In addition to the top award this year going to Lorraine Ramsey, we (The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds) are proposing to award an additional 9 awards. The plan is to hold The Rita Awards on an annual basis, and to annually rotate the location at which they are held around the nation. This year they will be held in August, in sunny Brisbane. Details will be provided closer to the time.
What is the purpose of the Rita Awards?
To give formal recognition to rescue groups and individuals for their exceptionally kind and compassionate, often heart and back breaking work.
To promote community exposure of rescue groups and individuals (since the industry adoption groups monopolize exposure although rescue by far fewer dogs despite generous resources).
To provide monetary support via fund raising efforts associated with the Awards Night.
To educate the public about the trauma, cruelty and horrific treatment suffered by greyhounds in the industry via the rescue stories that we seek submission of.
Build sponsorships for rescue to enhance resources.
Promote networking opportunities.
Strengthen/improve relationships between rescue groups.
Get media attention of (i) the plight of greyhounds in the industry (ii) the extraordinary work done by the rescue groups and individuals.
To help build morale to support the back-breaking and often traumatic, work done by rescuers.
So that a fun night can be had by all.
We are inviting you to participate.
The submissions will be judged by an independent group of people with sound knowledge of the greyhound racing industry in Australia who are also familiar with the rescue of greyhounds.
To be involved, please submit the following to us by Monday 30th April.
In no more than 1000 words, please tell us when and why your rescue group was started. Please include some of the highs and lows and explain what motivates you to keep going.
In no more than 1000 words, please tell us the story of one of your rescues that particularly stands out for you and tell us why you have selected this particular rescue. If possible, please send in a video/photos of the dog.
In no more than 1000 words, please tell us where you stand in relation to the industry. Should greyhound racing in Australia be reformed or banned? Please tell us why you hold the position you do.
Every greyhound has a story, and most rescuers have many. Most are sad stories of exploitation, neglect and abuse, with few having happy endings. Some stories are tales of good and evil, showing us opposing sides of human nature: those who show no remorse, gratitude or care, and those with incredible courage who never give up, demonstrating their strength through actions of boundless love and care. This is such a story.
Lorraine Ramsay had been rescuing greyhounds for five years and rescued a beautiful greyhound Heidi who had been overused for breeding by the greyhound racing industry until she died from internal bleeding. It was confirmed from the vet that Heidi’s blood vessels were so weakened from over-breeding that there was no hope of her ever recovering.
Heidi had a puppy named Rita. Rita had been raced, and upon retirement kept in a kennel with plans that she would also be used for (over)breeding. Lorraine had tried adopting her several times, begging the owner to take her and even offering to pay for Rita. She desperately wanted to save Rita from the fate of her mother.
One day, Rita’s racing owner collapsed at the kennels where Rita was kept for breeding. He had a heart attack and there was no one around to help him. The man was unconscious and Rita left her puppies and stood over him, barking incessantly until someone checked on her alarm. The man was found, an ambulance was called, and this man’s life was saved by this very special greyhound, Rita.
Sadly, the care or concern for a dog who saved his life was never returned. For the next two years, he continued to keep Rita in the kennels and used her for breeding until she was unable to produce any more litters. After he couldn’t make any more money from her – the same man whose life she saved – dumped Rita at the vet for Lorraine. He mentioned that there was a “pink spot” on Rita’s nose that the vet should “look into” (at Lorraine’s expense – not his).
Lorraine was devastated to find Rita with a huge pink cancerous tumor covering half of her nose. That was no pink spot.
It was initially diagnosed as a deadly MAST cell carcinoma. When the vet told Lorraine that the tumor was inoperable due to the lack of margins around it, she was devastated. However, Lorraine did not give up, and set out to try to find a way to save Rita.
Lorraine took Rita to the Small Animal Specialist Hospital in Sydney where she and Rita met a wonderful oncologist who gave her hope. The oncologist said that if they could reduce the size of the tumor to allow margins, it would be operable.
Rita’s treatment cost more than $12,500. Lorraine raised fund for Rita’s surgery through social media. This resulted in a public outpouring of love and money which raised $11,000 for Rita. Lorraine donated $1,500 out of her own pocket to finance the remaining costs.
What followed were all the necessary tests and a full body scan. For several weeks, Rita was treated with prednisone and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. After a few weeks, the oncologist and surgeon agreed that the tumor was small enough to remove! The surgeon explained that he would cut a flap of skin from above her top lip and pull it forward over the tumor site. He explained that there was a risk of the blood supply failing to that flap. Lorraine held her breath and waited.
