SMH; Eleanor Ainge Roy; October 26, 2011
Lazy but loveable … greyhound owner Amy Kelly, with former racers Zac and Hope, says the belief that the dogs are aggressive is misguided. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
WHEN Amy Kelly, 32, takes her former racing greyhounds Hope and Zac for a walk, she has to muzzle them. ”People’s perception is they are an aggressive dog,” Mrs Kelly said.
”Which is just not true; they are very lazy. But I’ve had people cross the street to avoid my dogs, which is so sad.”
The NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 requires that all greyhounds wear a muzzle in public places. According to the general manager of growth and sustainability at Greyhound Racing NSW, Tony O’Mara, greyhounds were originally a hunting dog.
Since being used for racing, muzzles were used to keep the dogs focused during the race. But Mr O’Mara says the muzzles are outdated and create an unfair stereotype of the dog.
”Muzzles give a perception that they are a threat,” Mr O’Mara said.
”If you make someone look like Hannibal Lecter it creates that fear.”
But that is set to change with the implementation of the Greenhounds program, which will allow greyhound owners to apply for an exemption from the muzzling laws. This would put NSW in line with greyhound policies in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
”Many ex-racing dogs don’t find homes because they are perceived by the public to be dangerous,” said the Minister for Local Government, Don Page.
”But this isn’t true. They are no more dangerous than any other dog. I don’t know why this didn’t happen a long time ago.”
For greyhounds to be exempt from the muzzling law, they will have to pass through a retraining program and be tested.
For many ex-racing dogs this will mean a stint with foster carers who will socialise the dogs and get them used to indoor living. Many ex-racing dogs have trouble climbing stairs after spending their whole life in kennels. Once the dogs have passed behaviour tests and been desexed and microchipped, they will be fitted with a green collar that will help dog rangers and the public identify them as Greenhounds – safe pets.
”We expect the Greenhounds program will help us find more homes for ex-racing dogs,” Mr O’Mara said.
”Currently about 2000 ex-racing dogs find homes in NSW each year. We hope this will rise to 5000-6000 when people begin to realise greyhounds make wonderful pets.”
At present greyhounds are used as companions for inmates and the elderly and as therapy dogs for people with disabilities.
”These dogs are retired athletes and they should be respected,” Mr O’Mara said.