Of the almost 100,000 greyhounds raced at tracks in the full 2016 racing calendar, 427 suffered on-track injuries, figures released by the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) for the first time have shown.
There were 81 injuries at Mullingar track, 51 at Shelbourne Park, 35 at Harold’s Cross, 34 at Limerick, and 21 at Newbridge.
The most common injury was to a dog’s hock, or ankle, and an IGB spokesman said injuries can range from mild to serious and that a diminished quality of life is the key determinant on which a track vet makes a decision to put down a greyhound.
Arising from veterinary advice, 139 injured dogs were euthanised — 0.14% of all greyhounds raced. Most of the dogs were put down at the Kingdom Greyhound Track in Tralee, with 18 dogs euthanised, with tracks in Mullingar and Dundalk accounting for 15 each, Longford, 10 and Waterford, were eight dogs were destroyed.
The figure is slightly up on 2015 when 95,127 dogs raced, 421 were injured, and 122 were put down on veterinary advice — 0.13% of dogs raced.
The IGB said control stewards carry out a track inspection prior to all race meetings and trial sessions.
“The track vet attends all race meetings and sales trials to ensure that appropriate care is provided to injured greyhounds and to advise the stewards on welfare,” it said.
“As with any sport involving speed and athleticism, injuries do occasionally occur and best veterinary care and advice is followed in every case.”
IGB welfare manager, Barry Coleman, said the board has identified best practice in track maintenance and these maintenance procedures are implemented at tracks nationwide.
Austin Noonan of the Limerick and Clare Greyhound Owners Breeders Association, described the figures as “an unfortunate outcome for all involved in the sport”.
But animal rights activist, John Carmody, described the figures as “shocking”.
“The number of dogs killed on these Irish racetracks due to injuries is shocking and few people, I bet, are aware of it. There’s little the industry can do at this stage that will spin their deaths in any other way. Most people who go for a night at the dogs will be horrified to learn of this and I hope that they will refuse to have anything go to do with this industry that is appearing more desperate by the day.”
Meanwhile, greyhound handler, Michael McDonagh, from Brownsgrove, Tuam, in Co Galway, has been fined €1,000 by the sport’s governing body after traces of benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, were found in a urine sample from his dog, Tír na Croí, which was presented for racing at Longford Greyhound Stadium on April 24 last.
The IGB’s control committee rejected Mr McDonagh’s suggestion that the adverse finding was due to the use of a “wintergreen” rub or “difene”, and it also rejected his suggestion that the substance had come through the food chain.