Macau Canidrome or greyhound racing venue is due to shut in July. Photo: Google Maps

Over 600 greyhounds are facing an uncertain future in Macau with the city’s racing venue due to shut after summer – in seven months time.

The Macau Canidrome, the only greyhound-racing venue in Asia, is due to close on July 21, closing the door on a gambling sport that started over 80 years ago.

Located in the northwestern part of the Macau Peninsula, the venue is due to be returned to the Macau government, which is looking to put the site to better use.

Angela Leong On-kei, a legislator who is also the acting chairwoman of Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome Club, has been lobbying for a greyhound museum to be set up. But whatever happens, about 650 greyhounds will soon be out of work.

Handling the Macau greyhounds, which take part in 12 races a night – every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday – could be costly. There are worries that the dogs are more likely to be killed rather than adopted or exported.

Musicians voice concern, adoption plan urged

Albano Martins, chairman of the Anima Society for the Protection of Animals in Macau, said a global adoption plan would be the best and only option for the greyhounds given only seven homes volunteered to adopt one of the dogs in the former Portuguese enclave.

Transporting greyhounds is a problem. Australia, which used to provide the racing dogs to Macau, banned the export of greyhounds without a passport to Macau in 2013. Qantas and Cathay Pacific have also refused to take racing greyhounds on their flights.

Concern about the dogs’ well-being even prompted Roger Taylor and Brian May – two members of the British rock band Queen – to urge the chief executive in Macau last month to transfer the dogs to an animal welfare group until families can be found to adopt the dogs. The musicians noted in their letter that the Canidrome has “a reputation of being the cruellist greyhound track in existence”.

Recently there have been rumors suggesting that some greyhounds were slaughtered or eaten, but Leong dismissed that yesterday as a smear. She said she could have proposed to her friends that they should help by adopting them on a “one man, one dog” basis – saying that would get a hot response.

Meanwhile, she said someone had written to get an animal group, which allegedly planned to raise 5 million euros to shift all the dogs to Portugal for a permanent home.

Casino tycoon could come to rescue

In the end it may not matter – because Leong is the fourth wife of casino king Stanley Ho Hung-sun, who is one of Hong Kong’s richest men. And she assured that if there were no other solutions, “I would take care of them all.”

The Canidrome was part of Macau people’s collective memory, she said. A Chinese businessman brought the dog-racing concept from Shanghai in 1932, but it only lasted for five years. It was not until 1963 that the Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome resumed business under tycoon Ho Yin. Then, in 1983, the operating company was sold to Stanley Ho’s private company STDM after Ho Yin died.

But betting on dogs is no longer a hot sport in the casino city. In fact, it is one of the few forms of gambling in which the house has actually lost.

Still, the fate of the greyhounds is all that matters. So, watch this space.