PART IV: Issues Relating to the New Greyhound Regulator

Chapter 11

REGULATION AND THE ANIMAL WELFARE ACT 2006

Introduction

During the passage of the Animal Welfare Bill in 2005, the Sunday Times publicised the events which took place at Seaham, County Durham, in which, it was alleged, large numbers of ex-racing greyhounds were being killed in circumstances other than those provided for under the Rules of Racing.

Although not, in itself, illegal, the proven killing of at least two greyhounds in this incident led to a significant expression of public disgust and consequent pressure on the Government to introduce primary legislation, during the passage of the Animal Welfare Bill, formally to regulate greyhound racing as a publicly licensed activity. Whilst accepting the need to address animal welfare issues in the context of greyhound racing in the longer term, the Government resisted immediate recourse to a licensed environment at that time, choosing, whilst not ruling out licensing, to take time to consult with interested parties and consider whether there were preferred options. Notwithstanding the outcome, however, the Government undertook to introduce secondary legislation laying down Regulations specific to greyhound racing and welfare by 2009; it is intended such legislation will therefore be introduced in either April or October of that year.

Defra officials are consulting with the BGRB, NGRC, welfare groups, LACORS [1] , the independent track operators and others in the preparation of their legislative proposals. The Department has also invited the Review Group to submit its views on possible future regulatory measures and this section addresses that request.

It has been put to us in evidence by a leading commentator that an owner has sole responsibility for his greyhound and that there should thus be no requirement to account for its whereabouts to the NGRC or anyone else. ‘Why should I tell them anything? It is my dog’ was the exact quotation.

On the face of it, this is a reasonable question; in the normal course of events, no-one has to account for the whereabouts of the family labrador. However, it ignores the fact that greyhound racing is, to a great extent, a vehicle for betting and there is, unfortunately, plenty of evidence that many greyhounds that cannot make the grade disappear from view and that some of these perish in the most unsatisfactory circumstances.

Whatever the opinion of an individual owner or trainer may be, the fact remains that the general public, and the Government on their behalf, find these practices to be unacceptable. Therefore, those that wish to be involved in the breeding, owning, training and racing of greyhounds must accept that their sport is, insofar as it is a freely available betting medium, a public activity and that the public expects the sport to be accountable, both in terms of the integrity of the racing itself and the welfare of the greyhounds involved. Furthermore, accepting that greyhound racing is a social activity as well as a betting medium, means those that pay to go racing are entitled to expect that the greyhounds they have paid to see are properly treated.

Put bluntly, given its history, the greyhound racing industry has to do more than might otherwise have been necessary to promote a wide understanding that it is running an honest and honourable sport in which the welfare of the greyhound enjoys a proper priority.

Regulatory Background

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA), anyone responsible for an animal, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, becomes a "person responsible to ensure welfare" in respect of that animal. This responsibility is more usually referred to as a Duty of Care and it applies to all animals. An animal's needs are defined as follows:

  • a. its need for a suitable environment;
  • b. its need for a suitable diet;
  • c. its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns;
  • d. any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals; and
  • e. its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Bearing in mind that the above far reaching provisions already apply to all animals since the AWA came into force earlier this year, it seems likely that the greyhound Regulations which will flow from the Act will address the detail of how these headline objectives are to be achieved in the context of greyhound racing.

It is evident that the NGRC's Rules of Racing already cover a number of the Act's objectives and it seems likely that the Rules could be adapted to meet all of them without too much difficulty. However, it is worth pointing out that the AWA and the Regulations which will follow are about animal welfare alone; whereas the Rules of Racing have evolved to cover a range of regulatory objectives, of which welfare is but one - albeit perhaps the most important if the sport is to survive and thrive.

