A HARRY Potter actress who grew up in Oxford has slammed the return of 'nasty' greyhound racing.

Miriam Margolyes has joined animal rights organisation PETA’s campaign urging Oxford Stadium not to re-open for greyhound racing, condemning the sport.

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She said: "I have many fond memories of growing up in Oxford, but they don’t involve watching gentle and sociable greyhounds run around a track for punters.

"This isn’t sport – it’s animal abuse. I was disgusted to learn from my friends at PETA that dogs used for racing are often doped and many of them die from the injuries they sustain.

"Greyhound racing is a nasty business that has no place at Oxford Stadium – or anywhere in the UK – except as a distant memory."

She is also encouraging Oxford City Council to intervene alongside nearly 20,000 concerned locals and PETA supporters who have signed a petition set up by PETA urging the council to step in.

The star added: "I hope anyone who loves dogs as much as I do will join me in urging Oxford City Council to leave dog racing in the past by encouraging the stadium to host sports that humans choose to take part in."

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A recent report released by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) revealed that more than 400 racing greyhounds died or were euthanised in 2020, despite Covid-19 restrictions that drastically reduced the number of races. But a number of these deaths were due to reasons unrelated to greyhound racing.

Kevin Boothby secured a 10-year lease from Galliard Homes to bring back greyhound racing to Oxford, and hopes to open the gates next March.

PETA hopes Oxford Stadium will instead host sports involving humans. For example, British Cycling has assessed the facility and approved its suitability for development into a velodrome.

ALSO READ: Concerns raised about 'cruel' greyhound racing returning

Mr Boothby said: "The allegations against our sport by animal extremists PETA are entirely unfounded and show they are totally out of touch with the reality of our sport.

"Thankfully, these are the views of a small minority and we have been delighted by the support we have received from the local community. 

"Our greyhounds are loved and are cared for before, during and after their racing careers. Once licenced by GBGB, the stadium will comply with GBGB's Rules of Racing. This means that our greyhounds receive higher welfare standards than domestic pet dogs.

"They will be checked by a vet both before and after racing and their residential kennels are closely monitored by the GBGB, vets and independent animal welfare auditors. 

"Once we have everything open for greyhound racing, speedway, go-karting and our dance studios, the stadium will create 200 jobs for local people. Importantly, Oxford will have a fantastic new facility for the local community and visitors to enjoy." 

Oxford City Council said: "The Council was clear in the Local Plan that we wanted to ensure that the site was kept for community and leisure use.

"We will want to be confident that the operator will be committed to ensuring this is a long-term proposal delivering a high quality and accessible venue as well as delivering jobs and training to the local community.

"We will look forward to working with Galliard Homes to achieve this."

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