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Oireachtas Committee Meeting July 9th

Irish Coursing Club submission paper to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

On Tuesday July 9th the C.E.O. of the Irish Coursing Club, Mr DJ Histon, attended a session of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food & the Marine following an invitation from the Committee.

The following is the text of the Irish Coursing Club opening submission.

Attention of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine:

IRISH COURSING CLUB response to RTE Prime Time programme and steps required to restore confidence in the industry

  1. Introduction. At the outset, the ICC wish to state clearly that it does not condone any acts of greyhound cruelty as highlighted on the Prime Time Investigates programme. The images shown on the programme has jolted the industry and the participants in the industry want to see change to eradicate such actions in the future. While time could be spent analysing and explaining elements of the programme it is more important to focus on what needs to be done to ensure the continued viability of the industry with the greyhound as the primary focus.
  2. The ICC was established in 1916 (reconstituted under the Greyhound Industry Act 1958) and is responsible for the regulation of coursing in Ireland. It is the Keeper of the All Ireland Irish Greyhound Stud which was first published in 1923. It publishes the sole greyhound weekly paper under the “sporting press” title (renamed in 1952), it regulates greyhound racing in Northern Ireland (the Brandywell in Derry and Drumbo Park in Belfast). It operates one of four DAFM approved microchipping databases under the name of MicrodogID.
  3. Following a review of the programme, the following areas require change and enhancement to restore general public confidence and to maintain the confidence of greyhound people and stakeholders within the industry:

(i) The issue of traceability

(ii) The export of greyhounds to other jurisdictions with no welfare regulations

(iii)  Whiddy Island footage clarification

(iv) Prohibited substance testing in coursing

(v) Rehoming of greyhounds as they transition from performance to retirement


  1. Traceability

The introduction of a traceability system for the greyhound industry will ensure that real time accurate information will exist for all categories of greyhounds as they progress through their lifecycle. This will mean that at any one time, the industry will know the number of live registered pups, the number of live registered named greyhounds, the number of live greyhounds registered for track racing and coursing, the number sold in Ireland and to other jurisdictions, the number euthanised by a vet and the number rehomed through various rehoming bodies and number retained as pets. The system will also categorise the number of brood bitches by establishing a brood bitch register, which will require an inspection of the breeding facility prior to breeding. A person will have to register as an owner prior to registering a greyhound. The owner will be given a unique ID to link all greyhounds in his ownership and to track movement of his greyhounds during their life cycle.

4.1 A traceability system must be executed on an All-Ireland basis given that the majority of greyhounds move freely both in the North and the South, in terms of competition and breeding. It must also link in with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s system given the close relationship between both jurisdictions. This will ensure a single greyhound system with the co-operation of the GBGB. A review of traceability systems in the UK and greyhound racing states in Australia, such as Victoria and New South Wales is on-going currently. A meeting is scheduled with the GBGB this month and this topic will be on the agenda. This will ensure the model adopted in Ireland is effective and complete.

4.2 The establishment of an Anglo- Irish committee to keep matters of integrity and welfare under review

  1. Export of Greyhounds via the UK for forwarding to Other Countries with No Welfare Standards, Structured Around Strong Legislation

The export of greyhounds to countries with no welfare regulations is not illegal per se but we can work with the GBGB to assist them on implementing the GBGB policy on such exports which states, “Involvement in the export of greyhounds to jurisdictions where welfare standards cannot be verified is not acceptable and GBGB will employ the full powers available to it to prohibit individuals from deliberately undermining the good reputation of licenced greyhound racing in Great Britain”.

5.1 In order to monitor the movement of greyhounds to other jurisdictions, the following procedure to be agreed, as movements of greyhounds to other jurisdictions mainly flow through the UK in the first instance:

  • Seller must receive export permit and provide the necessary information on end destination and reason for export etc.
  • New owner must include owner code allotted by GBGB on transfer notification form.
  • ICC notify GBGB of movement to the UK registered owner.
  • GBGB to mirror ICC export system.
  • If greyhound is found to be located in another jurisdiction following arrival in UK, then the GBGB can sanction that individual.
  1. Whiddy Island Footage portrayed as illegal on Prime- Time programme.

By way of background, the ICC regulates coursing and clubs operate under the Open Seasons Order 2005 in terms of legitimacy to course at “regulated coursing matches”.

Clubs listed on the licence schedule are authorised to net and tag hares for the purposes of coursing, while the Open Seasons Order 2005 permits coursing in general during a defined period.

