Dozens of champion British greyhounds are being sold to horrific breeding centres in China, a Sunday Mirror probe reveals.
The pedigrees are used relentlessly as puppy-making machines and some end up being sold to the dog meat trade when no longer fertile.
One horrified racing trainer said he stopped exporting to China after seeing a video of a dog being thrown alive into boiling water.
We can reveal that instead of enjoying a loving home, retired animals are sold off for tens of thousands of pounds.
They are then exported to centres to produce puppies for the multi-million pound illegal racing industry.
With prices of up to £10,000 per litter, male dogs have sperm repeatedly extracted and even frozen so breeders can cash in on the dogs’ success years after they die.
Our probe indicates that at least 40 former racing dogs from the UK and Ireland are currently caged in China.
One animal rights activist who alerted us to the sickening trade said: “These beautiful creatures are being treated as a commodity.
“After running around a track for years on end they are sent to a country where animal welfare laws are lax. They are completely sucked dry.
“What’s scary is the lack of animal welfare in China – any chancer can stump up the money for the pedigree and use the dog as a money-spinner with no obligation to its care.
“People think of retired greyhounds living out a slow, comfy life on the sofa but for these unlucky ones, the reality is far more brutal.”
While not illegal, exporting greyhounds to countries with poor animal rights protection such as China has been slammed by campaigners as “abhorrent and unethical”.
They say dogs can develop health and behavioural problems, with some ex-racers dying at the facilities.
Our investigation uncovered adverts picturing 44 former UK racers at the Asian centres along with their racing cards and microchip details.
Two, Frisby Barney and Droopy’s Dale, have been rescued. Both were trained in Ireland and raced in the UK.
Sadly two others, including one which raced 31 times at a prestigious track, are believed to be dead.
Kerry Lawrence of Birmingham Greyhound Protection helps co-ordinate rescues of ex-racing dogs.
She said conditions inside the Chinese facilities are bleak, with dogs taken from their cages at least every other day to produce sperm.
Kerry said: “My volunteers have told me about filthy cages, malnutrition and poor bedding. The greyhounds’ muscles shrink from lack of exercise, with no walks and just a shared outdoor paddock as the toilet. They are hellish places.
“The dogs are nothing more than puppy producers, receiving no love or attention.”
Hooked to catheters, males produce sperm which is used for artificial insemination or frozen.
In other instances, male and female dogs are held in position for up to three hours as handlers try to get them to mate.
Kerry said: “The methods aren’t necessarily cruel or inhumane, but the relentless approach, shocking lack of care and grim circumstances surrounding the process are.”
But there was good news this week as Kerry told of the rescue of two gentle creatures.
Ex-champ Frisby Barney – who raced at nine British stadiums and set the track record at the Peterborough Derby in 2013 – was saved.
The Irish-bred dog was shipped to a breeding kennel near Beijing, north-east China in 2014. He is believed to have sired thousands of puppies.
Kerry raised £22,000 to secure Frisby’s return and he landed in the UK on April 6.
A team of volunteers from her charity in China – Candy Cane Rescue – bought Frisby for £17,000 after verifying his ear tattoo and microchip.
A further £5,000 went on flights and vet bills. British vets had to castrate the eight-year-old dog after his testicles shrivelled after years of breeding.
He was severely underweight, covered in sores and 38 of his 42 teeth were removed due to rotting.
Kelly said: “Frisby was held in extremely high regard during his racing career and worth thousands, but once in China they used and abused him. He was in a horrendous state, it broke my heart.”
It is understood a third party took him to China, as Frisby Barney’s former owner said this week he sold the retired greyhound to an American buyer five years ago.
He he was shown pictures of the buyer’s dogs and kennels prior to the sale, saying: “They looked to be in outstanding condition.
“I had no issue at the time. If it is true, I’m sad to hear about this.”
After hearing Frisby was back the UK the former owner contacted Frisby’s buyer and said: “He informed me that Frisby Barney was stolen and a police investigation is going on.”
An Irish racer called Droopy’s Dale, who also raced in the UK, was rescued from the same grim kennel in December at a cost of £3,000 plus flights and vet bills.
The dog was trained at Droopy’s Stud in Ballyvalican, Co Waterford.
Director Sean Murphy said he and his brother Michael had sold six dogs in 2013 to a man based in Hong Kong.
They immediately stopped selling animals to China after seeing a horrifying video of another racing dog being thrown into boiling water around five years ago.
Sean said he knew dogs had been found but did not know Droopy’s Dale was one of them.
He said: “A number of years ago a fellow approached us to buy dogs.
“We get fellas looking for dogs from us from all over the world – Portugal, Brazil, France, Germany. They went through the department to get their papers in order. We were assured that they would be [looked after].
“But.. It started appearing on the internet that the dogs were ill-treated, certain dogs, not our dogs, not that we knew of anyway.
“I saw a live dog on a video being put into boiling water. Who does that to be honest? When that happened then that was the end of [selling to] China.
“We didn’t know who [the dogs] were owned by but the video appeared and that was the end of it.
“We haven’t exported to China in four or five years since. We rear them and breed them and look after them and do as well as we can with them.
“We’d like to think anybody would do the same. I wouldn’t like that to happen to any dog. If it happened to be ours it makes it worse.”
Michael and Rita James, who run non-profit organisation Campaign Against Greyhound Exploitation and Death (CAGED) know of at least a dozen Chinese breeding centres after tip-offs from whistleblowers.
The couple have worked with Kerry for two years.
Michael said: “These beautiful creatures, some with muzzles duct-taped, in grim-looking facilities, reduced to money-spinning commodities.”
One dog is said to have been exported to China after breaking its legs while racing at a UK track.
Michael said puppies are sold for around 600 Yuan – around £800 each – if they have racing potential.
Although China’s last greyhound stadium, the Canidrome in Macau, closed last year, campaigners believe at least 25 illegal racetracks operate in the country.
Greyhound racing is the sixth most popular spectator sport in the UK, with 21 regulated tracks.
Rita, who set up a petition signed by 50,000 people so far, added: “We may never get back the beautiful dogs sent to be abused overseas, but we can introduce legislation to make sure it doesn’t happen to any others.”
- Find Rita’s petition by searching for “say no to all live greyhound exports” at Change.org
- Donate to Birmingham Greyhound Protection at birminghamgreyhoundprotection.org
Racing bodies 'abhor cruelty'
Regulatory body The Greyhound Board of Great Britain pledged its commitment to dog welfare – including retired ones – a year ago.
Responding to our probe, GBGB said it could only intervene if handed evidence one of its licence holders directly sent a greyhound to China.
While there is no ban on exporting there, the body said it would crack down for animal welfare reasons.
It said: “Our remit covers the racing life of a greyhound and its entry into what we would hope and expect is a long, healthy retirement.
“Unfortunately it does not extend beyond this.
“So, if, for example, a retired greyhound is then sold on to a third party (either in the UK or in Ireland) and then exported to China, we have neither the remit to regulate this nor the ability to intervene.”
It added the GBGB abhors cruelty to greyhounds and has strict guidelines on animal welfare.
In the UK, owners of registered racing greyhounds must inform the GBGB when retiring their dog.
It says the vast majority become pets.
CAGED is calling for GBGB and the Irish Greyhound Board to make exports illegal – with an exception for legitimate animal charities.
The IGB said: “We are aware of reports suggesting horrific cruelty to greyhounds in China and condemn such appalling practices in the highest possible terms”.
It added it is rolling out a digital database to “track” racing dogs from registration onwards and is working with the Irish government as part of its Greyhound Industry Bill, which seeks to ensure the dogs’ welfare.
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