ITV Meridian's Penny Silvester visits Oxford stadium ahead of the return of greyhound racing
Greyhound racing will return to Oxford on Friday (2 September) despite opposition from animal rights campaigners and local residents.
A petition calling for the sport to be banned in the city has been signed by more than 3,000 people.
But greyhound owners and trainers say the welfare of their dogs is at the heart of everything they do, and the animals were born to run.
The first meeting was delayed for a week until a racing licence for Oxford stadium was approved.
Chris Jarvis, leader of the Green Party Group on Oxford City Council, said it is a barbaric practice and there is no place for greyhound racing in the 21st century.
He said: "No matter what precautions are put in place, the dogs involved are having their welfare and their lives put at risk for the purpose of entertainment.
"That is wrong, and this practice should be consigned to the history books - as other sports like fox hunting already have been."
The last greyhound meeting at the Oxford Stadium was staged more than a decade ago.
New owners have spent more than £1 million on upgrading and improving facilities.
The return of dog racing has upset some local residents, who say the sport is cruel, and the stadium should have been earmarked for other community uses.
But dog owners and trainers say the way greyhounds are looked after during their racing careers and when they retire has changed radically over the past decade.
Trainer Chris Hamblin says the welfare side of the sport is massive: "It's come on leaps and bounds with the re-homing, he said.
"The care, welfare and the after-racing life for the greyhounds has gone up many notches. It's at the forefront of everything we do."
Race meetings at Oxford will follow the Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s strict ‘Rules of Racing’ regulations.
The organisation maintains that welfare is paramount within licensed greyhound racing and everyone across the sport is committed to optimising the care greyhounds receive throughout their lives.
It points to several initiatives it has launched in recent years including the Greyhound Retirement Scheme and Injury Recovery Scheme.
Awarding the Oxford Stadium a greyhound licence, Paul Illingworth, Senior stipendiary steward for the GBGB said: "We've been here regularly in recent weeks looking at the to assess the facilities and equipment.
"You can definitely see where the money has gone.
"A lot of work has been done in the kennels and we have a lot of checks and balances in place to safeguard the welfare of the greyhounds."