The “greyt” news is that Rita survived the surgery, and was reported by her carers that she was the perfect patient, endearing herself to everyone she met.
This photo below shows what Rita looked like when Lorraine took her home after the surgery.
After a few days, Lorraine thought the wound had broken open. It looked as though the blood supply in the flap of skin had failed.
However, Rita remained in good spirits and appeared pain free while she was on medication. She had more chemotherapy and after approximately four weeks of ongoing treatment and progress checks both specialists were pleased with her results.
Rita’s surgery was one year ago. Today, Rita is 7 years old and has been cleared of all signs of cancer. She lives with Lorraine and her other rescue greys and rescue cats full-time and is thoroughly enjoying her life as a beloved pet and companion. Lorraine is completely in love with her and cherishes every moment they spend together.
For most of us, it is incomprehensible that anyone could deny an animal much needed vet work. Even more so when that dog has saved that person’s life. Every day, most of us who are involved in – or simply exposed to – the rescue arm of greyhound racing find these scenarios as common as they are disturbing.
The inspiration to take away from this story is that there are people such as Lorraine, offering time, love, and money to save greyhound lives, and that there is a community of people who are enabling Lorraine – and others like her – to do so. People who continue to open their hearts and wallets to help save these beautiful creatures who the racing industry discards like yesterday’s rubbish.
It is Lorraine and people like her (probably you!) we can thank for giving Rita’s story a happy ending.
It is with heartfelt thanks that we celebrate all of you who are working toward a kinder future without greyhound racing.
Victoria Sublette has a PhD in Behavioural Medicine (Health Psychology) from Sydney University’s Medical School. She is a proud member of the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds and hopes that her efforts will allow her to see the end of greyhound racing in her lifetime.
Anyone who has joined a greyhound rescue or anti-racing group knows there are people and groups who post videos and images that are designed to alert, shock, and make the public aware of the cruelty of greyhound racing.
A problematic issue with these kind of efforts towards greater awareness is that most of these posts are preaching to the choir and those of us who are particularly sensitive may become very distressed by the bombardment of negative imagery of animal abuse. Some of us find it unbearable to hear about the horrific death and injury statistics and stories of yet another abusive trainer getting caught live baiting and then let off with a slap on the wrist.
For many of us, this imagery comes with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and distress. I personally have had nightmares from images of abused and emaciated dogs (greyhounds and otherwise) and have developed symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from them. I found that after that initial shock, hearing about any kind of injury or illness of an animal sent me into a tailspin and I would instantly be reduced to tears and feel crippling anxiety and sadness. I like to think of myself as extremely resilient in most circumstances and have overcome much adversity in my life, but when an animal (and a greyhound, in particular) suffers, I feel a vulnerability that not only reminds me of my humanity, but also limits my ability to participate more fully in activism.
Symptoms such as depression, hypersensitivity, withdrawal, and anger can indicate that you are suffering from too much exposure, and are internalising the suffering of the greyhounds you are trying to save and feeling anxiety and despair for the ones you cannot.
Sadly, these feelings of distress often lead us to leaving groups that support the causes we believe are important because we are unable to cope with the imagery on social media. We want to “like” a Facebook page, but when we open Facebook, horrific images appear or videos on autoplay make us shut it down and hide.
Some of our friends – meaning well and wanting to cause the most impact – will post disturbing images that makes us wish to unfriend them. Others may support our causes, but not understand why we feel more trauma or pain than they do, and post unsupportive messages when we do share our feelings.
To help our community of volunteers and activists, I asked those in greyhound rescue groups for some strategies that they find are successful in keeping them motivated and mitigate their distress. I have been given some very helpful ideas – many of which I find work well for me.
6 Strategies for Coping
1. Focus on how far we’ve come
We are often so busy with rescuing greyhounds and so focused on how much remains to be done that we forget to step back for a moment and see how much we have already accomplished.
These events make it evident that awareness of the inherent cruelty of greyhound racing is increasing and the worldwide public is saying “no more”. It’s important that we realise that we are all a part of all of those achievements. We ARE moving forward in banishing greyhound racing to the dark past forever.
2. Take time-outs and breaks from social media or even activism
Everyone needs some time out from the noise and the imagery, and don’t be afraid to set limits on your time and your exposure. Simply tell others, “I’m not able to participate right now”, or “I just need a short time-out right now.”
You shouldn’t need to explain further and others should not be negative toward you setting your boundaries.
Conversely, when someone tells you they need some time out, it’s important to be supportive of their needs.
