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Friends team up to foster Greyhounds

During Animal Rights Awareness Week (12-18 June 2022) the focus is on advocating for the humane treatment of animals, including pets, farm animals as well as wildlife. It  also aims to bring more awareness to the plight of animals used for medical research and testing.

Some foster carers actually redress the balance when animals haven’t received humane treatment by helping to restore them to good health. But how do they get involved in such a journey? Fiona Chisholm from the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds investigated and shared one of those "happy endings" stories with us.

Fostering is the perfect compromise between having a dog, but not having long term responsibilities.” says foster carer Moyra Pepe, who has always loved dogs and really missed having one in her life.

“I was very excited when my housemate Chris suggested we join a rescue group and foster a Greyhound. That was almost four years ago and we’ve since had more than 15 fosters,” she said.

Moyra said it all started when one of Chris’ friends in Brisbane adopted an all white Greyhound.

“Chris fell in love with Ghost and thanks to her, Chris became more familiar with and attached to Greyhounds. When he moved down to Melbourne, he always had Ghost in mind and knew he wanted to be around Greyhounds and to help them," she said.

Moyra and Chris foster with Gumtree Greys, which rescues hundreds of Greyhounds along the eastern seaboard of Australia and especially in Victoria and Queensland.

Everyone in Gumtree Greys is unpaid. Volunteers take Greyhounds into their own homes and teach them to adjust to life as a pet. Community-run rescues generally can’t afford to run large scale kennels. There are about 30 of these groups across Australia.

Moyra said right now Gumtree Greys has 41 Greyhounds waiting for a foster home (apply here). There are both highs and lows to this type of fostering. She says it's hard sometimes to witness the condition in which the dogs arrive.

"You can only imagine what their lives must have been like," said Moyra.
"But there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your foster Greyhound’s personality unfold and flourish as they get used to pet life.”
The sad reality is that the poor condition in which many Greyhounds arrive at Gumtree Greys is typical of what community rescue groups for houndies deal with right across Australia.

CPG’s Survey of community-run Houndie Rescue Groups

A survey by the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) found that the racing industry hands over most of its dogs in a neglected condition, despite welfare codes requiring the exact opposite.

The survey gathered the observations of people from 18 of the 30 or so community-run Greyhound rescue groups around Australia about the health and living conditions of dogs at the time of rescue from trainers and owners. You can watch CPG’s video about the survey's findings below: 

The rescue groups reported that not only were most dogs arriving in poor condition, but some had untreated wounds from track racing and weren’t socialised for rehoming.

“These charities say most dogs arrive in poor condition with pre-existing injuries, bad teeth and coats, while one in every two dogs exhibits stress behaviours due to being unprepared for re-homing by owners and trainers,” said Ms Julia Cockram, a CPG spokesperson and lead volunteer with Gumtree Greys.

CPG’s survey gives community-run greyhound rescue groups across the nation a voice:

✔️ 89 per cent said most of the dogs needed vet care for pre-existing conditions and bad teeth; rescue Greyhound teeth are often bad due to neglect and a poor diet.

✔️ 67 per cent said dogs were usually or sometimes injured – which suggests owners are often failing to provide adequate vet care and/or rehabilitation time before dogs arrive at rescues.

✔️ 67 per cent said many dogs arrived without basic grooming – defined as a clean coat and trimmed toe nails in the Victorian code of greyhound welfare [1],

✔️ 45 per cent of rescues said dogs sometimes or usually showed signs of stress behaviours, yet all state codes say greyhounds must be prepared for re-homing by being socialised,

✔️ 39 per cent said dogs were sometimes desexed, 33 per cent said dogs are rarely or never desexed, while 28 per cent said dogs are always or usually desexed,

✔️ 28 per cent said dogs were usually not a healthy body weight when they arrived at rescues.

The survey report includes photos which show the poor condition in which dogs arrive once they reach the rescue groups. 

Greyhound (skin and bones...) at the vet after being dumped at rescue
He was later put down due to an untreated lymphoma as his condition was terminal

CPG’s survey allowed rescues to speak anonymously, as many choose not to comment publicly for fear dogs will be killed rather than surrendered for re-homing. Here is a first-hand account from one of these groups which gave parliamentary evidence anonymously because of these fears.

Meanwhile, Julia said it was inexcusable for Greyhound owners not to treat injured greyhounds before surrendering them to rescue groups and industry regulators [2] should be doing socialisation checks.

“Some of the hounds were horribly injured and most of these were quietly reported to the authorities. It’s no wonder most Australians don't support Greyhound racing and want it shut down,” she said.

