Sunday, 29 April 2018

Mind the GAP

In a recent announcement, Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ) have announced that they are taking over Levin kennels and will run them directly instead of providing them for Greyhounds as pets (GAP).

GRNZ say that while GAP has long been their key partner and that "we remain fully committed to supporting the GAP Trust", they are also concerned that greyhound adoption numbers have been "relatively static" through GAP. Because of this, GRNZ say they are going to "step back and look at how we can reshape our rehoming efforts to increase the adoption numbers. GAP, together with other rehoming partners such as Nightrave, have an important role to play and the industry needs to work together for the best outcomes for our greyhounds."

GRNZ's announcement is interesting and deserves a closer look.

GRNZ are totally on the money when they say that greyhound adoptions have been static over recent years. A quick check of GRNZ annual reports reveals that adoptions through GAP hovered at around the 280 mark for 2017 and this number has varied up and down by approximately 40 dogs since 2014.

Could it be that this isn't a result of poor marketing by GAP, but of the fact that NZ is a small market and can only absorb so many greyhound adoptions per year?

Either way, the total number of greyhound adoptions each year is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the huge numbers of greyhounds whelped by trainers. The only limits on the number of racing hounds that can breed at the time of writing are purely economic. Given that adoption numbers are a fraction of the total racing population, you'd think GRNZ could also choose to also look at how to limit the number of hounds bred for racing. Sadly this is not happening as GRNZ don't want to harm their cash cow (erm greyhound).

Sadly doing so needn't be all that difficult. By charging steep per race, per dog entry fees and a sizeable annual racing registration fee to trainers on a per greyhound basis (the monies could in turn be passed onto greyhound adoption agencies to fund public awareness of just how amazing greyhounds are as pets), the big benefit would be that trainers might not breed as many hounds and instead instead choose to focus on a smaller number of high calibre dogs instead. This would in turn lessen the numbers of greyhounds looking to be adopted.

The reason that adoption numbers are so crucial comes down to what a horrible euphemism referred to by many as "wastage". Hounds that cannot be rehomed owing to injuries, illness or behavioural issues are killed.

The big concern with GRNZ's move is that by shifting their focus onto the smaller greyhound adoption agencies and away from GAP, GRNZ could actually make the existing situation worse. As counter intuitive as this might sound, consider the following:

According to the 2017 GRNZ annual report, GAP accounted for over 80% of all greyhound adoptions (they adopted just under 300 dogs out of a total of 460 adoptions in New Zealand). Combined the other smaller agencies combined only accounted for 160 or so dogs being adopted.

In short, it'd be fair to assume that many of the other smaller agencies, no matter how capable and well intentioned they are could find themselves under pressure to fill the adoption vacuum left by GAP.

This isn't solely an issue of these smaller organisations finding a way to adopt more dogs out either. Gap operates a large network of marketers, administrators, organisers and kennel staff throughout New Zealand. Smaller greyhound agencies could find themselves under pressure to grow and develop a similar national presence. While GRNZ are likely to fund this to a point, it will also require know-how and an immense amount of energy from the small number of staff in these smaller agencies.

The unfortunate reality is that some may succeed, but others are likely to fail. According to an MBIE study in 2014, of New Zealand's 460,000 or so small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), around a quarter of them fail within their first three years of operation. It is probable that if put under enough pressure, this is an outcome that some smaller agencies could be faced with.

None of these smaller agencies are geared up to deliver 80% of New Zealand's greyhound adoptions. scaling up to do so will take time and expertise. If the MBIE stats are anything to go by, some smaller agencies won't survive as they find themselves having to grow from a small operation with a handful of staff to a national footprint with multiple staff.

While some will succeed, A very real possibility could be that there will be less greyhound adoption agencies in the near future than currently exist and this could drive an increase in "wastage".

I hope I am wrong about this. There are a lot of good people who have put in a huge amount of work to rehome retired racers. Here's hoping this wont turn into a case of if it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Councils, dog attacks and muzzles!

