AN Amman Valley dog rescue charity has joined in calls to ban greyhound racing in Wales.

Garnant-based Greyhound Rescue Wales is one of a number of dog rescue charities including the Dogs Trust, RSPCA and Blue Cross to call for the ban after concerns for the welfare of the animals involved.

Greyhound Rescue Wales, which has been taking in greyhounds and lurchers for 30 years since its founding in 1993, changed their stance to call for the ban, after seeing that, despite working with the relevant bodies since 2000, there was very little to no improvement to welfare concerns.

They tried again in 2018 and published a list of recommendations to help with ensuring the dogs welfare but were unsatisfied with the outcome.

Alain Thomas, founder and chairman of Greyhound Rescue Wales, told the South Wales Guardian that they take in dogs from Welsh-based trainers who race in England and have taken them in from those who race on the remaining unregistered track in Wales.

On average, they take in roughly 200 dogs a year, assessing them on their temperament and ensuring they are ready to be rehomed, before finding a suitable home for the dogs.

South Wales Guardian: Jilly is one of the greyhounds that was looked after by Greyhound Rescue Wales before finding a loving new home.Jilly is one of the greyhounds that was looked after by Greyhound Rescue Wales before finding a loving new home. (Image: Greyhound Rescue Wales)

Mr Thomas said that the concerns they have relate to the welfare of dogs, with many being kept in kennels for 23 hours a day, only being let out to have a quick run or to race, and the lack of vet assistance at the unregistered track for if the dogs get injured and what happens to the dogs.

He stresses that not all of the greyhounds are treated badly, highlighting that they look forward to taking in dogs by some trainers who pass them on for a loving new home on their retirement, with the dogs coming into their care in very good condition.

In 2022, 300 registered dogs died and thousands were injured, but this number is thought to be higher due to those not being registered.

Tracks and trainers that are registered with GBGB are required to provide information about what happens to dogs such as injury, death, and what happens when they retire, but an unregistered track, such as the one in Wales, is not bound by those rules.

“Since we changed our stance in 2021, the track stopped sending dogs to us and now we have no idea what happens to them,” said Mr Thomas.

Many of the dogs received by Greyhound Rescue Wales come in with existing injuries or just a lack of experience of being a dog, but it is rewarding to see their transformations.

“We introduce them to toys and they revert to being a puppy again, because they never had that experience. It’s lovely to see,” said Mr Thomas.

He told how some of the dogs have had to have their legs amputated and how some have had extremely bad teeth conditions.

One dog he mentioned was Jilly, a greyhound that has now been rehomed successfully. Mr Thomas said: "Jilly began her racing life in Ireland, where 80% of racing greyhounds are bred in what is a government-subsidised industry.

"She was then bred from and had at least one litter of puppies. This is commonplace in Ireland where, tragically, 6000 greyhounds per year are euthanised due to “over production in the industry” (RTE Documentary 2019).

"Jilly was then sold to a trainer in Wales who put her back on the track aged 6 years old. This is at least 2 years past a greyhound’s peak fitness.

"The new owner raced her at the unlicenced Valleys Track in Ystrad Mynach where she broke her front right leg in November 2018.

"Hope Rescue were present at that race (they have subsequently been banned from all races due to their support for the banning of greyhound racing) and the trainer took Jilly to them and signed her over to the charity, rather than care for her himself.

"Hope Rescue took Jilly to a vet in Swansea where her leg was initially set. Sadly this did not work so her leg and shoulder blade had to be amputated after which she was signed over to Greyhound Rescue Wales for her recovery and re-homing.

"Jilly suffered terribly with post-operative pain and phantom limb syndrome and needed a lot of care and attention.  The total cost of her treatment was £5035 plus many hours of staff time but Jilly recovered and found a new home.

South Wales Guardian: An example x-ray of a greyhound leg fracture An example x-ray of a greyhound leg fracture (Image: Greyhound Rescue Wales)

"Her new owners were experienced with greyhounds having had two previously. They felt able to adopt a disabled greyhound and Jilly has gone from strength to strength as part of their family.

"Following her operation Jilly could walk no more than five minutes but, with care and patience, she is now able to walk for up to an hour and is enjoying life to the full.

"She is a beautiful, curious and loving greyhound who, were it not for the dedication of staff and volunteers at Hope Rescue and Greyhound Rescue Wales, along with her new owners would have suffered a far worse fate."

The cost of looking after the dogs before they are able to be rehomed is very expensive, and although there is a greyhound retirement scheme by GBGB to help with the costs, Greyhound Rescue Wales have not received any of this since changing their stance.

A spokesperson for GBGB said: “The GRS was introduced in September 2020 to ensure a greyhound’s retirement is financially secure before their racing career begins. 

"Under the scheme, owners are required to contribute £200 towards their greyhound’s retirement at the same time as registering them with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). 

"The greyhound is not allowed to race or trial until the payment has been made. 

“This money is kept by GBGB and then released and matched once the greyhound enters one of GBGB’s approved homing centres. 

"The £400 bond is given to the homing centre to help cover the costs of the greyhound’s stay with them. 

"Since the GRS was launched, over £3.3 million has been paid out to cover the costs of over 8,300 greyhounds’ retirements. There are currently over 100 approved homing centres each of which has met our high welfare standards.  

South Wales Guardian: Jilly is now thriving.Jilly is now thriving. (Image: Greyhound Rescue Wales)

“Whilst homing centres are not required to actively support greyhound racing, we make it clear at the time of applying to join our approved homing list, that centres cannot proactively campaign against racing whilst receiving funding from the sport.

“In our discussions with Ministers and Members of the Senedd, we have been heartened by the value they place on a regulated greyhound racing industry. 

"This the only way to improve and safeguard welfare standards and ensure the health and wellbeing of racing greyhounds are promoted and protected at all times.

"We are therefore continuing to make the case for greyhound racing in Wales to be regulated and subject to the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010 through registration with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain.

"In doing so, we will ensure the welfare of greyhounds is maintained and strengthened through our own long-term welfare strategy, A Good Life for Every Greyhound.”