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Greyhounds still suffering on fourth anniversary of Zigzag kennel closure

Waggileaks | 26.12.2014 09:29 | Animal Liberation | London | World

Despite closing in 2010 the after effects of the notorious Zigzag kennels are still being felt by Greyhounds racing on UK tracks in 2014. It emerges that dogs were bred after the proprietor was banned by the industry and that some Greyhound protection campaigners concealed that fact from the public.

Dogs stranded at Zigzag in 2012
Dogs stranded at Zigzag in 2012

October 2014 marked the fourth anniversary, of what many in the UK Greyhound protection movement, regard as the closure of one of the UK’s largest and most notorious Greyhound breeding establishments. October 2010 saw the 'warning off' of the proprietor of Zigzag kennels, Charles Pickering, by the industry's regulating body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain. Questions still however remain unanswered as to what happened to the 70 plus Greyhounds that lived on those cold fields in 2010 and why the proprietor was allowed to keep stud dogs which produced pups that are risking life and limb on UK tracks right now in 2014.
The Lincolnshire Greyhound breeding establishment, was once well respected kennel and often mooted as the UK's largest.
In 2006 the kennels suffered an horrific fire in which many dogs died. In 2008 the Kennel came under the spotlight again when Times reporter Daniel Foggo revealed that 'slow dogs' were being sold to Liverpool vets school to be destroyed and dissected for research and training, a trade in which Belle vue trainer Nigel Fielding was also implicated
Further investigations by the now defunct Greyhound action and Greytexploitations exposed dogs living in appalling conditions and in pig pens on open fields in sub zero temperatures .
Even members of the pro racing fraternity were appalled by the conditions at the kennels and in October 2010 Charles Pickering was disciplined by the greyhound racing industry's regulatory body, the GBGB (Greyhound board of Great Britain). Pickering was 'warned off' or banned from having any dealings or further participation within the sport, yet the GBGB allowed him to keep some stud dogs and with these dogs he continued to supply the industry with dogs.
It is important to note that Pickering was not warned off because of the appalling conditions the dogs were living in; he was warned off because he had not kept up to date with retirement registrations.
Questions as to what happened to the 70 plus dogs that were observed at Zig zag in 2010 and assertions that dogs remained on site after Pickering’s ‘warning off’ have proved controversial among the Greyhound protection movement and many within it have chosen to perceive debate and enquiry about these issues as a slight against the campaign. The UK greyhound protection campaign was further rocked when it emerged in 2012 that two litters of pups had been sired by long standing Zig zag stud dog Zigzag Stewart.
Zigzag Stewart was a prize winning dog owned by Belle vue' June McComb, in 2005 he won the prestigious Cesarwitch cup and McComb was so exalted by his performance that she branded his winning the trophy as her 'most satisfying moment' during her career.
Despite his owners glowing accolade, Zigzag Stewart was observed living in the kennel’s filthy and cold stud block in February 2012 (18 months after Pickering’s ‘Warning off’) along with four other dogs, both the RSPCA and groups within the Greyhound protection movement failed to act or help in getting these dogs removed to safety. Some within the Greyhound protection movement even chose to suppress the truth by embarking on a campaign of ridicule, smear and intimidation against anyone who dared to question the efficacy of the anti racing campaign’s expose of the kennels. Their harassment campaign included the public disclosure of personal address and identity information and spread across the globe. An advocate in New Zealand recently suggested ‘throwing stones ‘til they go away’ to silence dissent, presumably he was speaking metaphorically but with the extremist links of some within the Greyhound protection movement have who knows? Several ‘hate pages’ were set up on social media sites against people who dared to speak up for the forgotten Zig zag dogs and posts within these pages included threats of violence against them by well known figures within the Greyhound welfare/protection community. Ultimately, the Police took action against a key member of the UK Greyhound protection group Greytexploitations whose actions and incitement had resulted in threats slander and malicious communications by others.