However, of the 43-45 greyhound tracks currently operating in Great Britain, only 30 are licensed by the NGRC and thus bound by the Rules of Racing. The remainder are tracks which are not and may not wish to be licensed by the NGRC and which operate independently of it. These tracks, although required to comply with all national and local legislation pertaining to the sale of alcohol, betting, health and safety etc, are not required to comply with the Rules of Racing and are thus, from a greyhound racing perspective, wholly unregulated - or were, until the AWA came into force. Now, although still not specifically regulated as such, the independent track operators and those that race their dogs at such tracks, are bound by the Duty of Care provisions which apply to all those with responsibility for one or more animals and are thus already vulnerable to prosecution if they fail in that Duty.

It is arguable that if there were Government liaison with greyhound racing's Regulator over the Rules together with an improvement in the resources available to that Regulator for tracking and enforcement, that could, in all likelihood, deliver the objectives of the Act as far as greyhound racing in the licensed sector is concerned; it must therefore, be a matter of conjecture whether there would be a need to introduce secondary legislation at all, were it not for the unregulated sector.

However, we are where we are and the Government is committed to secondary legislation specific to greyhound racing which will apply to all tracks, whether or not they are licensed under the Rules of Racing. It is therefore an imperative, already recognised by Government, that the Regulations must impose a common, uniform welfare standard across all greyhound racing. It would be unwelcome if these were significantly lower than those currently demanded under the Rules of Racing. It therefore needs to be recognised that the Regulations will, in effect, be the lowest common denominator which spells out the minimum legal standards of welfare which must be maintained in greyhound racing; if they are to be effective in delivering improved welfare, it is important that these standards are not set too low.

However, it is also intended that the Regulations will be supported by Codes of Practice which, although not statutory in themselves, will be approved by Parliament. Thus, an alleged failure to comply with the Code is admissible as evidence in any prosecution brought under the AWA or the Regulations.

There is also the issue of UKAS accreditation to be considered. We are not experts in this field but we are aware that the NGRC has worked assiduously towards accreditation and we are strongly of the view that this must continue to completion under the new GBGB structure. Whilst there may be no direct link between the forthcoming Regulations and UKAS accreditation, it will be necessary to set standards of sufficient quality and degree of enforcement to ensure that a meaningful framework is in place to provide for a genuine improvement in the welfare of greyhounds.

Options For Regulation

Having elsewhere in this Report opted for a greyhound industry which is essentially self-regulating but which must operate within a statutory framework, it is essential to address how the independent sector can fit within that statutory framework sufficiently tightly to ensure that self-regulation among the independents can be effective in delivering improved greyhound welfare. In practice, this means track by track since there is no overall governing or representative body in the independent sector although, we understand, one may be emerging in the form of the Independent Greyhound Racing Association.

Although possibly reluctant to do so, it seems inevitable that local authorities will need to become involved, at least in the regulation of the independent tracks; it may not, however, be axiomatic that local authorities will need to become involved in the regulation of licensed tracks and we look further at this proposition below.

There may be a number of different routes by which an appropriate legislative framework can be achieved but they would appear to coalesce into three main options: conditional registration by all tracks with their local authority; a full local authority licensing scheme for all tracks; and a hybrid scheme whereby tracks regulated under the Rules of Racing (currently NGRC tracks) would not require to be either registered with or licensed by their respective local authority, whereas independent tracks would be subject to such registration or licensing.

In reviewing these options, we make the assumption that tracks which currently race under Rules will be compliant with the requirements of the Regulations, or very close to being so. The GBGB and its Regulatory Board will, when the draft Regulations become available, wish to review the Rules of Racing to ensure that the two are compatible and to amend where necessary to ensure synergy. We therefore start from the point that a mechanism needs to be found whereby the expertise and experience of the regulator is harnessed to best effect across the sport as a whole in support of the legislation.

Conditional Registration.

As we understand this proposal, conditional registration would require all tracks to register with their local authority for the purpose of greyhound racing before they could operate. Such registration could be revoked if a track did not meet the registration conditions. This approach would, we think, have certain attractions in the sense that registration would provide a "light-touch" solution, but it is not clear what the conditions of local authority approval would be and how or by whom they would be enforced.

