The commercial semi-State body responsible for the control and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland has pledged to radically rearrange the oversight of greyhound care and welfare.

Bord na gCon has acknowledged further work needs to be done to bring the care and welfare of greyhounds up to the highest possible standard. 

The organisation has made the comments in its opening statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine following the broadcast of 'RTÉ Investigates - Greyhounds, Running for Their Lives' last month.

Frank Nyhan, Chairman of Bord na gCon, has said the Irish Greyhound Board "unreservedly condemns the appalling practices eveidnt on the RTÉ Investigates programme which have no place in the greyhound or indeed in any area of activity involving animals."

He said the welfare of greyhounds is at the core of everything the Board does. 

The greyhound industry has some 7,300 owners and is estimated to be worth €300m to the economy.

As part of its plan to overhaul of the industry the IGB wants to introduce a traceability system for racing greyhounds. 

Plans are also in train to introduce a levy on attendance income, prize money and a percentage of all sponsorship to be paid into a new 'care fund' which will be managed by external appointees.

Watch: RTÉ Investigates -  Running for their Lives

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A levy paid when dogs are registered in the national stud book will also contribute towards a "pension plan" for the greyhound in retirement. 

Plans are also in the offing for the provision of "greyhound care centres so that greyhounds can lead a healthy life after retirement."

Bord na gCon has acknowledged that it was right that RTÉ highlight illegal behaviour and the "appalling and egregious treatment of animals as a matter of public interest."

However it has criticised RTÉ and said: "We believe it is incumbent on the national broadcaster to provide factual and properly contextualised information.

"Balance is also important and a glaring omission from the programme is the good practice and behaviour adopted by the significant vast majority of people involved in greyhound racing in Ireland, and the stringent legislative and regulatory framework in place to ensure general compliance and more importantly, animal welfare".

The Irish Greyhound Board say it co-operated with RTÉ and "We offered a 'live' interview on the issues raised during the course of RTÉ's research. This offer however, was not taken up."

A spokeswoman for the national broadcaster said: "RTÉ fully stands over the programme which was many months in the making and involved extensive research, data analysis, requests under the Freedom of Information Act, along with undercover filming and recordings.

"RTÉ Investigates programmes are filmed documentaries or reports. They are not live broadcasts. RTÉ contacted the IGB well in advance of the programme and offered them a full right of reply which they choose to issue in written statements. It was made clear to the IGB that the programme was pre-recorded and there was no facility to do a live interview."

Meanwhile, the Irish greyhound industry is to introduce a new model of sponsorship where sponsors will become involved in the care of dogs, the Oireachtas committee has heard.

The industry has been damaged in the last two weeks, the chairman of the sport's oversight body said.

Frank Nyhan, Chairman of Bord na gCon, acknowledged that "anybody who ever owned a dog would be horrified by what they saw" in the recent RTÉ Investigates programme.

He said "the manifestation of that damage has been the withdrawal of high profile is understandable why they have withdrawn their sponsorship".

Responding to questions from Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Mr Nyhan told the committee that Bord no gCon is now talking to sponsors about a changed model of sponsorship. 

"Essentially we are going to ask sponsors to become involved in the care aspect of the industry and any sponsorship we get from sponsors in that regard will go towards the care of the greyhounds. The prize fund will be separate from that."

Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill, who is a greyhound owner, said he is one of the people who wants to be involved in a sport where he can hold his head up high.

He said that if the country where a dog goes to does not have proper welfare standards, dogs should not be allowed to be exported to those countries.

In relation to the euthanisation of dogs depicted in the programme, he said "there can be no circumstances where we can condone the putting down of a healthy dog".

Labour TDs Willie Penrose and Alan Kelly praised RTÉ for great public service broadcasting.

Pat Deering, the committee chairperson, asked about the introduction of a traceability system as provided for in the Greyhound Racing Act 2019, which was signed into law recently. 

Denis Healy, Veterinary Director with Bord na gCon, acknowledged the body no has powers to make regulations for the health and welfare of greyhounds; funds can now be ring-fenced, including mechanisms for the re-homing of greyhounds. 

Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan asked if Bord na gCon, could be trusted to do the work on animal cruelty which she said they had allowed to continue.

She told the Committee that one dog tested positive three times for cocaine and yet had been nominated for greyhound of the year.

She said breaches of sales regulations had been brought to Bord na gCon over the years.

Deputy O'Sullivan said there was an incidence where an owner had been fined €800 for forgery and failure regarding the transfer of ownership. 

However, she said there was nothing done regarding the fact that he allowed his greyhounds to be shot and dumped.

She said there were also situations where injured greyhounds were given medication to continue racing and she said requests to the organisation for information on this were refused.

Deputy O'Sullivan said lack of regulation should not mean that cruelty to greyhounds is allowed to continue.

Labour's Alan Kelly asked how a dog that had tested positive for drugs could be allowed to be involved in racing.

He asked when this is going to change because he said it effects how people think about the industry.