This code of practice has been produced by the animal welfare agencies that make up the Greyhound Forum and International Greyhound Forum whose members are listed above. The Code is intended to be of assistance to those who own and train racing greyhounds and those who work within the Industry. It should not be used as a substitute for legal requirements, but rather to be read in conjunction with the legal framework.
The welfare agencies are concerned that while the Industry remains fragmented there are no central rules that apply to greyhounds that race on the independent tracks and this Code aims to bring a set of guidelines to protect the racing greyhound from “cradle to grave”.
This code is based on the:
- Five Freedoms
Freedom from hunger and thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
- Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease: by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
- Freedom to express normal behaviour: by providing sufficient space proper facilities and company of animals’ own kind.
A Guide To Best Practice – Greyhound Welfare
The registered owner and/or keeper of a greyhound should take full responsibility for the physical and mental wellbeing of the greyhound and should do so with full regard to the dog’s future welfare.
All greyhounds should be permanently identified, properly registered and relevant records kept by the owner and/or keeper.
Greyhound racing authorities have individual identification regulations which may be inadequate once the greyhound has ceased to race. It is best practice to have all greyhounds permanently identified by the current methods of tattoo or micro-chip and this in time may become mandatory.
Technical advances may allow additional methods which too could become mandatory in due course. When permanently identified, greyhounds must be registered on a bona-fide and publicly accessible database so they can be traced to owners.
All greyhounds should be fully vaccinated by a Veterinary Surgeon and provided with a current Certificate of Vaccination.
Greyhounds should be vaccinated as recommended by the owner’s or keeper’s veterinary surgeon having taken into account the vaccine manufacturer’s data sheet recommendations. Usual practice would be for greyhounds to be vaccinated against Distemper, Hepatitis (Canine Adenovirus 2), Canine Parvovirus, Parainfluenza Virus 3 and Leptospirosis. An initial course of vaccine should be given as recommended in data sheets as a puppy. Booster vaccinations should normally be given at an interval as recommended in data sheets, but there may be some occasions when a veterinary surgeon may advise an alternative practice. If such an alternative is advised action should be taken to ensure that greyhounds retain an adequate level of immunity, for example by ascertaining antibody titres from blood samples.
All greyhounds must be provided with suitable food and accommodation and have unrestricted access to clean, fresh water.
All animal housing should meet the requirements laid down by the Model Licence Conditions Guidance issued by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
A copy can be obtained from your Local Authority’s Environmental Health Department or the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
All animals must be provided with a bedding area or bench large and suitable enough to allow the animal to lie comfortably.
The sleeping accommodation must be capable of being maintained at an appropriate ambient temperature.
The accommodation must be draft-free, have adequate ventilation and natural daylight.
The accommodation and ancillary establishment, kitchen, corridors, runs etc, must be maintained in a state of cleanliness conducive to maintenance of disease control and animal comfort. All excreta and soiled material should be removed at least once daily and more often if necessary, from all living and exercise compartments and disposed of in an approved manner. The floors of the living compartment must be clean and dry. Care must be taken to protect animals from disinfectant poisoning associated with cleaning routines.
Animals must be adequately supplied with sufficient suitable food and clean drinking water must be available at all times. Bedding material should be maintained in a clean and dry state. Moveable benches should be removed for thorough cleaning at least twice weekly.
Appropriate isolation facilities should be provided.
Adequate arrangements must be made to allow for exercise and socialisation.
All animals should have access to supervised exercise on a daily basis. There should also be encouragement for staff and volunteers to play and interact with the dogs. Precautions should be taken to minimise the risk of outbreak of disease.
Greyhounds should not be subjected to over-breeding
No bitch should be mated if they are less than one year old, they should not give birth to more than six litters during their lifetime, bitches should not give birth to a litter within twelve months of the previous litter, all bitches and their puppies should be identifiable and accurate records maintained. No bitch should be bred from if she is unlikely to be capable of mating and whelping normally.
Where destruction is inevitable, greyhounds should be euthanased humanely by the intravenous injection of a suitable drug administered under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.
It is accepted that the euthanasia of some greyhounds is inevitable, as not all animals will be suitable for re-homing at the end of their racing careers. Where, sadly, such action is necessary it is essential that the euthanasia is carried out without any pain or distress to the greyhounds. It is unlikely that this can be accomplished without the use of appropriate drugs which are only available from a veterinary surgeon. No drug may be used which does not lead to the immediate loss of consciousness of the greyhound prior to death and this can generally only be achieved with the intravenous use of anaesthetic agents. Alpha 2 agonists may reduce the level of consciousness of animals, but are unlikely, on their own, to result in a total loss of consciousness. Accordingly such drugs may only be used as a premedicant to the use of a suitable anaesthetic agent. Other drugs which may cause cardiac arrest or cessation of respiration must only be used after drug induced total loss of consciousness.
