Animal welfare investigations are under way following the discovery of dehydrated racing greyhounds in the back of an unlicenced transporter bringing the dogs through Dublin Port en route to Spain.

The greyhounds have been taken into the care of the Dublin Society of Protection of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) following the discovery by customs officials at the port on Saturday.

Both the DSCPA and the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) have begun separate investigations.

Strict welfare rules govern the long-haul transportation of dogs. 

They can only be shipped in the care of designated "Type 2" transporters licenced by the Department of Agriculture.

Licenced transporters must have their vehicles approved to ensure they are suitable to carry dogs safely.

According to the DSPCA, the dogs were packed two to a cage behind boxes and three were not accessible without unloading the rest of the vehicle.

DSCPA veterinary staff said all the dogs were hot and showing signs of dehydration and they were concerned the animals would not have had access to water on the drive to Spain.

The DSCPA has been able to identify all of the greyhounds and has traced their ownership details to Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Wexford.

According to the DPSCA nine of the 12 dogs had raced in the last month.

A statement from the DSCPA said it was concerned that this discovery had happened despite the revelations in RTÉ Investigates documentary - Greyhounds Running for their Lives - and subsequent assurances given by the IGB that measures were being taken to address welfare issues in their industry. 

"This seizure flies in the face of the illusion being created by IGB that animal welfare is being taken seriously," said the DSPCA chief executive Brian Gillen.

A spokesperson for the IGB said it had commenced a full investigation.

"The IGB has been made aware of this incident this afternoon and our welfare department has begun a full investigation. The IGB condemns any mistreatment of greyhounds in the highest possible terms.

"Any person or persons found to have been in breach of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 have been and will continue to be subject to prosecution," it said.