CAMPAIGNERS calling for a ban on greyhound racing have told a Holyrood committee horror stories of dogs being doped with cocaine and revealed staggering injury and death statistics on Scottish tracks.

Gill Docherty, who logged the petition in 2019, and Jacqueline Brown, Secretary of Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation, told MSPs that over three years (2017-2020) at the now-closed Shawfield Greyhound Stadium in Rutherglen, 15 dogs died and 197 were injured.

The campaigners said that the figures show that existing animal welfare legislation in Scotland is not having an impact because it can’t “change the danger of the track itself.”

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Despite the “Greyhound Commitment” introduced by the official regulatory body Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) in 2018 to improve the welfare of greyhounds and reduce the number of injuries, a doubling of injuries was reported in 2020 compared to 2018 at Shawfield Stadium.

Greyhound racing takes place on an oval track, with injuries to dogs caused by collisions going round corners with other dogs, boards on the outside and rails on the inside.

The petition was first lodged in October 2019 and gathered 13,159 signatures, the fifth most signed Scottish Parliamentary petition in history, which Docherty said “speaks to the level of support for this important issue”.

After being delayed by the pandemic MSPs on the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee heard evidence behind the ban call on Wednesday.

The National: Campaigners are calling for an outright ban on Greyhound racing in ScotlandCampaigners are calling for an outright ban on Greyhound racing in Scotland

Pre-pandemic, Scotland had two greyhound racing tracks. Shawfield, which was regulated, is now closed. And Thornton stadium in Kirkcaldy, Fife, which the petitioners said is “completely unregulated”.

The flapper track, where dogs don’t need to be licenced, does not have a vet on site to check for injuries or to drug test the dogs.

Docherty told MSPs that when drug testing was done at Shawfield, in 2% of races, there were 13 positive drug tests in 2018-19 alone, and five of those were for cocaine.

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She said: “If that's the evidence we have at a track only doing 2% of testing, it’s our belief that the rate of doping will be much higher at Thornton and going completely unchecked.”

Docherty set out the problem, stating that if a greyhound tested positive for cocaine this wouldn’t come to light for three to five months afterwards.

She explained: “It’s published at the very back of an online journal buried deep within the GBGB website, so we scour those journals every week when they come out, and we’ll learn back five months ago this trainer drugged this dog.

The National: Gill Docherty told MSPs that she believes doping is higher at the unlicensed Fife trackGill Docherty told MSPs that she believes doping is higher at the unlicensed Fife track

“This has not been reported to SSPCA or Police Scotland, when we see it in the journals we report it and they are not aware of these issues.

“Five months on - the dog is no longer there, the trainer has moved to a different track, there’s no evidence to collect anymore. The GBGB doesn’t work with the authorities to make sure prosecutions are made.”

"It's done [cocaine doping] to influence outcome of the race and make more money, that’s what this industry comes down to – money and a bit of entertainment on a Saturday night."

Docherty added that death and injury statistics are not broken down by track, making it difficult to pinpoint which ones are the most dangerous.

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She added: “There is a purposeful effort to obstruct our ability to scrutinise the industry from the outside.”

The petitioners also told how racing greyhounds are mostly kept in sheds, and when rescued can find it difficult to settle into a new home, which is “heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time”.

Fellow petitioner Brown added: “The worst cases I’ve seen are the dogs with nothing behind their eyes, they're lost, there’s nothing present, they have such deep psychological trauma that it takes years to bring them back to being a dog, and some don’t have that long.

The National: Jacqueline Brown told MSPs of the horrific conditions greyhounds are kept in by trainersJacqueline Brown told MSPs of the horrific conditions greyhounds are kept in by trainers

“I’ve seen dogs up to the age of nine and 10 come out of the kennels, they have seldom seen the light of day, they don’t have time to learn to be a pet.”

Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell joined the petitioners to support their call for a ban and pointed out that the SSPCA had changed their policy and supported the ban after trying to enforce welfare standards since the animal welfare act was introduced in 2006.

He told the committee: “I genuinely think that this is an industry beyond reform.

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“The inherent risk petitioners outlined, dogs going round the track at 40mph, the risk of collisions between dogs and dogs and the track.

“It does not just raise serious welfare questions of how we treat and deal with the injuries that arise from greyhound racing, but also major ethical considerations about why we’re putting dogs into that situation in the first place, knowing full well that they’re going to have an increased risk of injury and death.

“It’s a major ethical consideration as well as a welfare one.”

The National: Ruskell joined petitioners to call for an outright ban on Greyhound racing in ScotlandRuskell joined petitioners to call for an outright ban on Greyhound racing in Scotland

The SSPCA, OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and the All-Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group have all called for an end to greyhound racing.

Speaking after the committee session, Ruskell said: “The growing evidence is clear that even on licenced tracks, greyhounds are at risk of serious harm, injury, and even death.

"That’s why the SSPCA are joining the rising calls for a ban.

“In Scotland, greyhound racing is on its last legs. With only one licenced track left, it’s time to act decisively to protect the welfare of greyhounds and finally put an end to it.”