“Without foster angels like Moyra and Chris, seriously ill ex-racers would never make it. Moyra, like Chris, is an extraordinary person whose care and compassion for Greyhounds literally changes their lives and helps them become healthy, confident and resilient dogs, able to be adopted.”

Foster Greyhound Bennie enjoying the sunset at the beach with foster carer Moyra

High stakes fostering

This involves Moyra and Chris in taking on special challenges by fostering dogs that are seriously ill. Moyra said Greyhound Bennie is a good example, as he had to undergo surgery that cost about $10,000!

Gumtree Greys pays all required veterinary costs when a Greyhound is in foster and fundraises to find the money. Meanwhile, foster carers provide food, a home and affection.

"Bennie's been in foster care for one and a half years while we worked through his health issues. This is unusually long for a foster, but is sometimes needed when dogs are very ill," said Moyra.

"It took quite a while, but we worked out recently that Bennie has a compressed spinal cord from falls he suffered due to collisions with other dogs during races. It had affected his neck and overall health. Chris did some research and found Bennie fell in nearly every race he ran.“

Bennie also had severe allergies, both food and contact allergies. It seemed like his body had just given up, but Chris sourced crocodile meat and it made all the difference.

“We are very invested in Bennie and it’s only the last month we got the right specialist who could diagnose his problems,” said Moyra.

“We were worried he might not make it after spinal surgery. They told us he had a 50/50 chance, but after 10 days of terror and stress that he wouldn’t make it, he’s pulled through.”

Moyra said Chris loves Bennie and he sleeps on a mattress on the floor next to his foster dog. Chris and Bennie sleep inside a pen to stop the hound moving about while he’s recovering from surgery.

Chris and Moyra’s doggie ‘helper’ is Greyhound Zoe who also sleeps in the pen with Bennie. Zoe is Bennie’s support dog and helps to keep him going. You can read here Zoe’s own story of injury and neglect was told last month by Australian Dog Lover.

Racing collisions

Sadly, racing collisions are common due to dogs ‘bunching’ as they race around track curves. This diagram below shows how this occurs...
Greyhounds suffer serious injuries at every part of a racetrack, but the track turns are where the real carnage occurs. The dogs come together at high speed and any collision or interference often has fatal consequences.

CPG’s Lethal Tracks report shows that in 2021, 76 per cent of fatal injuries occurred on turns. Countless race videos show greyhounds tumbling violently on turns and fracturing their legs.

One veterinary expert in the UK – Professor Andrew Knight, Founding Director of the Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester – has explained why this occurs in an excellent video.

“Greyhound racing kills and injures significant numbers of Greyhounds every year. Evidence indicates the vast majority of injuries and fatalities occur within curves. Only shortened and straightened tracks will prevent most injuries and fatalities,” said Professor Knight.

Despite being well aware of the danger of curved tracks, the racing industry has only built a handful of straight tracks and continues to build new curved racetracks. Straight tracks have been proven by racing industry funded research to be much safer.

Julia said state governments must stop giving taxpayers’ money to the Greyhound racing industry and instead put it towards greyhound rehoming.

“Also, Greyhound sanctuaries would help relieve the burden on rescues and could create thousands of new jobs in rural areas,” she said. (See CPG’s white paper on funding NSW community re-homing groups – this model could be used nationally.)

Ex-racing Greyhound Tiny (14) rescued 10 years ago and loving her time at the beach
She now runs only when she wants to!

CPG's proposals are part of a five-point plan developed to reform the racing industry. As well as safer tracks, the plan includes whole-of-life tracking of each dog, reduced breeding, sanctuaries and increased penalties for mistreatment.

written by Fiona Chisholm, Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds, June 2022 for Australian Dog Lover (all rights reserved).

About Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds

CPG is a dedicated group of people across Australia who work together to inform the public about the cruelties of greyhound racing.
Learn more by visiting their FacebookWebsiteInstagrammedia coverage.

Gumtree Greys is one of about 30 community-based greyhound rescues run by volunteers.
Find out more by visiting their Facebook, WebsiteInstagram.

[1] The Victorian code was used as a guide regarding upkeep of a greyhound's health.

[2] Some states have independent government regulators (Qld, NSW, Tas), while some states only have industry-run regulators (Vic, WA, SA). The NT has little regulation, while the ACT has banned greyhound racing. See here for further info on regulation.

Related Topics:

June is National Foster a Pet Month: Community Greyhound Rescues pick up the pieces


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