Legal Dog Racing Considered in South Africa
Greyhound racing is back on the agenda in South Africa, just three years after a Government led investigation decided to abandon proposals to reintroduce the activity.
Last month, the Department of Trade and Industry tabled a new Draft National Gambling Norms and Standards bill in the Government Gazette, which includes dog racing as part of a proposed suite of gambling activities.
“What can have possibly changed since 2011when the Department of Trade and Industry backed down from the idea of greyhound racing after spending huge sums of tax payer’s money on a three year investigation into its viability,” said Cora Bailey, Companion Animal Advisory for IFAW and founder of the CLAW animal welfare project in Johannesburg.
“Then, and despite a massive lobby by the pro-racing fraternity, they responded positively to overwhelming evidence of the cruelty and welfare concerns related to dog fighting, not to mention the financial implications for gamblers, and walked away from their plans.
“In the interim absolutely nothing has improved for the welfare of dogs in disadvantaged communities, or for the people who live in them. It’s not just the dogs that suffer, but the financial situation for people in these communities is dire – and will only become worse if greyhound racing is approved, which will then lead to illegal racing and illicit gambling,” said Bailey.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) believes that legalising greyhound racing will only worsen an already out-of-control animal welfare crisis and has submitted its concerns to the SA Government.
Greyhound racing has been banned in South Africa since 1945.
IFAW said South Africa already found itself in an escalating animal welfare crisis.
“The NGO community, which is largely charged with caring for animals in disadvantaged communities, is overwhelmed and simply can’t keep up with overpopulation, disease control and malnutrition,” said Jason Bell, Director IFAW Southern Africa.
“That’s just one part of the crisis. The fact is that South African authorities don’t have the laws, or the manpower to manage illegal activities such as dog fighting and puppy mills – tasks that are left to animal welfare ngos to sort out. Under the circumstances it is inexplicable how they can even consider legalising greyhound racing.”
IFAW said that re-introducing greyhound racing under the poor socio-economic conditions that affect much of the country’s populace would lead the dogs to be seen as expendable commodities.
“IFAW is calling on the Government to explain why, after an expensive three year investigation - including many rounds of public consultation - they have decided to review the possibility of introducing legal dog racing. The public wants to know – what has changed?” said Bell.
“By encouraging the idea that one may profit from racing greyhounds, illegal racing will spiral out of control in disadvantaged communities,” said Bell.
“Additionally, greyhounds that have reached the end of their usefulness as racing dogs (from two to four years old), will be relinquished further adding to the burden of animal welfare organisations and encouraging a destructive cycle of animal abuse.”
IFAW’s projects in South Africa – Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW) in Johannesburg, and Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayalitsha outside Cape Town report that they regularly come across large numbers of greyhounds.
“These dogs are usually used illegally, for poaching small buck and game for the pot, and dogs are regularly transported across provincial borders without the required vaccines to reach favoured poaching spots. It is common that dogs are gored, have broken legs or are run to ground while hunting,” said Cora Bailey, founder of CLAW.
“The dogs are often kept in squalid, overcrowded conditions. At various hostels in Johannesburg, it is not unusual for us to find anything between 100 and 200 greyhounds living in appalling conditions.
“Under the current circumstances it would be disastrous to legalise greyhound racing.”
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.