In general terms, we would expect that Defra, or perhaps LACORS, would issue Guidance to Tracks detailing the required welfare standards prior to the registration date given in the secondary legislation. However, it seems that an application for initial registration would not automatically attract a pre-registration inspection from the local authority concerned. Without a pre-registration inspection, it would be impossible to know whether a track was compliant on the date on which the Regulations came into force; it would thus be possible for non-compliant tracks to operate illegally until such time as they were the subject of a routine inspection, if ever, or an inspection occasioned by a report from an animal welfare body or other member of the public. This would not, in our view, be a convincing start to the new regulatory environment but, more importantly, would seem unlikely to be sufficiently stringent to meet any accreditation criteria.

Local authorities are undoubtedly expert in many areas of registration, licensing and enforcement already, including zoos and riding establishments. In this instance, the conditions of the licence/registration would need to be clearly set down and would be likely to cover scenarios which local authority officers are generally familiar with assessing. The regulations would cover conditions at tracks, such as track surface condition, kennels and veterinary presence, most of which would demand the same expertise required to licence other animal establishments (except track surface condition). We are advised that local authorities are used to assessing the welfare of a range of animals, and are particularly used to dealing with dogs. Indeed, where necessary, enforcement officers already call on the expertise of vets. Other issues relating to greyhound racing, such as gambling and service of alcohol, are, of course, already licensed by the local authority.

As far as track surface condition is concerned, we are advised that LACORS is used to developing guidelines for use by local authority enforcement officers in cooperation with the relevant industry bodies. Whatever system is adopted, liaison between the Regulator and LACORS will be needed to ensure that this actually took place.

If possible, we also think it appropriate that compliance with the relevant clauses of the Code of Practice should be a condition of registration or, indeed, licensing. Not all elements of the Code will be applicable to all greyhound tracks, but compliance with those that are should be strongly encouraged.

There is also the question of costs. Local authorities would need to cover the costs incurred by the need for pre-registration inspections, subsequent inspections at intervals of their choosing (annual?), any response they might have to make if asked for advice/guidance by the tracks, members of the public or welfare organisations. Experience indicates that these costs will vary widely across the country but they are likely to be significant and, for those tracks currently regulated by the NGRC, incremental to the sums already paid to the industry regulator. Greyhound racing is not a wealthy industry and this could provide an incentive for some to withdraw from the sector currently regulated by the NGRC in favour of "going independent" under local authority registration rules, if that turned out to be a cheaper option.

Full Licensing

Licensing by the local authority is, we understand, the route likely to be taken in Wales. However, since even now greyhound racing in Wales takes place on only two independent tracks, the authorities there are addressing a relatively smaller task. In any event, it seems to us that the issues associated with licensing and registration are broadly similar: both will require some form of inspection regime which, although likely to vary from authority to authority, will be bound to place an additional burden on the local authorities concerned; this in turn implies additional cost to the tracks. Nevertheless, we consider on balance that licensing is preferred to registration because it will require a more formalised regime of inspections. That said, it will be essential to guard against creating an expensive, over-weaning bureaucracy at local level with widely varying attitudes to enforcement across the country.

A Hybrid Solution

Under this proposal, tracks would either have to be licensed by the relevant local authority, or licensed by the GBGB. In the latter case, there would be no local authority involvement at all and thus no incremental expenditure in respect of local authority fees. The NGRC has no statutory powers now, nor will the GBGB have in future; however, its licensing and inspection regimes are already stringent and will be made more so if necessary in order for both to meet accreditation criteria and ensure compliance with the Regulations. Such a structure would have the effect of leaving the licensed tracks as effectively self-regulating, whilst at the same time limiting local authority involvement to enforcing the Regulations at the independent tracks.