It's been a while since I last put pinkys to keyboard, but sometimes an issue gets me so incensed that I just feel compelled to write and this one is a real doozy.

Some good friends have a beautiful black boy greyhound, he's only 4 years old but is a gentle cuddly and playful boy who we have looked after on occasion.

Recently while at an off lead area at a local beach, he was attacked and badly mauled by another dog.

100 stitches and several surgeries later he is on the mend, but his traumatic experience means he still has major fear issues being around other non-greyhound dogs. These will probably stay with him for the rest of his life.

The situation sounds incredibly unfortunate. The other dog was on a leash but unmuzzled. The leash was being held by the dog owners neighbours kid who dropped the leash, which in turn lead to the other dog attacking.

Subsequent investigations by animal control proved fruitless - they say that because the beach is an off leash area, owners enter with their dogs at their own risk and that this absolves the attacking dogs owners of any liability.

Making matters worse, the attacking dogs owners have also refused to help with vet bills which are now in excess of an eye-watering $2000 and are likely to continue to increase with further treatments. The there's training and behaviour modification needed which is also likely to be costly.

This beautiful black greyhounds owners are being left with no choice but to treat the matter as civil case and try their luck in the disputes tribunal. Even if they win, they'll most likely be left out of pocket for the time and legal advice required.

What really gets my goat about this is that this hound is just one of a growing number being attacked on a beach. Sadly this is becoming a regular thing. The really annoying is that it could be easily avoided.

All the councils need to do is make it compulsory for dogs to be muzzled and unmuzzled dogs automatically fined/liable for any damage and attacks as an incentive for dog owners to take some responsibility for their dogs.

Even if there was a fight between two dogs, damage would be minimised through the use of muzzles and dog owners would not have to resort to trying their luck at the disputes tribunal.

Sadly councils don't seem to care. It is a fair bet to say that nothing will happen - even though the number of dog attacks at off leash areas are only likely to increase.


Thursday, 1 June 2017


Every year GAP (greyhounds as Pets), who are New Zealand's largest greyhound adoption agency runs a fundraiser/publicity event in conjunction with Animates (a large chain opf pet stores and vet clinics).

Having attended the event over numerous years, I've found it to be a great way for members of the public to meet greyhounds. The event usually results in a number of adoptions too.

I was looking forwards to attending this years event with our two hounds.

UNfortuiantely it was not to be.

I was told Animates dont want me to attend. Worse still, Animates also refused to let GAP operate out of one of their stores, citing me as the reason.

The trouble is that several years ago I'd posted on Linkedin to express my disgust at Animates selling electric shock collars and invited other linkedin  users to express their distate.

This was picked up by the media and over the course of a week became a hotly debated issue.

That this happened 2 and a half years ago didnt seem to matter in the minds of Animates .

My concerns around shock collars are just as valid as nothing appears to have changed.

If anything, Animates have plummeted in my estimates. I can understand them not wanting me in their stores - the PR risk of a potential dissenter on their premises makes demanding I do not attend a logical move.

What I cannot understand is the move not to allow GAP to fundraise in one of their stores because of social media posts . I am not a GAP employee, and my relationship with GAP is limited to the small amount of fundraising I've historically done as well as the two greyhounds I'd adopted through GAP. Punishing GAP for the actions of an unrealated individual simply makes sense. Worse still, greyhounds suffer.

Animates loony logic aside, My issues with electric shock collars stem from 4 simple facts - these are:

1) training with fear rather (negative reinforcement) instead of encouragement (positive reinforcement) generally doesnt work and often results in other behavoural issues and in some cases even agression.

2) While shock collars have a place with professional trainers who know how and when to use them, numerous studies have found that non-professionals tend to overuse them. This often desensitises the dog to to shocks and this see's the collars settings eventually turned up to full. this can have two possible outcomes. Firstly the dog learns to ignore the shock and their behaviour remains uncorrected. Secondly the dog gets stressed out and redirects fear and frustrations into other behaviours which is why shock collars are often seen as not being efective or sometimes resulting in undesirable canine behaviours such as agression.

