No excuse for this treatment of dogs

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


Macau is a city of dreams for the millions of people who descend on it to gamble, but for the greyhound dogs sent there from Australia to race at its shabby Canidrome, it is a place of misery and death. They are expected to win and if they do not or get injured, they are given lethal injections. There is no second chance; rules confining ownership to the track mean they cannot be adopted as pets. It is an unacceptable situation that has to stop.

That can happen easily with a change of laws. Hong Kong and mainland China have an integral part to play by allowing greyhounds to cross borders. In the case of our city, it would involve making an exception to rabies control regulations. There has not been a local case of the disease here for 20 years, but the dogs at the Canidrome easily comply - they undergo strict inspections and never leave the track.

Their lives are short and brutal. They are muzzled and confined to small metal cages that give them little room to move. The only times they are freed is to train and race. If they finish in the top three, they are feted; if they do not do so for even a handful of races, they are considered a bad investment and put to death.

Invariably, even the best greyhounds have careers of only two or three years and are dead by the age of five - half the normal lifespan. Of the 800 racing dogs in Macau, 383 were euthanised last year. For each of the 30 imported every month, about the same number are killed. Their fate is sealed the moment they set foot on the track, unlike in other greyhound racing centres where laws give them the chance of being adopted as pets after retirement or kept by vets so that their red-cell-rich blood can be used to treat other dogs.

There is never an excuse for mistreating animals. Just as with horse racing, the sport should only be permitted if the greyhounds are treated humanely. Australia should stop exports to the Canidrome until the dogs' welfare and circumstances have changed.