Clearly, close co-operation and co-ordination would be required between the GBGB and, we assume, LACORS on behalf of the local authorities to ensure a consistent approach to licensing and enforcement of welfare provisions. It would be quite wrong if different welfare standards were imposed on the different sectors. Clearly local authority enforcement officers would not attend every unlicensed meeting, so the prime responsibility for ensuring proper welfare provision would fall to the track operator and his veterinary surgeon.

There is also the issue of the identification and recording of greyhounds running at unlicensed tracks, to which address more detail in the next chapter on Independent Tracks where, inter alia, we discuss a new Stud Book Name scheme. It is for consideration under the Regulations that it should actually be a requirement that any racing of greyhounds, licensed or unlicensed, must take place using Stud Book Names. This would allow for proper welfare transparency and no risk to participants for reasons given in detail in the following chapter

It is possible that a service level agreement between the regulator and the local authorities concerned would provide a basis for the sort of interactive arrangement which would be required for enforcement on all tracks.

A structure such as this would, of course, bring with it a cost of regulation which would for the first time include the independent tracks. However, because it relies to a great extent on the existing structure, extending only as far as is necessary to include the 12 - 14 independent tracks, we think it would probably be the cheapest as well as the easiest option to implement. It has the obvious attraction that each track would be paying only one authority and, furthermore, that a good, consistent standard of enforcement should be readily achievable across the industry.

We are informed that local authority licence fees are calculated according to the costs of administration and enforcement and that LACORS is currently undertaking research into the current animal establishment licence fees charged by local authorities. Once complete, guidance for local authorities on the calculation of licence fees will be drafted by LACORS. We welcome this initiative. The future of the independent sector will be dictated largely, if not entirely, by the requirements of the Regulations and the costs that compliance will impose. Some of these costs can be calculated readily in advance by the tracks themselves once they know the regulatory requirements but local authority costs will remain an unknown factor until this research is complete and the results made public.

Topics For Regulation

Breeding

We recommend that any person who breeds greyhounds in Great Britain for the purposes of racing in the United Kingdom or elsewhere should be required to register that activity with the GBGB. A non-statutory link would be necessary between the Keeper of the Greyhound Stud Book, where births are registered, and the GBGB. However, a close relationship already exists between the Stud Book and the NGRC and we do not expect that this would give rise to any practical difficulties. For further discussion on issues around breeding, see chapter 13 below.

Registration

One of the main welfare issues which bedevils the greyhound racing industry is the number of dogs which go missing either before, during or after their racing careers. Estimates vary as to the numbers involved and the APGAW Report made a number of helpful estimates and assumptions in this respect; we have no reason to doubt or challenge their findings. The important point, however, is that we do not know what the numbers actually are and that state of affairs is unacceptable to the general public. The objective for the whole industry, therefore, should be to institute a regime whereby, through registration, record keeping and tracking, the identity and location of a greyhound is known from birth until retirement, including what happens to each greyhound at the point of retirement.

As far as British-bred greyhounds are concerned, the first gap appears in the months between earmarking (at 12-15 weeks) and registration with the NGRC for racing at around 15 months. For example, evidence provided to us indicates that, although 4,481 greyhound puppies were earmarked in 2005, only 2,461 greyhounds were registered for racing in 2006. Of course, there are overlaps year on year and it does not follow that each of the 2,461 registered in 2005 was one of those earmarked in 2005. But, since no-one is able to explain the discrepancy convincingly, it is evident that a large number of puppies are unaccounted for each year between earmarking and registration. It is true that the annual number of earmarkings has declined between 2003 (6087) and 2006 (3448), whilst registrations have remained roughly the same at about 2,600 each year. However, the discrepancy remains and requires resolution.

We therefore recommend that the Regulations require for the registration of all greyhounds with the GBGB at the point of earmarking and that, as a consequence, the breeder/trainer becomes accountable for each greyhound in his or her ownership or care. Thus, if a puppy, once earmarked, proves unsuitable for licensed racing, it will be necessary to demonstrate to the licensing authority what arrangements have been made for that animal's future in accordance with the provisions of Rule 18.