3) Anyone can buy one. While Animates claim that their shock collars are kept under lock and key, there's no restriction on who they may be sold to. While Animates can operate a measure of discretion on who they sell shock collars to, the decision is usually made by a shop assistant who is at best poorly equipped to make a decision.

4) Shock collars are potentially dangerous. There is also no regulation around the importation of shock collars into New Zealand. A common argument often cited by shock collar proponents is "I've worn one of these shock collars and zapped myself and it was fine". What is not so widely discussed are the many incidents involving faulty shock collars thatr have caused severe electrical burns to dogs or refused to turn off and delivered a constant stream of shocks until their batteries ran flat. The other lesser known fact about shoick collars is that they are typically powered by Litium ION batteries and are cranked out of factories third world nations. Given the recent Samsung Note 7 smartphone debacle which saw poorly manufactured Lithium Ion batteries exploding, the potental for canine carnage from cheaply made shock collars is huge.

Sadly at the end of the day, it is the Greyhounds that suffer.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

and Afterwards...

It has been a while since my last entry and I apologise. In the 4 weeks since Bomber died, I've found it difficult to focus let alone write about him without becoming incredibly sad even though we've just had a magnitude 7.8 quake and flooding. In fact about the only thing missing at the moment is a plague of locusts and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

The funny thing is that the support we've received from friends has been nothing short of incredible.

This contrasts so markedly from a few years back when Ally, our little black cat died. At work I was sad and when asked why, was shocked at how many people said "ah well, it's just a cat". They amazingly expected that to make me feel better.

It didn't

In fact it simply made me want to punch them in their insensitive smug idiotic faces - I didn't of course (but it was ever so tempting).

With Bombers passing, things could not have been any more different.

When we got home with Bombers body to bury him, there were flowers on our doorstep. That was just the beginning. Friends from the greyhound collective on facebook banded together to create a photo-book of him, and we've had more flowers. My family and my sisters in-laws both donated to Greyhounds as pets and sent us a beautiful block mounted canvas print of Bomber and Lottie cuddled up on the sofa together.

Not long after this a delegation of greyhound owning friends popped over with a tree and lots of food. It was wonderful. More recently we received a lovely picture of Bombie in his bathtub (he had a habit of hopping in water troughs and old bath tubs being used as water troughs. We called him Bombie the fish because of this) from the amazingly talented Elizabeth Dodds. I was so choked up with emotion when I got this picture I was literally lost for words and couldn't speak.

The thing is words cannot express how much all this kindness has meant to us.

Being surrounded by people who actually get just how painful it is to lose a much loved pet has really helped a lot. It has been humbling and has shown us just how amazing our friends and family are.

Family aside, my saint-like wife has been incredible. it has been tough for her and we've both cried rivers. Lottie has been sad and a lot quieter. Not a day doesn't go by without her, Lottie or I feeling incredibly sad. I guess that oft used cliche of "time heals all" must apply.

I know this is perhaps the shortest blog post I've written in a while, but I want to say use it to say a huge thank-you to everyone for their kind words, support for just being so understanding. It means a lot to us and I hope that somehow we can repay all the kindness, sensitivity and consideration that all these lovely people have shown us.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Guy Fawkes Mayhem - AGAIN

I started this blog to keep a record of my hounds. What has proved interesting are the themes that keep emerging again and again. One topic that pops up at the same time each year is Guy Fawkes.

For non commonwealth citizens the term Guy Fawkes probably has no meaning. To put it into context, Guy Fawkes was a member of a small number of people who tried to blow up the UK parliament in the gunpowder conspiracy.

Bizarrely we celebrate this act of terrorism each year. Even more bizarrely we celebrate it by paying over the odds for increasingly dire fireworks (they seem to get smaller and more pathetic every year despite costing more each year). In essence we celebrate an act of terrorism by burning money. How loopy is that??

If that doesn't make you question the sanity of the average New Zealander, our unwillingness to ban the sale of fireworks to private individuals should at least leave you scratching your head and wondering.

