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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Care call over retired greyhounds
Racing dog
Racing dogs are being killed in large numbers, campaigners claim
Best-selling author Jilly Cooper is joining a high-profile call for a better quality of life for retired racing dogs.

Ms Cooper and actress Annette Crosbie will be at Downing Street on Thursday to urge the government to set basic welfare standards for greyhounds.

The League Against Cruel Sports says thousands of retired dogs are needlessly killed each year.

The industry is self-regulating and says it is committed to animal welfare.

'Scandalous treatment'

Louise Clark from the League Against Cruel Sports said One Foot in the Grave star Annette Crosbie, along with Ms Cooper and others will be asking for an independent body to control dog racing.

"At the moment it is self-regulating and we worry that their interest is in covering up scandalous treatment of greyhounds," Ms Clark said, adding that an all-party parliamentary group called for the move in May.

The campaign by celebrities and the League came after a Sunday Times investigation in 2006 found that a builders' merchant in Seaham, County Durham, was being paid 10 each to kill and dispose of racing dogs.

David Smith, 57, admitted disposing of the greyhounds without a permit and was fined 2,000.

It will cost the government nothing to set welfare standards for this industry. To do nothing is indefensible and simply unacceptable
Actress Annette Crosbie

The National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC), condemned the practice and said at the time that the organisation had very "strict" rules about retired dogs.

Alistair Mclean, the NGRC's chief executive, said that the industry's self-regulation measures and the 2006 Animal Welfare Act meant there were already robust safeguards in place.

He added: "We work very hard to ensure the safety of greyhounds and he law already means that owners have a duty of care."

The NGRC regulates 31 racing tracks nationwide and said dogs, which usually retire aged about four, should become pets or be sent to retirement homes before putting them down is even considered.

It also asked Labour peer Lord Donoughue to lead a review of the treatment of racing dogs and make recommendations. His report is expected within weeks.

In a statement, Ms Crosbie said the onus is on government, not industry, to set the rules.

"It will cost the government nothing to set welfare standards for this industry. To do nothing is indefensible and simply unacceptable," she said.

Ms Cooper's own greyhound was found wandering with a muzzle on and has become a devoted family pet.

"He is the most charming, biddable, sweet-natured, perfect pet I've ever come across," Ms Cooper said in a statement.

"It is an absolute tragedy that thousands are killed in England and Ireland every year."



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