A Disposable Society

Foal Farm’s Fun Dog Day
October 12, 2017
As seen in Prima magazine!
November 3, 2017

More and more these days it seems that we live in a disposable society. My mum recently asked my brother, sister and I if we wanted any of our grandparents’ keepsakes and sent through photos that included a beautiful pocket watch. Despite being over 50 years old it was still working and in beautiful condition – of course we said yes! How different from today where things are made cheaply and discarded when they break or are no longer needed.

From cheap watches to cheap clothes, gone are the days of make do and mend. Oh it doesn’t matter, we all say, I’ll just throw it away and get another. Friendships, relationships also have become disposable – when someone no longer fits our needs we simply move on, often with little thought for those we have left behind.

Sadly it’s no different for our four legged friends. Shelters are full of abandoned dogs, cast aside for a variety of reasons. Every year, Foal Farm re-homes approximately 300 dogs and 300 cats – they are just one small rescue, can you imagine how many animals this equates to nationwide? Since it was formed in 2012, Birmingham Greyhound Protection has found new homes for over 700 ex-racing greyhounds. While there are, obviously, genuine owners who are left with no other choice and are heartbroken to have to make the decision to re-home their beloved companions, too many other pets are simply discarded for no reason. Excuses range from he chewed my shoe, we don’t have time for him, she doesn’t get on with our other pets to the completely ridiculous….they don’t match our sofa or we’re moving and can’t take them with us. Really??

We have moved multiple times and our main priority when looking for a new home has always been and will always be our pets. I even relocated from the USA to the UK bringing my cat and dog at the time with me. They’re family and will never be left behind. We lived in a hotel for 2 weeks while looking for a pet-friendly apartment during one move in the USA and while it may take more effort to find a landlord that accepts pets, they are out there. We’ve all seen the photos on social media of broken-hearted dogs lying on their families discarded belongings by the side of the road, left behind when they’ve moved away. There is simply no excuse.

This hits particularly close to home for me as Ramsey was abandoned when he was a puppy. When he was found by Foal Farm he was six months old, tiny, terrified and freezing. Who knows how long he had been out there on his own trying to fend for himself before he was rescued. For all his bluster and mischief making, Ramsey is a shy boy who loves his cuddles; I can’t imagine how scared and alone he must have felt. Look at his little face in the photo at the top of this article – this was taken the day we brought him home. You can see the uncertainty in his eyes, not knowing where he was or what was going to happen. How could anyone look in those eyes and simply walk away, leaving him to face life on his own…..

The greyhound racing industry is even worse. Yes there are good trainers and owners in the industry – I know this as Blue came from an owner who treated all his dogs well and made sure that he found good homes for all of them when they finished racing. He knew that Blue was very shy and would have struggled to stand out and be adopted from a kennel environment so kept her back to ensure that he got her into the perfect home. I’m so grateful that he did, otherwise we never would have found her.

Sadly this appears to be the exception rather than the norm.

Most greyhounds racing days are over by the time they reach 4 years old. Those who get injured or don’t perform well are no longer of any use to their trainers and are often simply cast aside. The lucky ones go to rescue, too many others simply disappear. Every track has a vet….and a freezer for the bodies of the greyhounds who are put down there. The GBGB retirement form that owners are required to fill out to account for every dog has a whole section to detail how and why a dog has been euthanized. Reasons include being unsuitable as a pet, terminal illness, no home or retirement place could be found, on humane grounds due to untreatable injury or to cease suffering and injury not treated on economic grounds. The idea that these beautiful dogs who give everything they have to their owners can be killed simply because they have a treatable injury that means they won’t make money while they recover is simply unthinkable to me.

Sadly this isn’t the worst that happens to them. Racing greyhounds have been found abandoned, tossed aside when they are no longer of any use, often with their ears cut off so they cannot be traced to their owners via their ear tattoos. Last year Foal Farm and BGP worked together to rescue several dogs who were left to fend for themselves in an allotment, these dogs were in a dreadful condition and it took a lot of work and money to get them back to full health. More recently, an ex-trainer near Dorset reportedly killed seven of her greyhounds instead of allowing them to go to rescue.

There’s also a growing problem of ex-racing greyhounds being exported to countries with no animal welfare – last year 9 Irish greyhounds were sent to Macau to race at the Canidrome, a track with an appalling record. They have a non-adoption policy meaning that, until a few months ago, not a single dog had ever come out of the Canidrome alive. 5 of the 9 Irish dogs sent there have already been killed. The Canidrome is closing next year and currently has over 600 dogs registered there; rescues around the world including Birmingham Greyhound Protection are petitioning the Macau government to allow them to go to rescue rather than simply being killed once the track closes.

Racing greyhounds are also showing up in China where they’re being used for breeding. Sadly, many are ending up in the meat trade. Tattooed greyhounds have been found in meat trucks, many more cannot be saved in time and meet a horrific end. Kerry Elliman, founder of Birmingham Greyhound Protection, has set up Candy Cane Rescue in China to try and do something to help these dogs.

In the UK, greyhounds are classified as livestock which means they don’t get the same protections as other dogs. There is absolutely no difference between Ramsey and Blue and the fact that the law sees them differently makes absolutely no sense.

I love ties to the past and didn’t hesitate to say yes to keeping some of my grandparents mementos. It’s vital to know where we came from, who made us the people we are today and treasure the little things that remind us of the people who are important in our lives.

Racing was part of Blue’s life. It’s time for the good people within that industry to stand up and say no more to the abuses carried out by those who are less scrupulous.

If you’re thinking of getting a pet remember that they are going to be part of your family for many years to come. Don’t get one on a whim and simply discard them once that cute puppy has grown up or takes a bit more work than you had thought they would. Shelters and rescues are overflowing with those who pay the price for that, thousands of dogs are put down in this country every year because there is simply no more room in rescues. No-kill rescues like Foal Farm have to make difficult decisions every day to try and save as many as they can.

Dogs take work but the rewards are amazing – Ramsey ate his way through countless pairs of shoes, bras, books, crayons, he even ate an entire pack of the pill! We knew he wouldn’t get pregnant but not once did we ever consider giving him up. Blue didn’t know how to do stairs, she could go up them but Dave had to carry her down for the first few weeks until she learned how to do it herself. She also had a thing for eating candles….. You wouldn’t get rid of your child for drawing on a wall or being sick on the floor – why would you treat your pets any differently? And please, please, please if you’re thinking of getting a pet go to your nearest rescue and adopt one. Paying £700+ for a designer mutt simply makes no sense when you can adopt a beautiful pet for a fraction of the price and save two lives in the process – the one you adopt and the one who takes their place in the rescue.

Don’t line the pockets of breeders when there are too many wonderful animals waiting patiently for their furever home.