Concerns that dogs were still suffering at Zig zag kennels were first raised in January 2011 when Greyhound protection campaigners were made aware that pups had been observed living in the fields, this evidence was rejected by many campaigners and some even suggested that the pictures had been 'doctored' as part of a conspiracy to damage the Greyhound protection movement. The now defunct Sighthound welfare trust forum refused to post this evidence claiming that it was not ‘positive’. In July 2011 the Greyhound protection campaign group Greytexploitlation went as far as to say the 'No more dogs were suffering at Zig zag'. Greytexploitations claims were backed up by a story in the Daily Express Greytexploitations claims were also endorsed by the Manchester based group Shut down Belle vue, who publicly thanked Greytexploitations for ‘Freeing the Zig zag slaves’. In reality, up until summer 2012 up to 7 dogs were observed living in appalling conditions at the stud block, the building had a leaking roof, an unclose able door and excrement piled up in cages adjacent to where the dogs were being housed. The identity of two of these dogs were established, Zigzag Stewart (mentioned earlier) who was still listed as owned by Belle vue trainer June McCombe and a brindle dog called Yorkshire. It is believed that an elderly black bitch may have been Zig zag Picture a dog who was regularly bred from and one whose photo appeared in Greytexploitations 2010 expose.
According to breeding data within the Greyhound stud book Zigzag Stewart sired two litters during 2011, that we know of, one with a bitch named Low gate lizzie and another with Valentia show.
Of these two broods only pups from those bred with Valentia show were accountable at aged 18 months. In fact these pups proved to be very lucrative for their owners. Redbrick Stuart won an £8000 prize in 2013, under the trainer ship of Charles Lister OBE no less, at Newcastle and Mays Zig zag has also proved to be a promising open racer. Only one of the other pups an A4 bitch named Valentia Lexie, has been recently raced, the remaining pups have been unaccountable since at least March. Redbrick Stuart was reported to have gone lame in March and was thus excluded from the industry’s highlight Derby contest. Out of the litter bred with Low gate Lizzie only one dog has raced, a bitch called Lizzies gamble that is racing at Kinsley. These pups were observed living in the back yard of a trainer in a South Yorkshire town.
Sadly, the whereabouts of Zigzag Stewart is unknown, by now he will be 12 years old and is unlikely to be still alive. In August 2012 connections of people who bred from him in 2011 confirmed that the dog was still at Zig zag but that he was rumored to be infertile due to a urinary tract infection. Inquiries about his whereabouts since that time have met a curtain of silence but there are reports that the McCombs (the dog’s owner) had made a desperate belated attempt to get the dog back home, whether they succeeded is anyone’s guess. The owners of Knock about Wok were successful in getting their dog off site to safety during 2011 so we can only hope the McCombs did the same.
All dogs observed in 2012 have now sadly disappeared along of course with the 70 or so that were present in 2010 and Zig zag kennels are finally free of Greyhounds, so while no more dogs are suffering the closure of this hell hole has been a bitter pill swallowed by those 70 dogs that went missing in 2010 and the handful, including Zigzag Stewart and Yorkshire that disappeared in 2012. Ominously, the old quadrant building which was damaged by fire in 2006 was noted to be in the process of a re build last year.
Without a doubt the story surrounding the disciplinary process of the owner of Zig zag kennels provides one of the greatest indictments against the GBGB, to emerge so far this decade. A clear indication that the Greyhound racing industry cannot be trusted to regulate it’s self. We have here, a case where the GBGB dragged its heels in stopping serious neglect and failed to hand out fitting punishment. Furthermore the GBGB allowed Charles Pickering to keep dogs on site to breed from and some of these pups have raced at the highest level within the sport, i.e. Charles Lister OBE. The Zigzag tragedy also shows that even champion dogs such as Zigzag Stewart are not immune from neglect and indifference. Although the Zig zag tragedy exposes the GBGB for what it is, it in many ways just confirms what we already know about the corrupt self regulated industry that is Greyhound racing. Perhaps a more surprising lesson to be learned is that it has exposed damaging divisions and incompetency within the UK Greyhound protection movement. It has become abundantly evident that many within the Greyhound