3. Limit your exposure
If you do have someone on your Facebook feed who posts videos and images you find upsetting, you can take a break from seeing their posts by unfollowing or snoozing them without actually unfriending them. On each message in your feed, in the upper right hand corner of the post there are 3 dots…
If you click those dots, a drop-down menu appears. From here, you can choose to Unfollow the person, or just Snooze them for 30 days. You will remain friends and still be able to go to their page when you wish, but won’t be seeing their posts automatically.
4. Care for yourself
In my post on compassion fatigue, I offered some ways to combat the negative effects of those who are mentally and physically exhausted from their caring roles.
The same applies here: taking time out for exercise, good nutrition, and enjoyable activities can replenish you and give you the energy to continue the good fight.
Remember that even the most modest contribution to ending this hideous industry is meaningful and even the tiniest step is a step in the right direction.
5. Create a support network
Social support is incredibly important for all we do, but especially for those of us who are trying to rescue and save greyhounds while being constantly bombarded by negative information and heartbreaking stories.
Surround yourself with those who have respect for your limits and who are appreciative of your efforts – regardless of the amount of time or energy you are able to devote. Spend time with people who share your passion to make a difference and distance yourself from those who are critical or belittling.
And last but not least…
6. Cuddle your greyhound!
Remember that the strength and energy you put into saving these lazy and lovable creatures matters. Look into a greyhound’s eyes and know that you’ve made a world of difference to them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victoria Sublette has a PhD in Behavioural Medicine (Health Psychology) from Sydney University’s Medical School. Dr Sublette’s interests lie in psychology, health, technology, saving greyhounds, fitness, animal welfare and socialising with interesting people.
The fine print disclaimer: This website is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this site is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional’s advice.
Below please find sample letter for you to send to the Lismore Council councillors who supported an increase in the number of races at the Lismore track
To copy and paste this letter, please print it as a pdf file first. Ideally, you will make your own personal changes for more impact.
Dear Councillors of Lismore,
I am disappointed that you have voted in favour of allowing extra greyhound races at the Lismore greyhound racing track.
At the moment Lismore reports an average of 2 injured greyhounds per race meeting. The injuries range from muscle tears to broken bones, the latter usually resulting in euthanasia as it costs several thousands of dollars to fix fractures.
Compare this to the rest of the state. In the first 6 months of 2017, the NSW quarterly injury reports recorded a total of 1,100 injuries across the state. 184 of those, or 17%, were classified as ‘major injuries’ (those with a standdown period of 21 or more days).
In Lismore, 22 of the 51 injuries (43%) sustained to date this year are major injuries. Injuries sustained at the Lismore track are 2.5 times more likely to be major when compared to the NSW statewide injury statistics.
What is wrong with the Lismore track and why isn’t that being investigated first before a decision is made on whether or not to put more dogs in harm’s way?
I would also like to point out that, as already uncovered in the Special Inquiry into Greyhound Racing last year, post-race vet examinations are not foolproof as they are conducted in a hurry while the dogs are still hyperventilating and amped up on adrenaline, which can mask pain. In Queensland, a greyhound was deemed uninjured but was later found to have a broken hock (ankle) once the trainer returned home.
Given the large number of collisions, heel checks and bumps that result in dogs faltering or stumbling at Lismore track, it is likely that there are even more injuries which go undetected and the track is more dangerous than the above statistics show.
Here are the 4 most recent Lismore stewards reports for your perusal – a quick once-over will show you how dangerous greyhound racing is:
If you care about the way the government spends your tax money and if you oppose animal cruelty, please read this evaluation of the Queensland government’s Queensland Racing Integrity Commission created with 11 million dollars of tax payer money.
In July, 2015, Victorian racing minister Martin Pakula announced an end to the Breeding Incentive Scheme and emphasized animal welfare initiatives including reducing the numbers of greyhound being bred.
In 2016, Greyhound Racing Victoria’s annual report reveals that over 3000 registered greyhounds (more than 8 dogs per day) were killed in 2015-2016 for reasons including “end of career decisions by their owners.”
Greyhounds Australasia estimates include that 7,000 greyhounds per year do not make it to the track (40% of all greyhounds whelped) and leaked information revealed that the industry has been responsible for the deaths of anywhere between 13,000 and 17,000 healthy greyhounds per year.
In April this year, the Industry Consultative Group (ICG) of Greyhound Racing Victoria advised that the introduction of breeding incentive and reward schemes were crucial to restoring industry confidence.
Earlier this month, GRV released a “Proposed Prize Money and Breeders’ Incentives Package” that is intended to be implemented later this year. The proposed package will deliver around $3.1 Million in returns to participants including more money to trainers and payment to breeders.