An on-going requirement under registration would also oblige the owner, or other person with responsibility for each greyhound, to maintain a record of all on and off track veterinary treatment undergone by the animal, including a record of all immunisations and other medication administered to it.

We also recommend that it should be a condition precedent under the Regulations that only greyhounds registered on the national database can race, whether under Rules or at independent tracks. This means that, if any person wants to own a greyhound for the purposes of racing, that greyhound must be registered with the greyhound racing authority. This should not be difficult to achieve with British-bred greyhounds if they all have to be registered at the point of earmarking as recommended above.

Of course a far larger number of greyhounds are earmarked in the Republic of Ireland and then imported to race in Great Britain. We are advised that it is not possible to legislate to restrict the flow of greyhounds from Ireland; however, if it were to become a legal requirement on a buyer to register the greyhound on acquisition, with the consequential registration fee payable at the same time, the incentive to make speculative purchases would be reduced. It would, in effect, become an offence to own an unregistered greyhound.

Once registration of all greyhounds is in place, it becomes practical, with the correct IT infrastructure, to maintain a record of their subsequent movements. We discuss the areas where we think IT capabilities are not yet sufficiently developed elsewhere but the Rules already require the notification of ownership changes through an NGRC-registered greyhound's life; this provision would have to be extended to all greyhounds and not just those racing under Rules.

When a dog reaches the end of its racing career, for whatever reason, we also envisage a mandatory requirement to de-register the animal and provide details as to what has happened to it, be it euthanasia, re-homing or retirement with, in the latter cases, evidence of the name and address of the new location. It is a function of the Rules of Racing that a greyhound may only be euthanized by a veterinary surgeon. It is not self-evident that such a provision could be translated into law whilst alternative methods, such as the use of a captive bolt by any person however unacceptable that may appear to be, remain a legal mechanism for the destruction of other breeds of dog, though seldom used.

Veterinary Attendance at Race Meetings and Trialling

Although currently a requirement at a licensed track, there is no legal obligation to have a veterinary surgeon in attendance at a track when racing or trialling is taking place. Given that greyhounds are prone to injury when racing and thus, in many cases, in need of immediate treatment, it would seem to be a basic tenet of good regulation and animal welfare that such treatment should be available on all occasions at which racing and/or trialling is taking place.

We therefore recommend that the Regulations should require that an appropriately qualified and accredited vet should be in attendance from the time that the first greyhound arrives for kennelling at a track until half an hour after the last race. It follows that the Regulations should also require that the vet is provided with the exclusive use of appropriate secure accommodation and facilities. It is for consideration whether the type and level of facilities provided by the tracks should be a matter for Regulation, the Code of Practice or within the purview of the regulatory authority to agree a standard between the track vets and the tracks themselves. As indicated in our sections on the Role of Veterinary Surgeons in Greyhound Racing and on Independent Tracks, we tend towards the latter, unless it proves unworkable in practice in which case stronger provision would be needed.

We further recommend that such track vets be required under the Regulations to examine each greyhound prior to racing or trialling, keep records regarding injuries to and treatment of greyhounds occurring between the time of kennelling to the time the greyhounds leave the track, including records of all fatalities and the transportation of injured greyhounds. It should also be a requirement that all such records are certified as accurate by the vet concerned and forwarded to the greyhound regulator, irrespective of whether the track is a licensed track or not. It would then be for the regulator to investigate any anomalies in the case of the former and to alert the relevant local authority in the case of the latter.

The publication of anonymised injury statistics to alert the industry to prevalent injuries and their likely causes would be a desirable function of the regulatory body but not, we think, a matter for legislation.

Kennelling at Race Tracks

Before the passing of Regulations in respect of kennelling at tracks, it needs to be established whether this is a measure aimed at the welfare of the greyhound or at maintaining the integrity of the racing.

