Dog Racing in Macau to End with Closure of ‘Canidrome,’ But Activists Fear Greyhounds’ Fate

Posted on: January 7, 2018, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: January 7, 2018, 12:52h.

The Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome, the only stadium in Asia built for greyhound racing, will close on July 21, owner Angela Leong confirmed last week.

Macau Canidrome closing
The Macau Canidrome will close its gates for good in July, but the fate of more than 600 dogs that still live there has become an international concern. (Image: Chinese Wikipedia)

The closure will mark the end of dog racing as a gambling sport in Macau. Leong, who wants to use the building for a greyhound museum to commemorate an 80-year history for the breed in Macau, said no decision about what to do with the more than 600 dogs who live at the track, and that has animal rights activists concerned.

Macau Greyhounds and Animal Rights

Closing the Canidrome, which opened in 1963, follows several years of pressure from the activists and public on the Macau government to step in on behalf of the dogs’ welfare.

In 2013, Australia stopped supplying greyhounds to the Canidrome after videos surfaced showing race dogs living in deplorable conditions and suffering mistreatment.

In July 2017, the Macau government ordered the track to relocate or close down, and gave a July 2018 deadline.

Last month, the Society for the Protection of Animals (Anima) raised concerns over a lack of progress finding adoptive homes for the dogs, as ordered by the government, despite more than 300 adoption petitions being submitted.

Anima has petitioned Macau officials for the right to manage the adoption process, but without approval is not legally allowed to participate in rehoming efforts.

Anima President Albano Martins told the Macau News Agency that if nothing is done, the dogs “will finish on a table.”

According to the Asia Times, Leong has tried to reassure the public, “I would take care of them all,” which provided some comfort that financial resources were available.

Leong, 56, is the fourth wife of Chinese casino billionaire Stanley Ho and executive director of the Canidrome. In 2017 she won her fourth 4-year term as a member of Macau’s Legislative Council. She’s the largest shareholder and managing director of Ho’s SJM Holdings, with an estimated net worth of $4.1 billion.

International Rescue Effort

The fate of the Canidrome dogs has attracted worldwide attention. French actress Brigitte Bardot has made saving the Macau greyhounds her cause célèbre. In December, Brian May and Roger Taylor of the British rock band Queen sent a letter to Macau government officials about “the cruelest greyhound track in existence” and urged the government to take over the facility and put the dogs up for adoption.

“The current cycle of suffering and death that is happening at the Canidrome of Macau goes against our shared values,” May and Taylor’s letter said. “You have a once in a lifetime opportunity to end this suffering and set a positive example for the entire world.”

The letter also asked the local government not to allow the dogs to be exported to other Asian nations, due to fears that the animals could either be used for illegal races or consumed as food.

According to the Asia Times, an unidentified association has launched a campaign to raise €5 million ($6 million) to transport the dogs to Portugal, where they will coordinate an adoption program to find the animals permanent, loving homes.