Valley Greyhound Stadium – which opened in 1976 – is the only remaining greyhound racing track in Wales. Until the end of July 2023, it was an independent track (not affiliated to the Greyhound Board of Great Britain but, instead, licensed by the local authority). Colloquially known as ‘flapping’, independent greyhound racing featured local, privately-owned greyhounds racing at local tracks. The Valley Greyhound Stadium was one of only two independent greyhound tracks remaining in the United Kingdom. It will shortly become a professional licensed track, bringing up to two million pounds a year into the local economy.
Hope Rescue styles itself as a dog ‘rescue’ charity but its main role is to act as the ‘dog pound’ for six local authorities in Wales. It is paid to take stray dogs from six local authorities in Merthyr Tydfil, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend and the western half of the Vale of Glamorgan. When owners come to reclaim their dogs, they are charged a further fee before Hope Rescue will let them have their dog back.
Hope Rescue proactively approached The Valley in 2018 to offer to attend race meetings at the track so that the amateur owners could hand over to the charity greyhounds that had come to the end of their racing careers that they wished to put up for adoption. Owners would be expected to make a donation to Hope Rescue for each greyhound put into Hope’s care. Hope also offered to take any greyhound that suffered a career-ending injury during a race at The Valley into their care immediately so that it could be taken to a specialist vet for treatment.
Only a proportion of The Valley’s greyhound owners used Hope Rescue’s services. Many kept their greyhounds as pets at the end of their racing careers. Others preferred to rehome their greyhounds with friends and relatives or through dog rehoming charities with which they had an established relationship. Some refused to deal with Hope Rescue because the charity had previously had a long-standing opposition to greyhound racing.
However, the informal arrangement with Hope Rescue was welcomed by most greyhound owners at The Valley. Raffles, collections and other fund-raising activities on behalf of Hope Rescue were organised by owners and the charity was actively promoted on the track’s valleygreyhounds.org website. It is believed that Hope Rescue benefited to the tune of many thousands of pounds donated by The Valley’s greyhound owners and spectators.
At the start of 2021, it became apparent that – even though the charity had accepted thousands of pounds in donations from The Valley’s greyhound owners – Hope Rescue had, itself, arranged the rehoming of few, if any, greyhounds from The Valley. After being put into Hope Rescue’s care, the greyhounds had subsequently been passed to other recognised dog charities for them to organise the rehoming. The cost of veterinary treatment of injured greyhounds had also been borne by other dog charities. Even the work of organising this had not been carried out by Hope Rescue staff: most of the arrangements were made by an unpaid volunteer.
The Valley Greyhound Stadium ended its association with Hope Rescue. At the same time, the charity started a campaign to malign The Valley and greyhound racing in general.
In 2021, Hope Rescue launched what they termed a ‘Crisis Appeal’ saying, “The financial fallout from the current Covid-19 crisis is now putting the charity at risk.” By late 2021, Hope Rescue were telling the media, “The past 18 months have been especially difficult for us and we find ourselves in a new level of crisis.” At the same time, Hope Rescue began publicising a petition via its Facebook pages calling on greyhound racing in Wales to be banned. Nearly half the signatures on the petition came from outside Wales, and the numbers were inflated by thousands from the USA and from countries such as Argentina, Japan, India, Vanuatu and Uzbekistan. These people cannot possibly know anything about greyhound racing in Ystrad Mynach. Despite a high-profile media campaign lasting more than six months, the petition attracted signatures from only just over one per cent of the population of the Caerphilly constituency that includes The Valley.
Supporters of the Valley started their own petition in support of greyhound racing in Wales which attracted more than 10,000 signatures in a matter of only a few weeks.
Hope Rescue’s publicity is routinely accompanied by numerous requests for financial donations to the charity. Even an article published in an online magazine for primary school children was accompanied by a link to a web page encouraging donations. Although its publicity makes repeated emotional references to ‘cruelty’, the only case of the maltreatment of a greyhound ever mentioned in their publicity took place nine miles away from The Valley and 17 years ago, before Hope Rescue was even founded.
Their publicity includes the assertion that “Hope Rescue and their rescue partners have taken in almost 200 surplus greyhounds from [Valley Greyhound Stadium], 40 of which sustained serious injuries.”
Every registered racing greyhound in the UK has a unique reference number tattooed inside one of its ears and the Valley Greyhound Stadium records the ear marks of greyhounds that race at the track. In addition, the valleygreyhounds.org website publishes very comprehensive records of all races at The Valley including detailed analysis of what happened to every greyhound in every race.
This data shows that, out of 4,652 runs by greyhounds in races during the period of The Valley’s association with Hope Rescue, only 19 greyhounds suffered a serious injury such as a hock or long bone fracture during a race. This represented a serious injury rate of only 0.30 per cent, compared with an average of 0.29 per cent for the UK’s eighteen professional greyhound racing tracks. In 2021, the serious injury rate at The Valley fell to 0.14 per cent, which is believed to have been the lowest of any track in the UK and Ireland.
Out of 409 greyhounds that ran in races at The Valley during the period of the track’s association with Hope Rescue, 231 greyhounds were retired while attached to The Valley. Given that only a proportion of these retired greyhounds were put into the care of Hope Rescue, the statistics publicised by the charity would appear to be very questionable.
Hope Rescue has published some other data in its annual reports. These state that, in the financial year 2018-19, Hope Rescue took eighty greyhounds into its care, of which seventeen had sustained career-ending injuries during races. Hope Rescue states that, in 2019-2020, it took eighty greyhounds into its care, of which seventeen had sustained serious injuries during races – a remarkable coincidence.
The Valley Greyhound Stadium approached Hope Rescue for details of the ear marks of the greyhounds referred to in the charity’s publicity to enable it to cross-reference the data with its own very detailed records. Hope Rescue has repeatedly refused to provide this data.
In its annual report for 2021-22, Hope Rescue admitted that less than a quarter of its annual income of £1.2 million raised from donations, grants and fees was actually spent on the rehoming and veterinary care of dogs (none of which were former racing greyhounds). More than twice as much found its way into the pockets of the people who run and staff the charity or was spent on paying the mortgage on the large country house in which the charity’s founder lives.
In 2021-22, Hope Rescue euthanised 3.5 percent of the dogs that came into its care. The proportion of registered racing greyhounds euthanised in 2022 was less than 1.7 percent.
Hope Rescue is staffed by well-meaning people who provide a valuable service to local authorities in South Wales. However, it knowingly accepted significant financial donations from amateur greyhound owners and supporters at The Valley made in the belief that the money was being used to fund the care and adoption of their greyhounds when this work was, in reality, carried out by other charities. Hope Rescue’s foray into campaigning in order to solicit further charitable donations from the wider public has led it to publicise highly-suspect statistics and to make accusations that it is unable to sustain. The charity’s conduct has not only defamed the amateur greyhound-loving enthusiasts at The Valley who continued greyhound racing’s rich 95-year history in Wales, it has brought shame upon the charity itself.