It is important to recall here that betting integrity and welfare may overlap in places but they are not always the same thing. The regime at a licensed track is aimed at eliminating cheating, either by giving substances that enhance or degrade performance; or that mask pain and thus enable a greyhound to run when it is injured. Whilst some substances aimed at influencing performance may be harmless to the greyhound (e.g. water or dog food) and thus may not be a welfare issue at all, the administering of others, or of a pain killing substance so that an injured dog can run, is always going to be a welfare issue.

As we understand it, one of the main purposes of kennelling is to ensure that greyhounds are kept in a secure environment during the period immediately before they race, thus eliminating or at least substantially reducing, any substitutions or other performance-affecting interference taking place. We would argue that, if such kennelling is a requirement in order to comply with the Rules, then provision of appropriate kennelling becomes a greyhound welfare issue and thus worthy of regulation in respect of ventilation, space and ambient temperature max/min criteria. However, where kennelling for integrity purposes is not a requirement, such as at many if not all independent tracks, it is not evident that compulsory provision for its own sake is justified. However, where the track operator does provide kennelling, it should be to the required standard. Thus, the welfare demands of the Regulations would apply equally to both licensed and independent tracks.

Kennelling at Training and Breeding Establishments

We have heard much evidence about poor kennelling facilities at some training and breeding establishments but members of our team have also visited kennels which evidently provide high quality facilities. This leads us to believe that standards vary widely across the industry and we recommend that minimum standards for kennelling and other built accommodation used for the purpose of keeping or housing greyhounds should be laid down in the Regulations. Provision should also be included in the Regulations, enabling independent inspections to take place on behalf of the regulatory or local authority as appropriate at any reasonable hour without notice.

The Use of Drugs

It is worth remembering that as far as the use of performance enhancing or performance degrading drugs to affect the outcome of a greyhound race or trial is concerned, the provisions of the Gambling Act may be as or more relevant as any Regulations emanating from the AWA. As is well known, the objectives of the Gambling Act include keeping crime out of gambling and ensuring that gambling is conducted fairly and openly. Clearly the act of running a greyhound at an event on which gambling is taking place, which has been given drugs in order to affect its performance is in breach of the second of those objectives and, depending upon the specific circumstances, quite possibly the first as well. We therefore recommend that, should the Department be minded to legislate for drug misuse, liaison with the Gambling Commission to ensure mutually supportive Regulations would be a useful exercise.

Rule 217 of the Rules of Racing proscribe the use of any medicines, tonics or substances which can affect the performance or well being of a greyhound when taking part in a race or trial. Certain exceptions, such as oestrogen suppressants, anti-parasitic drugs or vaccines, are permitted. Rule 218 goes on to describe how the residue of anti-bacterial drugs and stained meat products should be treated under the Rules. As far as the AWA is concerned, it is for consideration that these Rules should be translated into the Regulations, whereby any breach would constitute a criminal offence.

Enforcement, particularly at independent tracks, would however be a difficult issue. A drugs testing regime is in place at licensed tracks, funded by the BGRF, mainly in the interests of integrity. It is our view that the incidence of random testing should be increased but that in itself is a matter of cost, both in terms of people to carry out the work and paying HFL for the process itself. It seems likely that any provision for random testing at independent tracks would have to be backed by the Regulations to enable local authority inspectors, together with a sampling steward from the regulatory authority, to gain access to the venue and to take samples. This would entail cost and it is unclear, in the absence of BGRF funding to which the independents do not have access, who would be required to meet this cost. Any drug testing regime would also, we believe, have to be very specific in terms of samples used (blood, urine etc), the methodology of testing and the nature of the establishment which carried out the function, although we think that, in practice, HFL is the only facility available for this purpose.

Transportation

Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act requires that an animal's needs are met in respect of providing it with a "suitable environment" and in our view this provision applies whenever a greyhound in being transported by road or otherwise. It is arguable that EC1/2005 and the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 2006 (WATO), which covers anyone transporting live vertebrate animals in connection with an economic activity, already provides for this and the RSPCA has given evidence that they have in the past mounted successful prosecutions in respect of greyhound transportation under that legislation. Where WATO does not apply, animals, including greyhounds, will still have to be transported in a way which meets the conditions of the Animal Welfare Act. Furthermore, in the event that a greyhound were to be transported by air, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) publishes standards for the air transportation of all animals, including dogs.

