The chief executive of the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) has admitted the organisation faces a “huge challenge” to repair its reputation in the wake of the damaging findings broadcast in an RTÉ documentary.
However, in an interview with the Irish Examiner, Ger Dollard described some of the allegations as “unfair” and felt they did not reflect the real picture of the greyhound racing industry here.
Mr Dollard said the IGB has taken and will continue to take steps to improve the welfare of the thousands of greyhounds born here each year but said many of “the illegal and immoral actions” shown in the RTÉ documentary fall outside the remit of the IGB and need to be policed at government level.
The RTÉ Investigates documentary, aired in late June, alleged that almost 6,000 greyhounds were killed here each year. It also included shocking footage in which knackeries around the country were reported to have said they would shoot dogs that were not performing for as little as €10.
The findings in the programme were based on an internal report commissioned by IGB but the organisation has since said that the figures were “based on guesstimates, estimates and assumptions” and related to “unaccounted-for dogs”.
Despite this, the IGB condemned many of the practices and has introduced a wide range of measures which, it says, will lead to the overall betterment of welfare for dogs in the industry. The organisation was horrified by what was shown in the documentary, said Mr Dollard.
“It is hard to get it out of your mind,” he said.
There is a huge challenge when it comes to repairing the damage. It has had a reputational impact — unfairly, so.
However, he felt the programme was “not a fair representation of the industry” and that it included “historical footage”.
He said the issues of ear tagging and dogs being dosed with erythropoietin (EPO) have been tackled and will continue to be monitored. He said that no traces of EPO had been recorded in Irish racing since 2005.
He conceded that the export of greyhounds to other markets is a major issue, though, describing scenes of dogs being sent to China as “appalling”.
“The greyhound community cannot be held responsible for the way that people treat animals in another country,” Mr Dollard said.
He said IGB does not have any control when it comes to the export of greyhounds but has worked hard to discourage breeders from exporting to countries that do not have a good welfare code and it has investigated reports of dogs ending up in China or similar markets.
IGB has already taken steps to tackle some of the issues outlined in the RTÉ report but, he added, there are many issues that simply fall beyond the remit of the organisation, such as monitoring knackeries, which falls under the remit of the Department of Agriculture. Mr Dollard said animal welfare is their remit and priority.
“The impression is out there that breeders and owners are not concerned with the welfare of greyhounds and that is absolutely not the case,” he said.
“The Irish Greyhound Board has been, is and will continue to be very serious about greyhound care and wellbeing.”