THE greyhound racing industry put on a united front last night after allegations that up to 10,000 retired dogs were killed and dumped in the North-East.
Leading trainers from the region said they were horrified by allegations that builders' merchant David Smith used a bolt gun to kill thousands of unwanted dogs for £10 a time.
Meanwhile, investigators from the National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC) arrived in the region hoping to examine the plot of land outside Mr Smith's home in Seaham, east Durham, where the animals are said to have been buried.
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More than 20 trainers based at Sunderland's Regal Greyhound Stadium and Newcastle's Brough Park issued a joint statement saying that none of them had been aware of what went on at Mr Smith's home until details appeared in a Sunday newspaper.
Spokesman Andrew Bell, a trainer at Brough Park, said: "We are as horrified as the public by the revelations that have been reported in the past few days.
"We are angry that the fashion in which it has been reported makes us all look guilty of this horrific activity and we are further aware that members of the public have made the assumption that this is the norm with retired greyhounds - this is not normal."
Mr Bell conceded that trainers did not always know what owners did with their dogs once they retired from racing, but said he found the suggestion that 10,000 dogs were buried on Mr Smith's land impossible to believe.
Chief executive Alistair McLean said: "They have visited the property and have been speaking to the local council about the possibility of gaining access to the land involved.
The club has established a confidential hotline - 0870 6260721 - for information about any licensed trainer or registered owner involved in the disposal of greyhounds by Mr Smith.
More of the dark side of greyhound racing emerged last night - the use of drugs to fix races.
The NGRC confirmed that in September, the greyhound Dark Ranger tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, after finishing third in a race at Pelaw Grange track, Chester-le-Street.
In November, the dog's trainer and owner were each fined £1,000 and disqualified from the sport.