Animal rights campaigners have warmly welcomed the news that Oxford Stadium has postponed its first greyhound racing fixtures.

The stadium has confirmed that its first scheduled race events on Friday, August 26, and Saturday, August 27, are not going ahead. 

A spokesperson said: "The decision has been made to guarantee all facilities connected to greyhound racing have been tried and thoroughly tested before the first race meeting takes place."

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said a postponement wasn't enough - he wanted cancellation.

READ ALSO: Return of greyhound racing at Oxford Stadium postponed

He said: “Only a proper ban on greyhound racing can properly protect the thousands of dogs that are injured – and killed – in Great Britain every year because of this so-called sport. It’s time for change and for greyhound racing to end in this country.”

And PETA Vice President Elisa Allen agreed.

She said: "The return of greyhound racing to Oxford Stadium has been repeatedly postponed – and PETA hopes the delay means this nasty, dog-abusing pursuit won’t return at all.

"Greyhound racing is on its last legs as people learn that the industry treats dogs as mere money-making machines, discarding them after they sustain broken legs, suffer from heatstroke and heart attacks, or just can’t run fast enough to win money for their exploiters.

"Most Oxford residents want nothing to do with this cruelty, and it’s past time this archaic practice were banned."

The RSPCA said it and other leading UK welfare groups have long held concerns about the welfare of greyhounds used in racing.

Along with Dogs Trust, the charity has commissioned a review of racing greyhound welfare in the UK which is due to report this summer. The findings will shape each organisation’s future policy.

A spokesperson said: "Whatever the outcome of the review, we do not believe the current status quo is acceptable. We will be looking for a better way forwards to protect the welfare of racing greyhounds."

Managing director Kevin Boothby secured a 10-year lease to reopen the derelict Oxford Stadium, which had hosted speedway and greyhound racing for 73 years before closing in 2012, in June last year. 

Oxford Mail:

Last month Mr Boothby said he expected more than 2,000 punters to be at the Cowley venue to watch the greyhounds on the opening night and was planning to increase capacity to cope with demand.

READ ALSO: Cashless payments only as Oxpens car park reopens

He said at the time: "Subject to the completion of a Greyhound Board of Great Britain inspection this month, Oxford Stadium will proudly open its doors to racegoers in August."

He added: "We’ve experienced an overwhelming response for the return of speedway, and we forecast similar demand when greyhound racing returns to Sandy Lane.

“We are leaving no stone unturned concerning the redevelopment of our racing facilities so we can guarantee welfare standards at Oxford Stadium will meet world-leading standards."

But although the return of the dogs was welcomed by sports fans it was fiercely opposed by animal rights campaigners.

Using data from a poll conducted by research consultancy Savanta ComRes, PETA and the League Against Cruel Sports claimed most people in the county (71 per cent) would prefer to see the stadium used for another purpose.

The methodology of the poll was criticised by Mr Boothby, who said: “PETA’s survey is based on the opinion of 153 individuals – or 0.0002 per cent of Oxfordshire’s residents."

Almost 30,000 people – including Oxford actor Miriam Margolyes – signed an online petition opposing the stadium being used for it.

Mr Boothby said he would proactively engage with PETA and all campaigners in the county by hosting an open event "to educate people about how much greyhounds are loved and cared for".

The stadium said all ticketholders will be eligible for a full refund or transfer and information about a new launch night for greyhound racing will be confirmed as soon as possible on its website and social media channels.



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