Some argue that it is their "right" to have fun letting off fireworks. These idiots seem to be oblivious to the huge amount of damage caused by fireworks and the bill that they as taxpayers have to foot so they can have their "fun".

Perhaps most upsetting of all are the stories of terrified animals who've been horrifically maimed or died as a result of fireworks. Things have got so bad that this year the veterinary association and Wellington SPCA have backed calls for a total ban on the sale of fireworks.

Hell Pizza's usual lack of good sense and taste means they're delivering fireworks to peoples doors. I urge you not to buy any pizzas from these idiots (the packaging their pizzas arrive in are usually more tasty than their pizzas anyhow) and to register your displeasure on their website.

Sadly the madness that is Guy Fawkes will again this year as our politicians lack the guts to enact a ban on sales of fireworks to private individuals.

Here's a few pointers to help you should your hounds be stressed by fireworks.

1) Thundershirts - these swaddle the hound and really can work wonders calming them... they're a great investment if your hound goes to pieces on fireworks night.

2) Environment - make sure your hound is inside, and pull the curtains. Also play some music or turn on the TV to drown out the noise of fireworks

3) Vet - there are also a pile of great options available from your vet to calm your hounds. Visiting your vet for advice may yeild some surprisingly useful tips. Many vets will also prescribe low level tranquilisers that are safe for greyhounds and can help take the edge off their stress.

4) Prepare for the unthinkable - sometimes even with all the planning in the world, things can go wrong. Get an identity disk on your hounds collar along with its rego tags. Should your hound somehow get outside and freak out, the disk could help rescuers reunite you with your hound.

5) Sign any petitions you can and support a ban.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Unspoken Contract

When we adopt a pet our thoughts are filled with the practicalities of feeding, where they'll sleep and so on. Little thought is given to an unspoken yet vitally important part of owning a pet. I call this the unspoken contact and it is works like this:

When you adopt a pet, your obligations are:

  • To give it as good a life as possible
  • To ensure that it is physically and mentally nurtured and cared for and protected
  • Making sure it knows that it is loved

The unspoken part of this contract is one most of us dont want to contemplate:

What are our responsibilities to our pet at the end of their life?

Having just been there, I can't emphasise strongly enough just how important this really is. You really need to think this through.

Short of natural death or death from injury, Most pets succumb to illness. How you choose to act at this stage will play a big role in how you feel about your relationship with your pet for the rest of your life. Most important of all, it'll also dictate how your pet lives and how its life ends.

When faced with a terminally ill pet, the plain truth of the matter is that there are no good options.

If you try to prolong their life they may suffer end up enduring a lot more pain that leads to an agonising death.

It goes without saying that this is a breach of your contractual obligations to your pet.

The question you most need to ask yourself in such a dire situation is this:

Are you prolonging your pets life for your own needs or for your pets?

If you are in this terrible situation you really need to have a frank discussion with your vet.

By now you'll be feeling as if the ground has gone out from under your feet. The pain and conflict you'll feel at this stage is intense beyond description. I cant put into words what you'll be feeling right now.

This might sound crazily difficult (trust me it is). but you'll need to set aside the emotional typhoon swirling around in your head to ask your vet these questions -

  • Is your Pet in any pain and discomfort? 
  • Is the prognosis is terminal? 
  • Are there any treatment options that'll save your pet and give them a decent quality of life?

If the answer to these questions are yes the illness is terminal, yes they are in pain, and no their quality of life will see them stuck in a cage and drugged to near senselessness until they die, then there really is only one option.

Trouble is that this option requires that you set aside your own pain, feelings of loss and guilt and let your pet go. They must come first and you have to be strong enough to end their suffering.

This is your obligation to them. Your needs shouldnt énter the picture and this is likely to be one of the hardest (yet selfless) decisions you'll ever have to make.

Ending the life of a much loved pet runs counter to nearly every instinct you're likely to have. Looking into their eyes knowing that you have to say goodbye forever is not something I'd wish on anyone.

