Gillard urged to halt greyhound sales to Macau

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 June, 2011, 12:00am


An alliance of animal welfare groups from across China has called on the Australian prime minister to stop the export of greyhounds to Macau's track, where healthy dogs are destroyed at a rate of more than one a day when their racing days are over.

A Post Magazine investigation today reveals 383 racing dogs imported from Australia were given lethal injections at Stanley Ho Hung-sun's Canidrome last year. In March, 45 dogs were destroyed at the venue, nearly all of them healthy and no more than five years old.

The greyhounds are imported at the age of two or three, bought for up to HK$50,000 each, and kept within the Canidrome to run in the four-times-a-week races that generate millions of dollars a year in betting revenue. Finishing outside the top three in five consecutive races is a death sentence for a greyhound. Younger dogs are imported at the rate of 30 a month.

Because the track will not allow greyhounds to be taken on as pets after retirement and because of anti-rabies quarantine restricting their re-export to Hong Kong, they have no chance of a 'second life'.

The Animals Asia Foundation, backed by the Humane Society International, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Hong Kong, and 23 other animal welfare groups in China, has written to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard calling for an immediate halt to the export of greyhounds to Macau.

The letter is signed by animal welfare groups in Beijing, Chengdu, Xian, Dalian, Shandong and Guangzhou, which are also concerned over tentative plans to open dog-racing tracks across the mainland.

Dave Neale, animal welfare director with the Animals Asia Foundation, said: 'Once these greyhounds arrive in Macau they have no legal protection to prevent them from being abused and killed. They are kept in poor living conditions then killed after their racing days are over.'

Hong Kong SPCA executive director Sandy Macalister said: 'We believe that when you have the export of live animals for any purpose, the mechanisms and outcomes should be subject to constant review. There is absolutely no justification to compromise an animal's welfare for the purposes of entertainment.'

Separately, an international greyhound protection group called Greyhound Crusaders has written to Stanley Ho and the dog track's directors calling for the closure of the Canidrome 'as an issue of morality'.

'These majestic dogs who were once revered by Egyptian royalty are now exploited and abused beyond belief,' said the group's UK-based coordinator Helen Stevens. 'People who place bets on these dogs, however innocently, have blood on their hands. We have suggested that the Canidrome take up a new approach - 'virtual' greyhound racing where real dogs are not used.'

Dr Choi U Fai, who heads Macau's animal welfare department and monitors the destruction and import of greyhounds, has called for Hong Kong to ease its anti-rabies controls to allow the dogs to be exported as pets when they retire.

Canidrome officials did not respond to repeated calls and e-mails seeking comment.