Nevertheless, it has been put to us that regulations are required specific to the transport of racing greyhounds by road.

It has been suggested by some witnesses that the IATA standards for the transport of dogs by air should be reflected in the Regulations and applied to the transport of greyhounds by road. Whilst we understand this point of view, it seems to us to be disproportionate to compare the needs of a dog experiencing what could be a lengthy transcontinental flight lasting many hours in the unfamiliar environment of an aeroplane, to that of a greyhound undertaking a routine trip to and from a track in a familiar vehicle which may last no more than a couple of hours and sometimes very much less. Of course, the reverse may also apply (ie, short flight, long road journey) so the important objective is to get the size of the cages right - a point to which we return later.

Furthermore, opinions vary as to what constitutes a "suitable environment" in the context of the road transportation of greyhounds. For example, it has been argued that providing sufficient space for a greyhound to turn round easily is, on the one hand, an essential feature of a suitable environment, and on the other that, in the event of an accident, a greyhound is more securely protected if it is more tightly confined and thus turning space should not be a welfare requirement.

We suspect that no documented research exists to substantiate either hypothesis. However, the empiric evidence from those welfare groups who regularly transport thousands of dogs around the country, using cages which allow space for an animal to turn easily without any apparently increased risk of death or injury through accident, is probably the more convincing.

We recognise that any minimum standard imposed either by the Regulations or recommended under the Code of Practice will have compliance cost implications for greyhound owners and trainers both in terms of initial acquisition and subsequent implementation. Before such costs are incurred they must, in our view, be fully justified in welfare terms. We are aware that, following the issue of the EC Regulation covering the transportation of animals (EC 1/2005) Defra undertook a period of consultation within the industry, which included the transport of greyhounds. We are advised that the BGRB reached agreement with the NGRC and the Society of Greyhound Veterinarians (SGV) on transport guidelines for trainers and that these guidelines were accepted by Defra. Nevertheless, it seems that disquiet is still being expressed by some among the Welfare Groups who, we understand, were not involved in the consultation.

This is an issue which may now require further investigation. As stated above, there is an responsibility on the industry to employ standards for transporting greyhounds which are consistent with its obligations under the Animal Welfare Act. Either the standards contained in the current guidelines satisfy that responsibility, in which case the continuing concerns expressed by the Welfare Groups would be misplaced; or they do not - in which case those concerns would be justified.

If, as we suspect, the answer is less clear cut than the question, it is for consideration that the industry should act swiftly to commission specific independent research to identify the appropriate standards for transporting greyhounds consistent with fulfilling its obligations under the Animal Welfare Act. Should such research identify a need to change the design and/or increase the size of cages then a reasonable period of time would be required to allow implementation to take place. Either way, the task and cost of retro-fitting vehicles in order to comply with any new standards should not be under-estimated.

If they embark on such an exercise, those concerned must, in our view, consider whether it is necessary and proportionate to lay down minimum dimensions for cages used for transporting greyhounds in the Regulations. If they conclude that it is, then the specifications should be supported by the industry, unambiguously, and adequate time allowed for implementation. Alternatively, it may be more appropriate to include recommendations as to minimum dimensions in the Code of Practice, given that enforcement of the Regulations in this respect may, as pointed out by LACORS, prove to be problematic in practice.

Conclusion

The Government is committed to the introduction of Regulations in respect of greyhound racing during 2009. We do not underestimate the practical difficulties this commitment presents but consider that the topics outlined above constitute the main regulatory issues that need to be addressed. It is however a key objective that a two-tiered system of regulation does not emerge, which allows those racing only under local authority licences to do so to lower standards of welfare and integrity.

[1] Local Authorities Coordinating Office for Regulatory Services