This said, you also need to remember your responsibility to your pet. Namely that you need to ensure they suffer as little as possible and leave this world knowing that you love them and that they were the best thing that ever happened to you.

We just went through this with Bomber, our much loved black greyhound.

There was no good choices available to us and we put him to sleep.

It was my responsibility as his owner.

He was my dog and I made sure that he knew how much he was loved before he passed.

I bought Bombers body home and buried him. He was my dog and laying him to rest with as much love and dignity as possible was the very least I could do.

I'd be lying if I said that I am not hurting (I am horribly) and that I am not wracked with feelings of guilt at ending his life ( I am). I do however know that this was my only real choice as Bombers illness was terminal and he was in an incredible amount of pain.

So please when you adopt or when you are next cuddled up to your pet, please contemplate the unspoken contract you have with them. Doing so might help a little should you ever be faced with such a horrible situation.

RIP Bomber (Lochinvar Elle)
died aged 6.5 years
We love you and miss you Bomber

Saying Good-bye

The last 4 days have been some of the worst of my life.

On Monday morning at 3am my wife awoke to Bomber (a.k.a Tinklebert Woofledink) crying in pain. She went in to see what was the matter (he often sleeps in the spare room) and he was standing, not wanting to sit and trembling with pain.

Fearing bloat (an often fatal condition which sees internal organs twist), we rush him to the emergency vet. To our relief bloat was ruled out and the vet said maybe it was pancreatitis (which dogs sometimes get). Pain medication and antibiotics were administered and we were told to take Bomber to our regular vet if there was no improvement by the morning.

Bomber came home and initially would not lie down in the bed, instead trembling in pain. Eventually he was so exhausted he lay down and dozed. There was no improvement in the morning and we took him to our vet.

Feeling a sense of dread we waited for the call from our vet. When it came the news was devastating. Xrays had revealed a large mass and it was putting pressure on his other internal organs. The vet suggested that if money were no object (when it comes to either hound money is no problem - I'd have donated kidneys to help), we should take Bomber to Massey University Veterinary Hospital, it is the best in New Zealand. It was a two hour drive and we didn't hesitate.

Dropping Bomber off we checked into a hotel and went in search of breakfast/lunch. At a cafe, Massey called and the ground fell away from my feet.

The mass inside bomber was fluid - blood. X-Rays had revealed tumors and that cancer had spread - there were a lot of them, many were well developed. The prognosis was about as bad as it gets. We were told get back to the vet hospital as soon as possible.

Arriving at Massey, Sophie the vet (who was nothing short of amazing) explained the options - there really weren't any. If they operated to drain the blood he'd just bleed more and the operation would probably kill him given his weakened condition. Even if he survived the operation, he'd probably only live for a few more pain filled weeks.

There really was only one option. I just couldn't face it. Bomber had to be put to sleep.

No words can describe the dilemma we were faced with. There were no survivable options and the only choices we had were to end Bombers life or to see him suffer until he died.

Sophie allowed us to sit with Bomber for as long as we liked. I patted him, told him I loved him and that he was a good dog. By now he was in such pain that they'd had to administer methadone, synthetic heroin. I'm not sure Bomber heard what we said but we said it anyway.

In the end I called a good friend and fellow greyhound owner who'd also been through this and spoke to her. I probably didn't make a lot of sense, I was a shell-shocked blubbering mess. Her advice really helped. We needed to let Bomber go and end his suffering. It was the only right choice there was.

I didn't know what time it was but an hour or so later we put Bomber to sleep and he gently passed.

Before he was put to sleep I reminded him that I loved him and that he was an amazing dog. I asked him to wait for me and when I die I'll look for him at the rainbow bridge.

Bomber was only six and a half years old, he should have had many more years sharing a sofa, mooching treats and going for walks.

I've cried a river and have not stopped. The grief of losing Bomber isnt 'just emotional, it is a very real physical pain. Everything hurts

Now we have a huge black greyhound sized hole in our lives and the house feels incredibly empty. There are many things that catch us and cause a tears to flow. My love for him has and never will cease. Rest in peace Bombie boy we love you so much.