MARK Ruskell doesn’t need to be asked twice to show a picture of his dog Bert.

“He’s a wonderful family dog,” the Scottish Greens MSP told me while flicking through several photos on his phone.

“But he does have a lot of anxiety, and some feelings of abandonment that come from kenneling and being in a cramped environment,” he added – including getting spooked by the noise of fans and needing to sleep with a light on. 

Bert (below) – a Holyrood dog of the year winner in the "paw-blic" vote in 2017 – is a former racing greyhound. Forced to retire after breaking the wrist on one of his front paws, he was rescued by the Scottish Greyhound Sanctuary and is one of the lucky ones, said Ruskell.

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The Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), the body that governs the sport, reported there were approximately 1.2 million attendees to live greyhound racing events in 2019, with 21 licensed stadiums operating across the UK.

There were once more than 20 licensed tracks in Scotland but now only one remains – the Thornton Stadium in Fife, which isn’t regulated by GBGB.

The risk for the dogs is high. Racing around oval-shaped tracks at speeds of up to 40mph, official figures released last year showed there had been 22,284 dog injuries recorded in the UK between 2018 and 2022, while 2718 died during the same period.

Of those, 367 suffered a sudden death, while 868 were put down at a racecourse.

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It’s why Ruskell launched a consultation on Thursday looking to ban the sport in Scotland.

“It’s absolutely the right time to bring forward this bill,” he said at the Holyrood launch event – flanked by his fellow Scottish Green MSPs and representatives of animal welfare charities including the Scottish SPCA, OneKind and others.

Former racing greyhounds Bluesy and Bob (below) – the former of whom is also a Holyrood dog of the year winner – were also in attendance.

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“They all have different back stories but what unites them is the fact that they’ve been made to race around curved tracks at 40mph,” Ruskell said.

“Wherever they're racing, licensed or unlicensed, they all face that inherent risk of injury and death.”

He added: “The way that we treat vulnerable, voiceless animals is a mark of our values and who we are as a nation. The Scottish Parliament has already taken action to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. It’s time we stopped greyhound racing.

“With only one racetrack left in Scotland, there has never been a better time to put paws before profit and end track races. No dog can be left behind.”

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The gambling-heavy industry believes that greater regulation is the way forward.

Mark Bird, the chief executive of GBGB, previously said it was the “only successful way to protect and promote greyhound welfare”.

“GBGB’s licensing system offers an effective existing solution for doing so within Scotland,” he added.

“A ban on greyhound racing would only risk animal welfare.”

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GBGB also said a ban would end up driving the sport underground, with races taking place illegally and without regulation.

Ruskell rejected this, saying that it would be “impossible” due to the size of the tracks involved.

“You could see them from space, so I don’t know where they would go underground, it simply couldn’t happen,” he said.

“A lot of the animal welfare charities who've been trying to work with the industry over many years to get it to reform have now come to the point where they don't think it's possible to make it any safer.

“You can put vets at the track side, you can put in conditions over kenneling. All of those are useful but you can't get away from the inherent risk.

“The charities are now coming to the position that there needs to be an end. And, for me, that’s the tipping point.”

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Ruskell will seek support from other MSPs before formally introducing his bill to the Scottish Parliament. His consultation is open until May 1.

“I hope that as many people as possible take part in my consultation and that we can use it to develop the most appropriate and robust legislation possible and deliver an end to this abusive and badly dated practice,” he said.

“I’ve met greyhound racing trainers over the years and no doubt many of them do love their dogs and take good care of them.

“But there’s nothing to stop them continuing to take care of them and to treat them as pets if this bill is passed at Holyrood.”

He added: “Greyhound racing just isn’t acceptable, we’re meant to be a nation of dog lovers.”

A spokesperson for the GBGB said: “The Scottish Government has already run a full consultation on this subject in recent months, as part of its wider review of the licensing of animal activities.

“While we await the Scottish Government’s report on this, it is unclear what the rationale or justification would be for duplicating the extensive work already undertaken – particularly when there are so many other pressing priorities.

“As regulator for the licensed sector of our sport in Great Britain, we have been clear that greater regulation is the only way to safeguard greyhound welfare. A ban would only jeopardise welfare.

“We continue to work with the Scottish Government and others in Holyrood to show how a licensed sport can safeguard the welfare of racing greyhounds and ensure they receive far more protection than domestic pets.”