On Wednesday, October 25, on a crisp, sunny autumnal morning The University of Limerick Greyhound Racing Society hosted a retired greyhound stroll.
On behalf of the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust, the UL greyhound society, greyhound owners and 8 excitable, retired greyhounds strolled through the University campus to the living bridge to promote greyhounds as pets and raise awareness about the misconceptions of the breed itself.
The greyhounds were an assortment of beautiful colours, tall and slender with small, rose ears which remained semi-perked with excitement at the prospect of interacting with passing students.
Their dark eyes were bright with joy as they paraded around UL gracefully with their elegant, long legs perfectly straight and long tail with a slight upward curve which did not stop wagging while they licked passer-by’s faces playfully and put their paws up on their shoulders to embrace them.
They did not bark once and eluded a devoted, loving calmness and quiet dignity. It was evident to everyone they encountered that they would make wonderful pets and as a result they received an immensely positive reaction from all who encountered these kind natured, big kids.
The UL greyhound society has been in operation since February 2017 under the experienced wing of Joe Sheehan and chairperson Julianne O’ Keeffe.
Although only in his third year of University, Sheehan is also on the advisory board of the Limerick Greyhound track and has been involved with greyhounds and racing since he was fifteen years old.
“I’ve never made money out of it or wanted to make money out of it, it’s just a hobby.”
He explained to the Limerick Voice that the UL greyhound society is one of a kind and it has become a “family” who share a passion for greyhounds with over 30 paid up members to date with a percentage of their profits supporting the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust (IRGT).
The IRGT is a registered charity set up by the Irish Greyhound Board, which works with owners to rehome greyhounds after retirement and in promoting greyhounds as domestic pets.
Sheehan went on to say that the society is doing its best to promote greyhound racing amongst the youth as it is perceived as “an old person’s game”.
He described the racing industry as “vibrant” and that the public have a very distorted perception of greyhounds.
“We don’t think people know how beautiful greyhounds are as an animal, they’re so loyal, they’re so friendly”.
He also mentioned that they fulfil their role as couch potatoes quite admirably.
Sheehan added that greyhound racing is often regarded as a “poor man’s game” which makes it an easy target for criticism.
“The horse racing is the very same concept but you won’t see anyone attacking them because they’re a lot more powerful.”
He said although he is very aware of the mistreatment that has occurred within the greyhound industry he wanted to add that there are “two sides to every story” and that he aims to change people’s perception of greyhound racing.
“Let people make up their own mind but at least, they will have the facts of what actually goes on, then they can decide.”
Sheehan mentioned that he was delighted that the UL greyhound racing society have also bought their very own greyhound. He hopes that she will be run before Christmas and said that her prize money from racing would be put back into the society.
Sheehan highlighted that they want to use this greyhound as an example to give people an insight into how every greyhound should be looked after: “We want to track her exercise and feeding routines, her racing career, her progress and the rehoming process as it should be”.
Sheehan would like to see the 16 million that was recently allocated from the budget to go into the rehoming of greyhounds.
“There is a lot of work being done in this area and going forward more work will have to be done really to ensure that even after racing life they live happy and fulfilled lives.”
On behalf of the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust, Patricia Tobin was also present at the retired greyhound stroll with her own beloved greyhounds.
She has owned greyhounds for over 15 years and wanted to bring her dogs along to show what a good-natured, “immaculate” dog the greyhound is despite its “aggressive” representation within the media.
She said that the muzzles greyhounds have often worn contributes to this negative perception attached to the breed: “When people see the muzzles, it gives the impression that they are aggressive”.
“Greyhounds are my first love really and we go lots of places, to the beach, to town and they love it they’re so sociable”.
As regards to rehoming retired greyhounds Tobin explained that she has rehomed all of her retired, racing dogs through the greyhound trust: “some are in Sweden, Italy, Belgium and I keep in contact with 99.9 percent of the owners and I keep some of them myself”.
Tobin also wanted to emphasise that people are more interested in the welfare and grooming of greyhounds: “people are getting a lot better at rehoming their dogs rather than selling them on or putting them to sleep”.
The retired greyhound stroll gave the society and greyhound owners a chance to show a large audience of people how truly elegant these animals are. The event was met with an incredibly positive reception and a great turn out from passer-by’s who were both surprised and enthralled with the overwhelming affection the greyhounds gave them.
For more about the misconception of Irish Greyhounds, read the article in the Limerick Voice newspaper which will be out in December.
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