The revelations of the RTE  Prime Time Investigates programme of June 26 have sent shockwaves through the entire country. Prior to the airing of the programme there were many questions regarding the viability of the greyhound industry and what could be done to rescue an industry that has been in steady decline since 2008. The discussion has now changed entirely with many people arguing that the time is up, the industry does not deserve to be saved.

The Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation strongly believe that if there is going to be a commercial greyhound industry in Ireland then it must have the highest standards of greyhound welfare with all retired dogs re-homed. We also believe that this can and must be done without any Government funding. We have consistently made this point to IGB and Government over the last 10 years but have always been dismissed.

Members of the IGOBF met with Minister Andrew Doyle and Brendan Gleeson on June 5th 2016 The full report of our meeting is here http://igobf.ie/wp/?p=573

This was the summary that I wrote following the meeting

The Irish greyhound industry has three basic challenges it needs to address if it is to have a future.
1) Greyhound Welfare, this is a growing issue but can be dealt with. Token gestures fool nobody.
2) Restoration of Integrity. A board that have shown scant regard for rules will find it difficult to convince anyone that they have changed their ways.
3) Finance; The IGB is devoid of ideas and has now become totally dependent on Government funding. The general public perception which will become more negative due to the failure to address welfare issues suggests this money may not always be available.

It is 3 years since we had this meeting and prior to the Prime Time Investigates, none of the issues were taken seriously. The failure of IGB to understand that all 3 issues are intertwined and each one has a bearing on the next may have finally dawned on the IGB following the reaction to the programme on RTE. The failure of IGB to control illegal drug use is a welfare issue, it also damages the integrity of the racing product which has obvious financial implications http://igobf.ie/wp/?p=1116

The flouting of Artificial Insemination regulations by the Irish Coursing Club was another issue that contributed to the oversupply of dogs and reinforced the perception that the industry was incapable of abiding by rules. Successive Ministers of Ag including Coveney, Doyle, Creed and Hayes were all fully aware of the breaches but chose to turn a blind eye.

Understandably the drug use and the over production of dogs have provoked the immediate outcry, but the focus will soon shift to question marks over the financial viability of the industry. The IGB has received €256 million in state funding since 2001 and a further €23 million for the sale of a state asset, Harold Cross. The IGB’s claims that the greyhound industry employs in excess of 10,000 people will be more tightly scrutinised and many people suggest that the real number employed in the industry is less than 1,000 people. As a business, the industry is currently worth nothing. The irony of the situation is that if the IGB folds, as now seems like a real possibility, the value of the assets (Shelbourne Park, Tralee etc) will be used to pay the redundancy of the very people whose non-performance was the cause of the collapse.

IGOBF Sent the following letter to Minister Creed on 04/07/2019

Dear Minister Creed,

The total disregard for animal welfare and the widespread use of illegal drugs that was exposed on the RTE Prime Time Investigates programme should not be a surprise to you as you have repeatedly been given warnings by IGOBF regarding these issues.

The reaction of IGB was typical of what we have come to expect from this shambolic organisation.

Chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board, Frank Nyhan, commented: “We completely condemn the deplorable actions towards greyhounds highlighted in the RTE broadcast. As a result of the newly signed Greyhound Racing Act 2019, the industry now has an opportunity to further progress and modernise. When the Act is in full effect, it will add to existing legislation and ensure that the racing greyhound is the most regulated of all canine breeds in Ireland. The IGB is fully supportive of these measures.”

Mr Nyhan needs to realise that there already was legislation in place prior to this new Greyhound Racing Act 2019 that made it illegal to give dogs cocaine, amphetamines, stanozolol, pentobarbital etc. Why does IGB allow trainers to use these illegal substances? How does a dog that test positive 3 times for cocaine get invited to the Night of Stars? How does the same dog get nominated for Greyhound of The Year? Does Mr Nyhan not understand that the constant eulogising on Talking Dogs (IGB’s own website news) of trainers found to be dopers reduces the stigma of using illegal drugs and all these actions combined suggests to participants and the general public that doping is acceptable. Mr Nyhan was also on the Board when the IGB announced breeding incentives in 2018 without any regard to the already obvious over supply problem.

CEO of the Irish Greyhound Board, Gerard Dollard, said: “Any person who knowingly harms a greyhound brings shame upon our industry. The IGB will continue to investigate any matters brought to its attention. Any situations where it is alleged a breach of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 has occurred should be brought to the attention of the IGB.”

Mr Dollard who has been a total failure since he was appointed in 2017 should also add the following to his statement. “Any employee of IGB who fails to do their job which results in harm to a greyhound will be dismissed”

Anybody that knows the IGB will realise how disingenuous Mr Dollard is being when he states that breaches of welfare should be brought to the attention of the IGB. Mr Dollard might recall to you what action he took when he was informed about the multiple breaches of sales regulations, and he might also confirm that IGB had been aware of the breaches for years and typically had chosen to ignore them. You might also ask Mr Dollard to enquire from his Head of Regulations, Pat Herbert, as to what Mr Herbert found when he investigated the positive stanozolol test in The UK of Stay For Ruby following a written submission from IGOBF. Mr Dollard should also be aware that people do not trust the IGB to confidentially handle any type of whistle-blower disclosure.

IGB Veterinary Director, Denis Healy, added: “A raft of regulatory improvements introduced in the past two years, including a €400,000 state-of-the-art analytical system at the National Greyhound Laboratory in Limerick, demonstrates the IGB’s intent in the area of medication control. The IGB conducts approximately 5,000 tests in this laboratory annually, including testing for EPO as referenced in the broadcast. The last adverse finding relating to EPO was found in July 2005, with approximately 71,000 tests being conducted on greyhounds both inside and outside of competition since then.”

This IGB goes on to say that “On regulation and integrity, 5,288 samples were analysed by the state-of-the-art National Greyhound Laboratory located at the IGB’s offices in Limerick in 2018, which is far in excess of the amount of tests conducted in sports involving humans. These included out-of-competition tests. Just 22 of these tests (0.41%) resulted in adverse analytical findings”

If the situation was not so serious this statement from Healy would be laughable. The incredibly low detection rate of the IGB does not contradict the generally held view that illegal drug use is widespread in Irish greyhounds but instead confirms the incompetence of IGB when it comes to detection. How does Mr Healy explain the Galway trainer that (according to RTE) had a huge stash of illegal drugs, that sent 2 dogs to race in England and they both tested positive, the same trainer has had 2221 runners (according to IGB website) in Irish tracks and never had a failed test?

The IGOBF welcomes the range of aids and measures announced by IGB on June 28 to assist with rehoming. These are normal measures, certainly nothing extraordinary and of course in typical IGB fire brigade fashion, very weak on detail. One could still question the commitment of IGB to welfare issues if all this money is now available and why were these measures not put in place before the Prime Time Investigates programme?

The RTE programme highlighted serious failure of regulation and greyhound welfare at the IGB and further confirms the short comings of the highly paid executives with these particular responsibilities. The failure of Mr Dollard to identify and deal decisively with these non-performers has moved the entire industry closer to total collapse. The IGOBF have been consistent in their warnings, and you as Minister have been consistent with your refusal to listen. The RTE programme of last week is the result of the inept Board appointments by you and your predecessor, Simon Coveney. The obstinate refusal by the two of you to admit that you made terrible mistakes may have moved the industry beyond recovery. The people that got the industry into its present state do not have the ability to turn it around.  This is no time for your normal flip flopping, immediate removals are imperative.

Regards

Tony Walsh

Chairman Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation