Ban On Dog Racing
Under the Animal Protection Act, it is prohibited to "organise dog races" (Article 4, paragraph 2, item 8).
In the course of the work of the Commission for amendments to the Animal Protection Act 2015/2016, the Sighthounds Club of Croatia addressed a letter to the Croatian Kennel Club asking the Club to "require the competent Ministry to amend the said Article in such a way that canine sporting activities under the auspices of the Croatian Kennel Club and the FCI are not viewed as dog races that promote betting and ill treatment of dogs''.
Bearing in mind that it is prohibited to organise dog races and that the Sighthounds Club of Croatia organises regular trainings and official events of a canine sport called lure coursing, the Club requested an amendment to the Act so that lure coursing "could be further developed and promoted in Croatia''.
The opinion and proposal of the Association: It is evident from the letter of the Sighthounds Club of Croatia that the legal prohibition of dog races does not apply to this type of canine competitions. In particular, dog races imply races involving several dogs wearing numbers and running a certain distance from point A to point B, regardless of whether such races are organised for commercial purposes (betting, monetary rewards) or just for fun.
Lure coursing does not imply dog races, but a type of dog training similar to other types of agility. This is confirmed by the Sighthounds Club of Croatia itself, which does not support dog races prohibited under the Act and states in its letter: ''lure coursing does not involve dog races" as the performance is judged also on the basis of enthusiasm, intelligence and agility of dogs, while "speed is not crucial".
Therefore, we believe that it is not necessary to amend the said provision of the Act as canine activities related to dog training are neither associated with dog races nor could anyone equate them with dog races.
In case the Commission believes that the Act should make a distinction between dog races and canine competitions for the purpose of dog training, we propose that the current Article 4, paragraph 2, item 8 is not amended and that it continues to read:
"It is prohibited to:
8. organise dog races,"
and to amend paragraph 3 as follows:
"(3) By way of derogation from the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article, the following procedures shall be permitted:
8. canine activities where dogs run and chase an artificial lure across an open natural space (lure coursing)."
Therefore, we believe that it is clear what are dog races and that it is not necessary to amend the provision concerned. However, if it is to be amended for the purpose of further explanation, it is important to define the exemption precisely so as to make it clear that it refers exclusively to lure coursing, and to specify who and how may organise lure coursing events.
Dog races on all types of surfaces have already been prohibited by earlier amendments to the Animal Protection Act because of extreme cruelty associated with such competitions. Let us remember that the prohibition was upheld by leading parliamentary parties and representatives.
The stated reasons for prohibiting dog races were as follows:
- cruelty associated with breeding and keeping dogs in cages to participate in competitions organised solely for the purpose of betting and profit-making;
- diseases: wounds and infections caused by the constant wearing of a muzzle, exposure to extreme weather conditions adverse to the characteristics of the breed (sighthounds have little fat and thin fur), heat strokes and heart attacks, injuries (broken legs);
- administering stimulants to dogs to improve their performance;
- killing dogs in the name of selective breeding, as well as killing injured, slow or old dogs who are no longer profitable;
- short life span because of the conditions to which dogs are exposed;
- race preparations, transport and races themselves where dogs are turned into running machines.
- In the US alone, where the problem of dog races is most pronounced and where such races are prohibited in many states, more than 20 000 dogs are killed each year because they can no longer be used in competitions.
The Commission did not accept the proposal and arguments provided by the Association and stated that other types of canine competitions besides lure coursing may be organised in Croatia in the future and that it would not be desirable to specify only one exemption. It was proposed to introduce a definition of the concept "dog races" to Article 3 of the Act (Definitions) so as to distinguish races from canine competitions.
Proposal of the Association:
"Dog races: commercial or amateur dog races organised for the purpose of profit-making or dogs winning a speed competition".
Explanation: We would like to stress that betting is not the only problem. There is also the possibility of manipulation and using animals in sport competitions where priority is given to speed winning, while the welfare of animals is pushed to the background. When dogs are used for the purpose of achieving the best results, their health and welfare fall to the second place. We believe that the proposed definition would cover both races for profit and for speed (regardless of the absence of monetary rewards), as such races may involve the administration of stimulants, injuries, killing of dogs who do not win and other threats to the health of dogs.
This is the very reason why dog races should remain prohibited, regardless of their purpose. This provision does not cover the running of dogs for recreational purposes, their racing against each other while running, individual dog testing, or canine events such as various types of agility competitions, all of which are in contrast with dog races organised for the purpose of betting and profit-making.
More specifically, dog races may be organised without rewards as the organiser may earn a profit through supporting events or in some other way while the races are held for the purpose of entertaining and attracting visitors. The definition proposed by the Association would prevent such dog races and threats to animal welfare.
In line with the proposed definition, the concept of "dog races" would exclude only canine competitions such as lure coursing and similar competitions for the purpose of training dogs in which speed is not the only criterion, but also important are enthusiasm, intelligence and agility of a dog. We would like to mention the danger that lure coursing and similar competitions may also threaten animal welfare if live bait is used instead of artificial lure, if dogs are administered doping substances or in case of injuries.
On the basis of all of the above, we believe that any organised racing of dogs should remain prohibited so as to prevent misuse of the provision concerned.
The Association submitted the proposal to prohibit dog races on all types of surfaces for the first time in the course of drafting the Animal Protection Act of 2006; the proposal was incorporated by the amendment made at the time of amending the Animal Protection Act in 2013.