Coursing Clubs comprise the following membership/affiliation;

  1. Park Clubs (require netting and tagging licence)- all greyhounds muzzled.
  2. Open Coursing Clubs: Affiliated and are listed on the Licence Schedule- all greyhounds muzzled.
  3. Associate Open Coursing Clubs (are not listed on Licence scheduled) –all greyhounds muzzled.

The membership type distinction between Affiliated and Associative Affiliation is the latter does not attract voting rights at ICC Provincial AGMs or at the ICC National AGM. All clubs pay insurance premium and affiliation fee to ICC regardless of membership type.

6.1 Bantry Open Coursing Club (paid insurance and affiliation fee on October 9 2018 for last season) is one of 19 Associative Clubs and was established in 1950. The club has coursed on Whiddy Island since that time and they would offer that is why the Island has such a strong hare population unlike Bull Island which is often referred to as having no hares on the island anymore.

6.2 Associative Clubs typically course on Sundays (with landowner permission) and organise small events (mostly four dog events with the odd eight dog or so events) with token prize-money and trophy. Associative coursing is the foundation of coursing prior to evolving into what we have today in terms of Park Coursing.

6.3 The Associative clubs operate under the Open Seasons Order 2005, the same way as a pack of beagles or harriers or someone shooting the hare: they do not require a licence with the proviso they observe the period specified in the Order i.e. September 26 to February 28.

6.4. The ICC promote hare care and greyhound care as per Code of Practice (appendix 1).

6.5 Illegal hunting is where packs of un-muzzled dogs hunt with the express purpose of killing the hare. It is indiscriminate in nature and occurs on a 12 -month basis. This illegal activity is conducted without landowner permission, often involves intimidation and threats to landowners and often results in assaults. The ICC are working with the Gardaí, NPWS and the IFA on this issue.

  1. Prohibited Substance Testing in coursing 

The ICC adopted Rule 88 to deal specifically with prohibited drug breaches after reviewing all other racing jurisdictions. It extended it testing regime to include all provincial coursing meetings. Over the last three years 679 tests were taken, with 668 negative and 11 positives.

7.1 The purpose of testing and the associated penalties is to:

(i) protect the welfare of the greyhound

(ii) protect the integrity of coursing

(iii) maintain public confidence in coursing

(iv) maintain proper standards for all coursing participants

(v) to bring about a positive behavioural change

(vi) a sanction may be accompanied by an advisory notice to point out what changes in behaviour or attitude is required.

7.2 Adverse Analytical Finding: Once a positive test is notified to the ICC, the greyhound is suspended immediately until the conclusion of the hearing before the Independent Hearing Committee. The minimum mandatory fine range is €1000 to €3000 depending on the substance categorisation. The independent hearing committee has discretion to increase a fine by a further €7500 and fix the hearing costs against the transgressor. The minimum mandatory suspension range is three months to five months to be served during a coursing season. This can be extended to six months by the hearing committee. In the event of the fine remaining unpaid, then that person is placed on the forfeit list, whereby they cannot attend a coursing event or register or transfer a greyhound. A further amendment will be placed before the ICC AGM to debar a greyhound found in breach of Rule 88 from competing in any coursing classic event.

  1. Rehoming of greyhounds

The ICC currently provides administrative support to welfare bodies in terms of registration and microchipping services. It proposes to work with its membership and rehoming bodies to promote the homing of ex-coursing greyhounds. Owners currently adopt privately or through the IRGT and this can be expanded on further by working in tandem with the announced changes. The implementation of levies to be ring fenced in support of rehoming efforts and building on the existing structure is necessary to fund this strategy. Economies can be achieved by developing a central structure that can be leveraged appropriately.

8.1 The industry incorporates both track and coursing, therefore all greyhounds are equal in terms of industry responsibility and all opportunities should be open to either code by way of setting up a structure where the ICC contribute appropriately.

  1. Conclusion – A paradigm shift is taking place and it is important not to react but to act in a responsible way to ensure the changes implemented consolidate the industry on every level while keeping the greyhound to the fore. The industry relies on a significant voluntary effort across both codes, with each owner sharing the responsibility of caring for their greyhounds. It is the industry regulators function to be accountable for implementing and policing the rules, policies and procedures on behalf of all industry participants.

The ICC consider it critical that engagement with the IGB and the GBGB in promoting joined up thinking in a cohesive manner for the sustainability and betterment of the industry as a whole is appropriate.

Thank you for your time Chairman and fellow committee members.