A minimum 7560 greyhounds are thought to be injured every year competing on the 30 official British greyhound tracks, with hundreds put-to-sleep (PTS) solely for economic reasons.
The figure is based on the steward's comments for racing at Sittingbourne during February; a track reputed one of the safest in the country by stadium Director Roger Cearns. (See note 1) Because of the claim made by Cearns and because many injuries are never identified the true national annual figure is understood to be very much higher.
It is a subject that industry officials remain very tight-lipped about despite a recommendation within a Parliamentary Group report on greyhound welfare that the "greyhound industry should be required by law to record and publish annual injuries to greyhounds on a central database". (See note 2)
The main organisation collecting such data is the Racecourse Promoters Association (RCPA) who has turned down all requests for information. The National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC) hold figures relating to greyhounds PTS following injury but are equally guarded in any response. (See note 3)
Whilst stadium officials may confirm whether a greyhound was PTS or not, no other specific information on track injuries is ever provided. An official at Yarmouth was even prepared to lie, stating greyhounds PTS following serious injury on the track have been put-up for adoption. (See note 4)
The industries' unprecedented determination to conceal the brutal reality of racing is evident also in the steward's comments. It is the stewards who record events on the track, and racing abbreviations / terms identifying injuries are rarely or sparingly used at many stadiums. Research suggests it is a strategy that will be adopted by most if not all venues in the near future.
But the real shame often lies with events away from the track. Whilst many greyhounds suffer horrific injuries and cannot be saved, a far greater number that can be saved are also put-down. Indeed, under section D of the NGRC retirement form there is a box to tick for when a greyhound is PTS because of an "injury not treated on economic grounds."
Exceptions to the rule include national champions that are worth their weight in gold as breeding machines. Twice Greyhound Derby winner Westmead Hawk was to suffer a broken hock but received the highest possible care and about 10 months later was competing again, winning a Derby Trial before retiring in 26 May 2007. His offspring will eventually total many thousands.
Recent losers however, include Dunmahon Boss, Saleen Rob and Hi Polejointer. Proving sound graded runners but nothing more, these greyhounds had little value and so hock injuries sustained by all three marked the end to their lives.
Perhaps one of the more obscene incidents concerns Our Vieri; a beautiful blue male who suffered a fractured hock whilst competing at Harlow. It would seem this greyhounds' future was secure after he was strapped-up and carried to a waiting vehicle to be taken home, but the owner then gave instruction for the animal to be destroyed, to the disgust of both the trainer and vet.
Speaking to trainers however, you would think no greyhounds are ever needlessly PTS. Terms such as "smashed" or "shattered" are invariably used when describing an injury, commonly a bone is sticking out and its likely the worst break the trainer has ever seen.
You could be forgiven for thinking a simple fracture is an injury never sustained by a greyhound and perhaps the above is an indication of shame felt by many trainers. But expect also "no comment", the phone put down on you and the threat of violence.
In an attempt to justify the industries silence David Lipsey - Chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board (BGRB) - would have you believe it is opponents of racing who are violent; "we cannot and will not contemplate publishing (injury) data for named individual tracks. To do so would be to risk extremist attacks on tracks and those that work on them" (See note 2).
The APGAW inquiry had doubts about the validity of his argument but why the industries continued reluctance to publish national statistics?
The reason is of course, obvious; with research indicating perhaps a 5 figure number for greyhounds injured annually and hundreds PTS solely on economic grounds the information would prove highly damaging for the BUISNESS of greyhound racing.