Greyhound welfare at the heart of new initiatives
Changing perceptions is what Barry Coleman, Welfare Manager of the Irish Greyhound Board, is all about.
Ireland may be the country that loves its greyhounds more than anywhere else. But our perception of them is as working dogs or racing dogs, not as pets. Most greyhounds have long lives after they finish racing but it’s more than likely that they will spend those days in countries like Italy and Belgium, where the greyhound is seen as what it is; an ideal pet.
Barry Coleman is the man responsible for ensuring Ireland’s former track heroes enjoy their retirement and he is passionate about making sure more greyhounds live out their days here.
To help achieve that goal IGB has teamed up with the Irish Kennel Club in a new competition for retired greyhounds at the annual Irish Kennel Club Show on St Patrick’s Day.
Over the next few months shows for retired greyhounds will be held at tracks around the country and the finalists will compete at the national championships with all the other pure breeds. The hope is that this will remind people that greyhounds are as worthy a purebred as an Irish Wolfhound or a Red Setter.
Barry spends most of his time assessing retired dogs at the current owners, ensuring they are neutered, have all the necessary vaccinations and other shots, pet passports and microchips required to be transported and then he works with agencies in Italy, Belgium, Germany and France to re-home the dogs as pets.
Barry also works with a number of Irish greyhound welfare groups but he estimates that the majority of retired Irish greyhounds are still re-homed abroad.
“Orchard Greyhound Sanctuary, run by Mary Jane Fox in Offaly and Kerry Greyhound Connection would re-home greyhounds in Ireland and if you total the number we re-home abroad and those we financially assist to re-home here we have re-homed 530 dogs to the end of November this year,” said Barry. “It was 680 last year and we hope to hit that total again.”
There are another initiatives to help transition more dogs from Irish tracks to Irish homes.
The IGB are trying to tap in to the growing phenomenon of walking clubs where people meet up to walk their dogs and greyhounds are ideal for this activity. It is hoped this will take off too but like any adopted dog, the new situation to suit both the dog and the owner.
And when it comes to taking one on, greyhounds are no different. “Just ensure that the dog has a bit of space to exercise in and not to leave them alone all day while people go to work. Same as any dog really,” said Barry.
The IGB Welfare Board do assist in every way they can with retired dogs. Owners must pay for the neutering but the IGB pay all the other costs for any retired racer who is re-homed. But awareness is the real key to change for Barry.
“To create the awareness here is so important to us. All the agencies we deal with report that it is much harder to re-home dogs here than abroad,” said Barry.
“They are beautiful animals and when you see how the representatives from the foreign adoption agencies treat them, rubbing them and kissing them, they see the pet while some people here just see the racer. Changing that perception is what we have to do.”
If you are interested in adopting a greyhound, you can find more information here.