Press Release: Ferry Greyhound Tragedy

The following press release was issued to media contacts around Ireland yesterday on behalf of GRAI to inform them of the incident involving the death of 11 Irish greyhounds on a ferry to France on Monday:

Yesterday I was made aware via a contact in France of the death last weekend of eleven Irish racing greyhounds en route to Spain via France on the Irish Ferries vessel “The Oscar Wilde”. To date, this event has not been reported in any Irish newspaper although it has been covered in the French press.

The ferry docked at Cherbourg on the afternoon of Monday October 27th and the dogs were found to have asphyxiated in a transport van due to being packed too tightly into crates. There were 2 dogs per crate, in clear violation of the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill 2011 and of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport. The dogs were registered racing dogs and were bound for Spain where they were to be used for breeding with Spanish Galgos.

Anybody who is familiar with the greyhound racing industry in Ireland will be well aware of the unfortunate fate of Irish greyhounds who are sent there for the largely unregulated hunting industry. The galgueros (greyhound hunters) are notorious for their maltreatment of these animals who are regularly hung from trees at the end of the season.

The 11 dogs who died on Monday had their paperwork processed and vaccinations completed as per requirements. The veterinary surgery which signed off on this was Southview Veterinary Clinic, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. It appears that procedure was followed up until this point. The discovery of the dead animals was made by the Gendarmes Maritime of Cherbourg SPPP [maritime and port surveillance platoon] and the Spanish driver of the van was held for questioning but later released. The cause of death was determined as asphyxiation by a French vet at Cherbourg but I have not been able to find out his or her name.

I have however managed to find out that the transport was arranged by Tipperary racing breeder and trainer Gil Liddle, a prominent member of the racing community.

It’s crucial that a proper investigation take place to ascertain the exact circumstances of the death of these greyhounds and the reasons why it was possible for the transporter to so flagrantly transgress legislation and guidelines relating to their transport. All of the dogs were registered with the IGB so they should also be obliged to release information relating to the registered owners of these dogs.

At a time when the IBG are promoting a welfare conscious image and marketing Christmas parties, questions need to be answered relating to the welfare of dogs who sent abroad.

I have been told by contacts in Spain that Irish greyhounds are being purchased out there for as little as €100 and crudely disposed of once they are no longer useful for breeding or hunting. The perceived low monetary value of these dogs leads in turn to the cost-cutting methods resorted to by the transporter this weekend who was most likely overloading his vehicle in an effort to save money. A friend has just sent me on a quote from Gil on ‘Greyhound Data’, complaining about the difficulties of making money in the greyhound business so it seems likely this disaster was the result of cost-cutting measures on his part.

Asphyxiation over the course of a 18 hour journey is an appalling way to die and these animals will have really suffered at the end. I hope that this horrible occurrence gets some media attention and that you might see fit to write about it for the Examiner.

I would be grateful if you would cover this story. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Yours faithfully

Una Phelan
Tel: 086 125 4617