Only one in 10 Macau greyhounds adopted, while rest still languishing in closed canidrome
- Animal welfare group spearheading adoption to countries around world
- Historic vote on greyhound racing will take place in Florida next week
While the Macau canidrome has been closed for months, 481 former racing greyhounds are still on site waiting to be adopted, or enduring rigorous quarantine requirements in a long-standing saga that seems to have no end.
Albano Martins, the president of the Macau animal welfare group Anima, said they were unable to reach a deal with the involved parties concerning temporary homes outside the canidrome for the greyhounds, so they are staying put.
There was originally a plan between Anima and canidrome owner Angela Leong On-kei – Macau lawmaker, businesswoman and fourth wife of casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun – to create a new centre to look after the dogs while adoptive homes were found, but it never came to fruition.
“There is no dispute now,” Martins said. “They are staying in the same place that they have been all the time. They were supposed to go out to another place, but that never happened.”
The canidrome was operated by the Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome Company Ltd, which is owned and controlled by Leong, who is also a lawmaker in the Macau Legislative Assembly.
Leong, who is also managing director of casino operator SJM Holdings and holds an estimated personal net worth of US$4.1 billion, denied that any mistreatment of the greyhounds took place while they were under the club’s care.
There were originally 533 greyhounds left after the racetrack closed in July, after being open for 87 years. The ongoing dispute forced long-standing Anima member Zoe Tang to quit, given she felt a 60-day ultimatum to desex the dogs in August was “ridiculously tight”.
In 2016, a high-profile campaign by animal welfare groups shut down the last international avenue through which the canidrome imported racing greyhounds. The track had been suffering from declining attendance, and claims had emerged that the track was running a dog breeding programme.
Martins said finding the greyhounds homes was tough given the jurisdiction issues that change with each country, and it was an arduous process requiring extensive paperwork and blood tests.
“Adoption is like that,” he said, noting a few have been adopted by people in Australia and New Zealand. However, both of those countries require six months of quarantine before the dogs are released. “So those will be some of the last ones to go.”
Martins said the Macau government had given him a soft deadline, hoping to have all the remaining greyhounds out of the track by May of next year. He added one of the most difficult governments to work with has been Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. He noted nearly 50 dogs have been adopted by Hong Kong owners but remain in legal limbo and their fates are uncertain.
“We still do not know what the AFCD will do (with these dogs).”
According to the AFCD’s website, dogs or cats brought into the country require a special permit obtained through an application process which requires a HK$432 fee, and a quarantine time of at least four months. Martins said despite the ongoing bureaucratic nightmare with the Hong Kong government, other countries have been smoother in terms of taking the greyhounds.
“Every week about five to 10 greyhounds now are going to the United States after they’ve had their blood tests, and Italy and France as well.”
The closure of the Macau racetrack highlights changing public sentiment around the world when it comes to greyhound racing. Various global hotbeds of the sport are finding themselves on the wrong side of public opinion, largely due to widespread reports the dogs are mistreated, and racing causes frequent injuries that force owners to euthanise them.
Next Tuesday as Americans go to the polls for the midterm elections, Florida voters could deliver a death kneel to the sport in the United States.
Amendment 13 would ban commercial greyhound racing by 2020 in Florida, which is home to 11 of the country’s 17 remaining tracks. Florida’s greyhound racing industry generated an estimated US$3.5 billion (HK$27.3 billion) in annual betting receipts in 1991, a number that has dropped to around US$500 million today.
A recent Florida Chamber of Commerce poll found that the amendment could get the required 60 per cent support it needs to pass.
The charge has been led by GREY2K, an American non-profit political lobbying organisation based out of Massachusetts that has led numerous campaigns in the United States and worldwide against the sport.
In Australia, the sport is still a hot ticket, but is now heavily regulated and watched over. In 2015 a number of media reports uncovered that “live baiting” was still being used to train some greyhounds. Greyhound racing is banned outright in Canberra.
In the UK, there are still dozens of active tracks, but attendance and betting figures have been declining, as well as increased pressure from various animal rights groups have forced a few to close.