protection movement have been more interested in protecting the reputation of Greytexploitations than the whereabouts of the 70 missing dogs or looking into evidence of continued breeding at the banned kennels. Calls for an inquiry into the affair have repeatedly fallen on angrily muffled ears. Campaign groups as far as the USA and New Zealand refused to enter into the debate or raise awareness about it. The Greyhound protection league of New Zealand characterized disinterest in the matter by describing the disappearance of 70 dogs and continued breeding at Zigzag as a ‘semi legit ‘ issue. The little know Greyhound Action Scotland even asked for pictures of dogs left stranded at Zig zag in 2011 to be removed from a face book page set up to raise awareness about them. It would seem a matter of mystery to an outsider as to why Greyhound protection groups would not want to raise awareness about this example of shameful mismanagement by the GBGB? A logical reason would seem to be that many within the campaign recognized that gross errors had been made by Greyhound action and Greytexplotations and chose not to rock the boat. Perhaps the 70 dogs and others that went missing later were viewed as collateral damage worth expending by some campaigners? What is clear is that the evidence gathered by Greyhound action/Greytexploitations in 2009/10 was not followed up properly. Greytexploitations have never confirmed whether that they called the RSPCA when the dogs were observed during winter 2009/10. Had they have done so it is unlikely that the charity would have got away with passing the conditions off as acceptable, as they did later in the year, especially if a coherent plan of pressure was exerted on them. The Greyhound protection movement put no representatives forward to attend the GBGB’s disciplinary hearing in October 2010 and members with former racing connections within Greytexploitations influenced the shelving of plans to hold an awareness rally in Dunholme in late 2010. When evidence was presented to Greytexploitations in January 2011 proving that dogs were on site, suggesting that pups were still being bred, Greytexploitations questioned and publicly slated the authenticity of these photographs. Greytexploitations more latterly made the ludicrous suggestion that the pictures of pups taken in Jan 2011 were of pups born in 2009. Greytexploitations also made a claim that inquiry about the whereabouts of dogs in late 2010 scuppered the alleged attempts of a vet to negotiate safe passage for the remaining dogs. A post by Greytexploitations on a social media site claiming that a person whom it is intimated had pro racing sympathies and mental illness scuppered the alleged Vet rescue plan is prima facie evidence of the harassment and slander that some campaigners have resorted to save their skin. This vet has never come forward to confirm his or her story and a post on Greytexploitaions forum from late 2010 proves that those within the controversial campaign group had no idea about the safety or whereabouts of the dogs at that time, which suggests the ‘vet’ story is a confabulation. A recent book which proclaims to be ‘Arguably the most important book ever written about Greyhounds’ made no mention of the GA/GE expose and its author seemed disinterested in when he was informed that Zigzag Stewart had been bred from, the author seemed more interested in the technicalities of ownership of the dog than the appalling conditions he were left standing in. Greytexploitations assertion on July 2011 that ‘No more dogs were suffering’ indicates that either representatives of Greytexploitatons did not look properly at the conditions those dogs were living in among the kennels stud block, or they did not care. Either way not one of the established UK Greyhound protection groups mentioned the forgotten Zigzag dogs on this fourth anniversary. The veil of silence suggests a recognition that mistakes were made and that many people recognize that they were taken in by the lies and smears that discredited anyone who tried to raise awareness about those forgotten dogs and those bred from them.
Although one would hope the fate of these dogs are hanging heavily on their consciences it will remain to be seen if lessons have been learned.

Sadly at time of press is has to be reported that Redbrick Stewart open racer and prize winning , son of Zigzag Stewart born December 2011, failed to finish a race at Sheffield on the 25th of November. The race notes state that he ‘turned in the trap’, an action that can result in serious injury. As the GBGB refuse to publish injury data we will never know if this dog has suffered any long term injuries as a result.

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