Kennel cough cuts Southland field

An outbreak of kennel cough sweeping the country shattered the field at the Southland Greyhound Racing Club meeting at Ascot Park yesterday.

A large number of the listed starters were scratched because of the canine flu, with stipendiary steward Rick Quirk saying 40 dogs had been scratched out of 104 starters.

Breeders across New Zealand were being hit with the kennel cough epidemic and having to pull their dogs out of meetings, he said.

"It has hit Southland quite badly. Our first race of the day only had three starters out of eight. That's something I haven't seen too often," he said.

Kennel cough was very contagious, Mr Quirk said.

"It only takes one dog to come in contact with others or a dog can infect the lure which the other dogs touch."

Kennel cough was part of the racing game with dogs normally catching the flu-like illness each year, Mr Quirk said.

However, last year the outbreak was mild and it appeared this year was twice as bad as a result, he said.

"Once a dog got kennel cough, they built up an immunity so many of the dogs that missed catching the flu last year have caught it this year," Mr Quirk said.

Southland Greyhound Racing Club president Paul Conner said the kennel cough outbreak was one of the biggest the club had seen in a while.

"It is happening across the country and because it is contagious it is hard for any club to escape," he said.

It was part of racing, but the club would be affected with a downturn in turnover and punting was also affected with many of the pools out of play, Mr Conner said.

Leading greyhound trainer John McInerney said he had 20 dogs at yesterday's meeting but had hoped to bring a second van down - almost doubling his number of greyhounds.

"I only brought one vanload of dogs to the Southland meeting because the kennel cough has hit my kennel in Christchurch."

The sick greyhounds were not allowed to race for a minimum of 10 days.

The club was optimistic its next meeting on December 28 would be back to full strength.

The Southland Times