more complicated, the RSPCA remains actively engaged with the horse racing industry while campaigning for an end to greyhound racing. This is despite horse racing recording more track fatalities – 216 or 0.24% – than greyhound racing in 2021.

Anyone with the belief that the RSPCA won’t soon turn its back and call for a UK wide ban for horse racing is totally delusional, in my opinion. Should the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross be consistent with its arguments, the aforementioned sports will be targeted next.

Fortunately, the inconsistencies, inaccuracies, lack of evidence and insulting knowledge gaps of our sport mean the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross’ campaign will only end one way.

The beginning of a bright and prosperous new era for greyhound racing in Oxford has started, and the response to our launch has been truly overwhelming. We completely understand greyhound racing is not a sport which appeals to everyone and respect the opinions of those who choose not to engage. But taking a back seat and allowing extremist ideology to overrun three charities once respected by our sport is not an option.

Kevin Boothby, Oxford Stadium MD.

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