Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 2 May 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
General Scheme of the Greyhound Industry Bill 2017: Discussion
I welcome the two representative bodies to the committee. They have put forward very good cases on their respective behalves. I am a greyhound owner and I am a director of a greyhound track.
The point on animal welfare is well made. If our industry is to prosper in the future, more resources must be allocated to dog welfare. This Bill will address that issue. In the past, Bord na gCon has not put enough resources into dog welfare.
A point was made that doping is widespread in the greyhound industry. According to the Indecon report, in 2011 some 0.9% of tested dogs tested positive. That dropped to 0.8% in 2012 and 0.7% in 2013. An analysis of the majority of the dogs which tested positive showed that traces of substances in the dogs’ feed resulted in the positive tests. This has been conclusively proven. Unfortunately, there have been several high profile cases where dog trainers took legal action regarding the test results and proved conclusively that the positive doping test was due to the animal feed. The myth that doping is widespread in the greyhound industry has to be put to bed. The figures are there to show that is not the case.
The other myth is that dogs are not looked after. There will always be exceptions in an industry as widespread as this one. A small minority of owners will not look after the welfare of their greyhounds. However, in the vast majority of cases, dogs are very well looked after and very well minded. It has been said that dogs are money-making machines. In my experience of greyhounds, they are definitely not. The vast majority of greyhound owners look after their dogs very well. If one were to go to a greyhound establishment where a bitch is being whelped, one would see the level of comfort that is provided. There would be an infrared lamp over the pups, the litter under the dogs would be very dry and they would be minded exceptionally well. The owner would get up two or three times a night to look after the pups during their first week to ensure that they are adequately fed and comfortable. A sweeping statement that greyhounds are not being treated well is incorrect. There will always be exceptions to the rule. When this legislation is enacted, hopefully we will be able to root out those who are doing the industry’s reputation no good whatsoever. There have been instances of dogs being stolen from premises and of people poaching dogs. That is illegal and hopefully it can be stamped out.
This Bill will go some way towards addressing the concerns of today’s witnesses. The welfare of greyhounds is paramount for us all. To get public opinion behind our sport, it is essential that the Bill looks after the welfare of dogs. When this Bill is enacted, the myths about widespread doping will be put to bed once and for all. That will be to the benefit of us all.
I am looking forward to working constructively with the witnesses to scrutinise the Bill. When it is enacted, it will hopefully be to the benefit of an industry which I will not put into the graveyard just yet.