Abandon greyhound race track plans: call
'Holocaust' among dogs: claim
By Ben Lowry
23 August 2004
Plans for a greyhound racing track in Co Down should be rejected because the racing industry is responsible for a "holocaust" among dogs, it has been claimed.
The search for potential champions is leading to some 14,000 greyhounds being killed or abandoned across Ireland annually, according to the Animal Welfare Federation Northern Ireland.
The group, which investigates reports of animal cruelty, has cited the figures in support of its opposition to a greyhound racing track being built in Newtownards as part of a planned new stadium for Ards FC.
The AWF based its statistics on estimates from the ISPCA, which claims that Ireland is known as the foremost greyhound breeding country in the world, with more than 20,000 greyhounds born each year.
Many of them are exported to the UK and the US, and some to Spain and elsewhere.
On Wednesday evening, the AWF will address Ards councillors about the plans.
Federation chairman Norman McCombe said: "Before they die, these gentle dogs are often the victims of harsh treatment, cruelty, neglect and abuse. They are even maimed to eliminate the tattoos that identify the dog and its owner.
"Without radical reform of this industry, the construction of new race tracks should not be allowed."
Kieran McCarthy, a local Alliance councillor and MLA, said that he supported the proposals for a joint stadium.
"I want to see football continue in the Newtownards area and this seems to me a reasonable and sensible way forward.
"I respect the concerns about greyhound racing, but the information that I have is that the people who would run the track would have the necessary animal welfare experts on hand."
Last month, figures from the charity Dogs Trust showed that 3,982 canines were destroyed in Northern Ireland - a staggering 40% of the UK total.
Some of the AWF's concerns about greyhound racing have been echoed by Stephen Philpott, chief executive of the USPCA.
"I would like to know what happens to the greyhounds when they retire. Something must happen to them. Last year we handled 4,000 dogs through our shelters and only two were greyhounds."
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