RACING greyhounds are being fed cocaine, and regularly risk “catastrophic” injury, MSPs have been told. 

Members of Holyrood’s Rural Affairs committee were taking evidence from campaigners who have petitioned parliament, calling for the sport to be banned in Scotland

The only regulated track in the country, Shawfield in Glasgow, has not reopened since it closed during the lockdown, however, there is still racing on an unregulated track in Kirkcaldy. 

Gill Docherty, from Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation, said the lack of oversight at the Thornton stadium meant there was no need for organisers to hire a vet for races, which could have horrific consequences for injured animals. 

“If a dog was to break his spine on a [regulated Greyhound Board of Great Britain] GBGB track, the vet is there they will have Euthanasol which is the injectable that would humanely put a dog to sleep. 

“It's worth noting that they also must have a freezer to store dead dogs. They know they're going to kill dogs with this industry and they have to have a freezer there. 

“However, if there was a vet there, and a dog has an unlivable injury, like a fractured spine then the vet would humanely put them to sleep. 

“Whilst, I'm not advocating that as a positive, of course, if your dog breaks its spine in Thornton, I mean, are you piling that dog into the back of your hot car and trying to find a vet at 7pm on a Saturday night to euthanize that dog? 

“Are you trying to find somewhere to give it some pain relief in the meantime? Or, as we have anecdotal evidence, are you doing something else to end that dog's life that is not humane because you have no other tools available?”

The campaigner said the unregulated track - known as a flapper track - only had a premises licence from Fife Council, which meant it didn't operate under any specific welfare regulations whatsoever.

Ms Dochery said they were concerned that this meant there was no drug testing of the dogs. 

She said that while there had been drug testing at Shawfield, it had only been in under two per cent of races. 

The MSPs heard that there were 13 positive tests at the Glasgow track between 2018 and 2019, five of which were for cocaine. 

“If that's the evidence that we have at a track that is doing only 2 per cent of testing, it's our belief that the rate of doping will be much higher at Thornton, and it's going completely unchecked," she said. 

Ms Docherty also told MSPs of the “inherent” risks involved in racing. Greyhounds can hit speeds in excess of 40 mph, and running counterclockwise around an oval track “results in a high rate of collisions and injuries”. 

Between 2017 and March 2020, which only operated one night a week, 197 dogs were injured at Shawfield, and 15 lost their lives.

There are no figures for Thornton, but the campaigners believe the injury and mortality rate will be similar if not higher.

Jacqueline Brown, Secretary, Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation, said the timing was right was to proceed with a ban. 

“With just one track left, we believe the economic impact is going to be minimal of bringing in a ban. There won't be many jobs lost. That's an argument we've had before for keeping some racing open. That's not an argument anymore. There are fewer dogs racing at the moment in Scotland, so rehoming them is going to be easier at this point in time.”

Ms Brown said the current welfare provisions did not protect greyhounds. 

“We would argue the current legislation is not working because if it was working, there wouldn't be injuries and deaths. And we don't think these injuries and deaths are acceptable. That's the bottom line.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who has supported the petition, said the industry was “beyond reform.”

“I think it raises not just serious welfare questions about how we treat and deal with the injuries that arise from greyhounds racing, but also major ethical considerations about why are we actually putting dogs into that situation in the first place, knowing full well that they're going to have an increased risk of injury and death.” 

The committee agreed to look further into a ban, promising to write to the government and regulators. 

Thornton Greyhound Track has been approached for comment.