An international campaign against the mass killing of greyhounds at the Macau Canidrome has embarrassed the city's government and will lead to the closure of the track within three years, the head of the city's leading animal welfare group believes.
Albano Martins, chairman of the Society for the Protection of Animals (ANIMA), expects the Macau government to cancel the controversial venue's land lease when it expires in 2015 because of growing local and overseas pressure for the Canidrome to close.
Martins expects to meet Macau chief executive Fernando Chui Sai-on over the issue later this month and said he would call for the number of greyhounds imported from Australia to be reduced and for the number of daily races to be cut to reduce greyhound injuries.
A global campaign by animal welfare groups began last year when a Sunday Morning Post investigation revealed how 383 dogs were euthanised in the Canidrome in 2010, most of them healthy and most aged no more than five or six years old.
Because there is no mechanism for the greyhounds to be adopted after retirement, all are killed by lethal injection, often for no other reason than that they are too slow to finish in the top three of the three-times-a-week races.
Following an outcry, Canidrome bosses met government officials and ANIMA and agreed to hand over at least one retired greyhound for adoption, Martins said.
However, the Canidrome reneged on the deal on the day the greyhound was due to be handed over in April, according to Martins.
There has been no communication between ANIMA and the Canidrome since.
Since the breakdown in talks, the Canidrome has begun to disguise the level of greyhound deaths by recording that dogs have been retired instead of euthanised in the monthly figures they are obliged to provide to the government, Martins said.
'They are beginning to hide the information. They say 'In April we euthanised two injured dogs and 16 dogs were retired.'
'But what does 'retired' mean? Retired means they were also killed. There is no retirement for these dogs.
'The proof of that is that they were unable to give one dog to us. Why? Because they have no retired dogs alive to give us. We cannot understand how they can be allowed to kill 30 healthy animals every month.'
Martins added: 'There are no [animal welfare] laws at all in Macau and this makes it very difficult.
'But the government is embarrassed with the news coming out of Macau. The government is very conscious of the image of Macau. They want it to be seen as a modern town within China, like Hong Kong.
'But what happens at the Canidrome makes a mockery of the idea that Macau is a modern, civilised town.
'When I meet the chief executive I will tell him the track has to be closed in 2015, and before then, the number of animals being imported must be reduced.
'And the number of races has to be reduced, to cut down the number of injuries to animals.'
The Canidrome's land lease, which dates back to its opening in 1963, expires at the end of 2015, having already been extended for another 10 years in 2005.
The land will then revert to the government.
In a letter sent out to one campaigner protesting over the death of the greyhounds, Ung Sau Hong, head of the Macau government's Department of Food and Animal Inspection and Control, said the government was concerned about the dogs' plight and was urging the Canidrome to 'improve the welfare of retired racing greyhounds'.
The letter added: 'We believe animal welfare is a core value for a civilised society.'
The Canidrome has repeatedly declined to comment on the issue and failed to respond to calls and e-mails from the Sunday Morning Post.