Valley Greyhound Stadium – which opened in 1976 – is the only remaining greyhound racing track in Wales and is independent (not affiliated to the Greyhound Board of Great Britain but, instead, licensed by the local authority). Colloquially known as ‘flapping’, independent greyhound racing features local, privately-owned greyhounds racing at local tracks. The Valley Greyhound Stadium is one of only three independent greyhound tracks remaining in the United Kingdom.
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. Its largest single source of income comes through contracts 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
Hope Rescue proactively approached The Valley in 2018 to offer to attend race meetings at the track so that 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
Hope Rescue has, subsequently, started a campaign to malign The Valley and greyhound racing in general. Most recently, it has publicised a petition via its Facebook pages calling on greyhound racing in Wales to be banned. The publicity is accompanied by numerous requests for financial donations to the charity. Although Hope Rescue’s 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 founded.
The 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 mark of every greyhound that races 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 24 greyhounds suffered a serious injury (typically, a bone fracture) during a race. This represents a serious injury rate of only 0.5 per cent, compared with an average of 0.6 per cent for the UK’s eighteen professional greyhound racing tracks.
Out of 409 greyhounds that ran in races at The Valley during the same period, 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. In 2019-20, Hope Rescue states that 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 refused to release this data.
Hope Rescue is a charity staffed by good and well-meaning people who provide a very valuable service to local authorities in South Wales. However, it knowingly accepted significant financial donations from 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 greyhound-loving enthusiasts at The Valley who have continued greyhound racing’s rich 94-year history in Wales, it has brought shame upon the charity itself.