I refer to the article headed ‘Greyhound body defends accelerated fund access’ (Irish Examiner, Friday, June 12).
The drawdown of the Horse and Greyhound Fund allocation for 2020 is no different from the arrangements for previous years. It is the responsibility of Bord na gCon to manage within that allocation and, in addition to its commercial income (a further €13m in 2019), manage the organisation, sport, and industry for the year.
The board has been conscious of the challenges posed by Covid-19, as other sports have, and has taken steps to ensure the ongoing operation of all activities.
It recently published an intensive calendar of racing events for the remainder of 2020 and looks forward to an action-packed six months for those who participate in the industry and who enjoy greyhound racing.
The media lose sight of the fact that as well as being a sport, greyhound racing is a significant industry throughout Ireland, particularly in rural areas.
The most recent economic assessment published by Jim Power Economics Ltd estimates that the industry is worth €302m each year to the national economy, providing benefit to 12,371 people.
Parties directly involved in the industry are owners, trainers, and breeders, but the wider network includes workers in the betting, veterinary, dog-food, and animal-treatment sectors, as well as food-and-beverage suppliers, and facilities management, such as cleaners and security contractors.
Bord na gCon has 205 employees, with a further 600 part-time staff returning to work in our tote and food-and-beverage operations when full racing activity resumes.
Like all sports, greyhound racing has its challenges. The immediate one is operating within a Covid-19 environment.
A comprehensive plan has been prepared to ensure that patrons at our restaurants (reopening June 29) and those participating in racing can be assured that the necessary protocols are being implemented to safeguard public health.
The expansive nature of our venues, both internally and externally, easily facilitates a very high standard of compliance with Covid-19 protocols.
A key priority of our strategic plan for 2018-22 is to maintain animal welfare at the centre of our industry.
During the Covid-19 period, the board introduced a Greyhound Care Payment Scheme to support the care and welfare of the 6,647 racing greyhounds registered with the board.
Overall spend on the scheme, during the period of suspension of activity, will be some €1.2m.
Other initiatives progressed in 2020 include the establishing of the first greyhound care centre, the introduction of a full traceability system for the racing greyhound, the implementation of a greyhound injury financial support scheme, a foster-to-adopt programme, as well as extensive support for rehoming initiatives and for the work of the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust.
We would encourage the reporting of any suspected welfare breaches to our confidential phone line (061 448100), or by email to email@example.com.
All reports will be promptly followed up by our welfare team.
The passing of the Greyhound Racing Act, 2019, provides a modern, robust framework for the governance of the greyhound industry, replacing outdated, 1958 legislation.
We look forward to the act being brought into effect when a new government has been established.
The measures contained within the act have long been sought by Bord na gCon and will allow us to further build on what has been achieved in recent years.
Despite the challenges, we look forward with optimism on behalf of the passionate greyhound community, who simply love their dogs and the sport of greyhound racing.