Decades spent helping greyhounds

By Steph McNicol

Larissa Darragh has worked at the Greyhound Adoption Program – part of Greyhound Racing Victoria – in Seymour for more than two decades.

As adoption manager, she has seen many changes in greyhound regulations and an increase of adoptions during her time – now close to 2000 annually.

“We didn’t have a property when we started,” she said.

“Having three facilities now means we can have a lot more dogs, and we have about 240 dogs in our care at the moment.”

Ms Darragh said the greyhounds that came to her hadn’t always raced, but have undergone some form of training.

Greyhound Adoption Program adoption manager Larissa Darragh is working alongside Trevor, the four-year-old office dog at their facility in Seymour.

“They’ve all been bred for racing, so they’ve all got some sort of preparation for it. Probably about half of the dogs that come in have had a racing career,” she said.

In 2016 former NSW premier Mike Baird announced a ban on the greyhound racing industry in that state after reports of animal cruelty – three months later it was overturned.

“The industry had to make a lot of changes and they had to tighten up on a lot of regulations,” she said.

“It’s very difficult for participants to euthanize a dog. They have to demonstrate that they have made numerous rehoming attempts, maybe through an organization like us or one of the other rehoming programs.”

Finding loving homes

Since it’s opening in 1996, the program has aimed to find loving homes for retired greyhounds once they pass an assessment to make sure they are safe in a home environment.

“The aim is always to fit the right dog in the right home,” she said.  

“Probably the biggest thing with greyhounds is they have been bred for thousands of years to have a high prey drive – the desire to chase things. They’re generally not an aggressive breed but they will chase anything that moves.

“But they’re really adaptable. They’re used to being carted around in cars and they’re generally really easy to handle.”

She said extensive training could prepare the retired greyhounds to family life.

“All of our greyhounds are tested with small dogs, to make sure they’re social before we re-home them. The dogs that aren’t, we do a lot more work with,” she said.

“Some greyhounds initially can be really confused by a little dog, because they’ve just never seen anything other than a greyhound.

“So they see this little thing and they honestly don’t know what it is. It’ll take them a bit of time to realize that it is just a dog.”

Ms Darragh – who owns greyhounds herself – said the breed was generally not challenging.

“If people are looking for a placid, low energy, easy going dog greyhounds are great for that. They’re no good as a guard dog,” she said.

“They’re generally not the sort of dog to chase the ball in the backyard.”

Every six weeks or so the program hosts adoption days at the Seymour facility.

“Some people love this adoption event. They have, I guess, a festival sort of feel to them,” she said.

“You can just come over, take your time, hang out with a few dogs and see which the best fit is for you.

“Our adoption fee is really cheap, it’s $75. All of our dogs are de-sexed, vaccinated, microchipped and they come with a lead, collar and a coat.”

The Seymour facility welcomes its visitors with their office dog Trevor, who needs continuous care from the staff.

“We’ve had a few office dogs and when we lost our last boy, we started thinking about another one. Trevor had a few health issues, he was adoptable but it meant that he was going to require ongoing maintenance,” she said.

Poppy and Lulu make friends with Greyhound Adoption Program’s friend Buddy.

“We have a vet onsite which means we can deal with all of his health issues.

“Trevor also does nursing home visits down in Seymour – apparently he’s a big hit.”

The program is always looking for volunteers, offering a variety of programs depending on volunteer’s availability.

“We always need volunteers. We have what we call our enrichment volunteers, so they do fun stuff with the dogs, like making treats for them that they can play with and destroy. They take them for walks, teach them stuff like walking up and down the stairs,” she said.

“We have foster carers that work with the dogs who need a bit more time before they’re ready for adoption.”

“We have our community engagement volunteers who help us set up all of our events and help out with promotions. We have volunteers who just come up once a month on a Saturday, it’s really completely up to the volunteer how much they want to do.”

For more information visit www.gap.grv.org.au or call 5799 0166.

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