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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Racing watchdog probes dog deaths
Racing greyhounds generic
A greyhound racing watchdog has launched an investigation
A dog racing watchdog is to hold an inquiry into claims that thousands of animals are being shot dead every year.

The National Greyhound Racing Club has condemned the "euthanising" of healthy dogs and said putting them down should be a last resort, carried out by a vet.

A Sunday Times investigation claimed builders' merchant David Smith, of Seaham, County Durham, had shot and buried 10,000 dogs over 15 years.

Mr Smith has so far refused to make any public comment about the allegations.

The government said it would also be interested in seeing the evidence.

'Unscrupulous owners'

Alistair McClean, chief executive of the regulator National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC), said the organisation had very "strict" rules about retired dogs.

He said: "We are absolutely horrified by these claims and have very strict guidelines about euthanising dogs - it should only be done as a last resort and be carried out by a registered vet.

"There are 10,000 dogs registered with us and the majority have caring owners, but sadly there are some unscrupulous owners.

"We will be carrying out our own inquiry into these allegations and will take action against anyone associated with the practice."

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.

'Re-homing scheme'

The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare is also holding a meeting about the case on Monday along with a cross-party group of MPs.

David McDowell, acting chief veterinary adviser to the RSPCA, said the law may need to be changed to protect racing dogs.

He said: "We would really suggest two things need doing: firstly restrictions on the numbers that are bred.

"And at the other end of the scale, the industry which is actually making quite a lot of money, should fund a re-homing scheme for these retired greyhounds.

"These are the two actions we'd like to see. Now, if the industry isn't prepared to get to it and do it voluntarily then we think perhaps under the auspices of the Animal Welfare Bill the government ought to make them do it."

Not illegal

The Sunday Times claimed Mr Smith uses a bolt gun and charges 10 to kill each dog.

The paper also claimed that over the past 15 years he had buried the carcasses on a one-acre site on his land.

It is not illegal to kill animals as long as it is carried out humanely and they do not feel pain.

Durham Police said in a statement: "We have been in contact with Mr Smith to discuss issues raised in the article.

"We have received no specific complaints about Mr Smith's activities, and we have no concerns about the bolt gun described in the article, which we have now established as legitimately held.

"Any question on health issues relating to the burial of dogs is not one for the police and should be referred to the local authority."




SEE ALSO
Greyhound retirement home opens
21 Dec 05 |  England
Dog track helps greyhound rescue
03 May 05 |  South West Wales

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