ALMOST four years ago, following a review of the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010, the Greyhound Board responded to government requests to develop a technical specification for residential greyhound kennels.
This led to working with the British Standards Institute and Animal Welfare charities over the course of a year, whereupon, in December 2017, the PAS 251 (Publicly Available Scheme) was published. The idea was that the PAS would support greyhound welfare, not only for kennelling standards but also in the kennels maintenance and upkeep.
In 2020, in addition to the track inspections we undertake, GBGB will start to assess trainers’ kennels in accordance with the PAS. We will be using the same company that the RSPCA used to assess farms for their RSPCA ‘Assured’ branding, which also looked at animal welfare standards.
I am confident that most of our licensed trainers will either meet these standards or be very close to doing so. In these cases, our staff will work alongside trainers to support them towards achieving the expected standards.
While animal welfare charities have welcomed the PAS, they maintained throughout its development that it did not go far enough with regards to greyhound husbandry and care. In many cases, my colleagues agreed, so GBGB committed to developing a Code of Practice for licensed residential greyhound kennels, to be published in 2020.
While the PAS remains the ‘go to’ document for the construction of kennels, the Code of Practice will, over time, become the definitive reference document for trainers and kennel staff to rely on for day-to-day operations in their residential kennels.
Before kennel staff take a deep intake of breath at the idea of impending bureaucracy being imposed upon on them, let me assure you that this is not about instructing skilled professionals how to train their greyhounds to race. Nor should it impact on much of the good practice that clearly already exists within our kennels. Rather, it is intended to bring all of this best practice into one place as a comprehensive, practical guide.
The Code will provide trainers and their staff with information as to the latest methods of good bio-security, exercise regimes, disease prevention and detection and behavioural and socialisation development. The Code is meant to be a ‘living’ reference document, so will be updated periodically.
In actual terms as to what can be expected within the Code, a recent example that I raised with some trainers related to greyhound teeth. First of all, what does good and bad look like in terms of a dog’s teeth?
Veterinary surgeons use a dental grading chart to assess the state of a dog’s teeth, with 1 being very good and 4 being very poor. It is a visual representation and easy to use.
GBGB expects that all kennel staff clean their greyhound’s teeth on a frequent basis, as failing to do so leads to periodontal disease and can give rise to secondary issues potentially impacting not only on a dog’s racing performance but their overall health.
A recent research study involving licensed trainers and the University of Bristol will most likely lead to a set of recommendations to further improve how we clean our greyhounds’ teeth.
Despite many trainers and kennel staff making this a priority, it is a sad reflection that for some greyhounds currently the state of their teeth only really becomes an issue when it is time to permanently home them.
If that statement is correct, then it is a sad indictment for our sport and must change for the sake of our greyhounds’ health and wellbeing.
The vast majority of greyhound trainers that I meet, regardless of the number of dogs they train and care for, exhibit a genuine passion and determination to do everything possible for their greyhounds’ health and wellbeing.
They want nothing more for them than to have fantastic careers and long, loving retirement – as and when that time comes. GBGB applauds that ethos and, as set out in our Greyhound Commitment, is what we want for every single greyhound.
Mark Bird is managing director of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain
MEMBERS of the Greyhound Writers’ Association will meet today in central London for their annual Christmas lunch. Although it is primarily an opportunity for the journalists and broadcasters to relax and socialise, the topic of end-of-year awards will no doubt quickly enter the conversation.
In these fast-moving times it is hard to believe another year has almost passed us by and very soon Jonathan Hobbs and myself will be co-hosting another GBGB Awards night; I know Hobbsy agrees with myself that it is an absolute pleasure to be asked to undertake the role each year. But who will be receiving those coveted trophies for their achievements in 2019?
Voting is fully down to the GWA members, which occasionally throws up an argument that it should be opened up to the public at large, as has been the case with the monthly GWA/RPGTV honours this year. It’s a mechanism that has from time to time resulted in social media activity having a meaningful influence on the eventual outcome.
As regards the annual awards, given the relatively small number of eligible voters the nominations can occasionally throw up a few surprises, or more to the point surprise omissions which then leads to criticism of those who have cast their votes. There is of course nothing to stop owners of would-be nominees posting gentle reminders aimed at those members accused of failing to remember anything that happened in the first half of the year!
Whether the later in the season your pride and joy achieves its big-race success has any bearing on the voting is the stuff of pure speculation. However, it is interesting to note that the National Sprint, which starts tonight, has been the competition that has had the greatest influence in any of the categories.
In the past ten years eight winners of the Nottingham Christmas highlight have gone on to claim the Sprinters accolade at the awards ceremony just a month later.
All the more interesting when you consider the Northern Sprint, by virtue of its Category One status the most prestigious two-bend race in the calendar, but staged much earlier in the year, has yet to throw up a single winner.
Those looking for clues in other events might like to note that the TV Trophy winner has claimed the Marathon award at seven of the last ten ceremonies, while the winner of the St Leger winner has doubled up as Stayer of the Year in six of them.
However, while the Oaks winner – a competition these days staged at the end of the year – claimed the leading Bitch honours in four of the first five years since it was first presented in 2011, the last three winners have been unsuccessful. The Lowther Stakes (not staged this year) has been responsible for the past two winners.
Winning the Grand National has had a shade more of an influence on the Hurdlers crown than the Champion Hurdle, with six wins against five. Cornamaddy Jumbo won both – and the Springbok – in the year he was crowned Greyhound of the Year.
Sprinter winner Jimmy Lollie and Stayer winner Farloe Tango are the only others in the past decade to have been bestowed with the top honour who did not come via the Standard division.
The Standard is without doubt the toughest of the individual honours to achieve, and for the record that coveted four-bend accolade has been won by four Derby winners in the past ten years, three of whom went on to bag the Greyhound of the Year title.
Even more interesting is the strong influence Nottingham appears to have. In addition to the National Sprint’s two-bend dominance, four Puppy Classic winners have doubled up in the Newcomer category.
But perhaps of even greater significance, looking forward, could be the fact that in the past four years two Eclipse winners – another Nottingham event notably staged late in the year – in Droopys Buick and Dorotas Wildcat not only claimed the Standard award but also went on to lift the Greyhound of the Year prize.
Now, which greyhound was it that won the Eclipse this year?