When transported all greyhounds should do so in safety and comfort.
Greyhounds travel in a variety of vehicles from private cars to vans and trucks. In all cases, the chance of accidental injury should be minimised by the use of dog guards and cages in small vehicles and, where travel is in larger vehicles, specialised and properly anchored cages should be fitted. Safe bedding should be provided when necessary and particularly for longer journeys. Provision must be made to enable quick evacuation of greyhounds in the event of road traffic accidents.
All vehicles must be clean prior to the journey and carry sufficient food and water for the journey. Ventilation should be appropriate for the climatic conditions. On longer journeys there should be breaks for the greyhounds to relieve themselves in safe areas.
Sick, unfit and pregnant greyhounds in the last third of their pregnancy should only travel in emergencies or in the interest of their health.
Tracks must be designed to ensure the highest welfare standards for the racing greyhounds.
The racing surface should be properly maintained at all times, in order to minimise injuries.
The track, especially the bends, should be designed in such a way as to minimise the risk of injury to the racing greyhounds. Appropriately trained and qualified ground staff should be employed to maintain the racetrack.
A supervising Veterinary Surgeon must be present whenever greyhounds are raced at tracks.
The primary task of the track veterinary surgeon is to ensure the welfare of the greyhound. To ensure that this duty can be fully complied with, the track veterinary surgeon must be independent of the management of the track and remuneration must therefore come from the racing authorities. Welfare problems are as likely to occur during trials as they are during racing and so a veterinary surgeon must also be present at the track during all trials. The power to vary (suspend, abandon etc) any arrangements for a meeting must remain with the Local Stewards, in full consultation with the track Veterinary Surgeon and local trainers.
Greyhounds must only race if passed fit by a Veterinary Surgeon immediately prior to racing
Every dog which is to be raced must first be examined by a veterinary surgeon appointed to such duty at the track and this veterinary surgeon, designated as the track veterinary surgeon, is responsible for the welfare of dogs to be raced. Sufficient time must be allowed prior to racing for every greyhound to be examined individually. Such examination may be divided into two parts: on entry to the track and immediately prior to being walked on to the track to race. The examination must include the general health of the greyhound, but particular attention should be paid to the limbs and any sign that drugs have been administered to the dog.
Greyhounds must be entitled to receive emergency veterinary care if injured.
It is inevitable that occasional injuries may occur during racing, some of which may be serious and potentially life threatening. In particular limb fractures may occur, which cause very significant pain and distress to the greyhound. In such circumstances immediate veterinary attention is required for the animal to minimise pain and suffering and this can only be provided if a veterinary surgeon is present at the track and is suitably equipped to deal with such emergencies. This veterinary care will normally be provided at the track, must be documented and the normal referral procedure adopted between veterinary surgeons must be followed so that the owner’s or keeper’s veterinary surgeon is aware of all action taken and drugs administered.
Drugs which may affect the performance of a greyhound when racing should not be permitted.
Drugs which may affect the performance of a greyhound may be divided into two categories: those which enhance performance and those which degrade it. In either case the potential for the dog to be harmed if raced while under the influence of such a drug is significantly increased. Any drug used to generally enhance performance will put increased strain on the cardiovascular system and this may result in idiopathic rupture of blood vessels. Any analgesic used to mask the symptoms of injury will result in more stress to the injured organ which may result in further damage. Any drug used to degrade the performance of a dog may make it less conscious of its surroundings and the actions of the other dogs. This may endanger both the degraded dog and those with whom it is racing.
Where a veterinary surgeon suspects that a greyhound has been administered a drug which might affect its performance, the animal must be suspended from racing at that meeting. Samples must be taken for analysis and such analysis must be handled in a manner similar to that for forensic specimens.
Drugs used for the suppression of oestrus in bitches may affect performance. However the effect of such drugs is unlikely to be deleterious to the greyhound and so such drug usage should not fall into this category.
Sufficient resources should be made available by the Greyhound Industry to ensure the welfare of all dogs generated by the Industry, whatever their commercial value and throughout their life
In the UK alone some 10,000 dogs are retired each year, a few trainers/owners will retain their progeny through retirement, but many are discarded. The Industry must endeavour to ensure that all racecourses have a properly funded home-finding scheme for retired greyhounds in operation. Such schemes should work closely with other welfare and charitable bodies seeking to find good homes for ex-racing greyhounds.
Read: The Greyhound Charter