AN OXFORD charity has hit back at claims by the man hoping to revive greyhound racing in the city that the sport is not cruel.

Responding to the comments by Nik Budimir, the businessman hoping to reintroduce the sport at Oxford Stadium, Forever Hounds Trust slammed the greyhound racing industry in Britain for its lack of transparency and animal neglect.

The charity warned that Oxford would be taking ‘a huge step backwards’ in animal welfare if local authorities do not oppose plans to bring back races at the stadium, which closed in 2012.

Based in Cowley, the dog welfare group has worked on rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming greyhounds for more than 20 years.

With her knowledge about the industry and the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) – the regulator for licensed tracks in the UK – head of welfare campaigns for Forever Hounds Trust Emma Butler called for tougher regulations for trainers, breeding and tracks.

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While in his piece Mr Budimir said that greyhound racing is ‘the most transparent of sports which cares for its greyhounds both during their racing careers and after’, Ms Butler argued the sport is the opposite of transparent as it is not regulated by the government.

She explained: “The claims made by Nik Budimir cannot be backed up by the greyhound racing industry’s own statistics and are certainly at complete odds with what we witness every day as a greyhound rescue charity."

Official figures released last year by the GBGB revealed that almost 1,000 racing greyhounds died or were killed in 2018.

Hundreds of dogs were euthanised in 2018 for reasons including the high cost of medical treatment and the absence of a ‘viable option away from the racecourse’.

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Ms Butler confirmed that greyhounds are regularly brought into Forever Hounds Trust’s care in a terrible condition with ‘dreadful’ injuries caused either as direct result of racing or due to neglect.

The expert added: “The neglect does not end when they leave the racetrack either.

“We have recently taken in a number of former greyhounds that have been raced on unregulated tracks, leaving them with limbs so badly injured they have had to be amputated.

“These dogs go on to live full and happy lives, but only because of the care and dedication given to them by our volunteers and the significant veterinary bills that are funded by our supporters.

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“To the racing industry, greyhounds are purely a commodity and I would suggest Nik Budimir’s attempt to convince the people of Oxford that racing greyhounds are well cared for and not at risk is based on his desire to use them as a money-making commodity.”

Photographs of former race dogs looked after by the welfare group show the animals recovering from various injuries.

The charity explained that many greyhounds arrive needing dental treatment with many teeth having to be taken out, hip surgeries and amputations.

One five-year-old greyhound Amaya was recently handed over to rescuers with one of her leg joints fractured, which lead to her limb being amputated.

The veterinary bill for the surgeries she endured amounted to more than £2,000.

Amaya was raced on both GBGB and unregistered tracks across the UK where she incurred the injury.

However, Mr Budimir disputed the charity’s claims.

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The developer said: “Forever Hounds claims that greyhounds come into their care suffering horrendous injuries from racing or neglect, some so bad that amputation of limbs is deemed necessary; I do hope this is not true, but it sounds more along the lines of shock horror, bad taste fundraising tactics.”

Mr Budimir also said his desire to see the return of the stadium was not based on money, adding: "It is a desire to see not just greyhound racing return not just speedway but to create a 24/7 entertainment asset for the people of Oxford."

GBGB also backed Mr Budimir’s claims and argued that the organisation operates with ‘greyhound care at its heart’.

A spokesperson for the organisation explained veterinary surgeons are present at every track to inspect the health of every greyhound both before and after racing and that regular inspections of trainers’ residential kennels are carried out.

They added: “We work closely with government and key animal welfare charities – including the RSPCA – who support our work in delivering our Greyhound Commitment which sets out our expectations of how our sport should be run with greyhound welfare at its heart.”

But a steady decline in the number of greyhound tracks, with Wimbledon and the flagship course, Towcester, among those that closed as attendance reached historic lows, showed the growing negative attitude towards the sport.

The last meet in Oxford took place in December 2012 before the stadium was permanently shut down but Mr Budimir, who is working on reopening the stadium, announced last year he wanted to reintroduce the sport.