By Jordan Gerrans
Leah Handy’s life is dedicated to animals.
And, these days, specifically, it is the greyhound that the animal lover has focussed all her energies on.
After almost two decades working for the RSPCA, Handy is now the operations manager for the Greyhound Adoption Program in Queensland.
She does not just run the programs in the Sunshine State, she literally lives and breathes it – alongside her family.
Handy lives on-site at the GAP facility in Churchable, being available at all hours to tend to a greyhound if required.
“It has been my life,” she said.
GAP Queensland will host the 2021 GAP Greyhound National Adoption and Open Day this Sunday at its South East Queensland GAP facility at Churchable.
Handy cannot wait to show off the retired race dogs they have at the facility, declaring they make great pets for families.
As well as working at the RSPCA and GAP across her career, Handy also taught animal studies at TAFE and is bringing all that experience into the racing industry now.
“It is a really fun way to raise a family,” Handy said.
“My girls meet different dogs all the time, the greyhounds are then getting used to being around new and different people through my daughters, as well.
“It is my role to keep the program running, alongside the vet staff and all the rest of our staff, including people that work in assessments and adoptions.”
Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club chief executive Luke Gatehouse believes GAP is a key part of the racing industry and is vital going forward.
“It is really important for the industry in terms of our sustainability that we have options like GAP for the greyhounds at the end of their racing careers,” Gatehouse said.
“Many trainers keep greyhounds as pets themselves when they come to an end for racing, but we do have lots of dogs that live happily with their new owners once they go through the GAP program.
“It is an integral part of our operation.”
Gatehouse thinks there has been a significant growth in the adoption space around Brisbane over the last few years and the work GAP does just reinforces the animal welfare agenda that the racing industry needs to focus on.
The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission and GAP are throwing open its doors to show off their facility - including the GAP learning space, veterinary surgery, the kennels, and the free run space on Sunday.
The GAP team will be available to answer questions about the adoption and foster process, general greyhound behaviour and their medical needs.
Acting Racing Integrity Commissioner Mark Ainsworth said Greyhound National Adoption Day is a great opportunity for attendees who have a pre approved adoption application to meet and adopt a greyhound on the day.
“This year we have asked potential new owners to pre-register their details and on Sunday they will have the chance to meet the GAP staff, tour the facility and receive individual attention as they adopt their greyhound,” Ainsworth said.
“When matching our greyhounds, the team considers several factors including a family’s lifestyle, regular activities, children, other pets and the home environment.”
According to Handy, GAP and the racing industry work hand in hand to find retired greyhounds retirement homes.
“The racing industry, the trainers and the owners, they retire dogs to us,” Handy said.
“We take on dogs who have had a racing career and it isn’t for them anymore, or even dogs that never make it to the track - they retire to us.
“We put them through an assessment process and then find them families from there.”
GAP’s large and spacious Churchable facility is a perfect place for dogs to transition from the racetrack at Albion Park or Ipswich to a family’s backyard, Handy says.
“It is amazing, it is really good, we can do a lot more behaviour modification programs with the dogs, we have got the space to keep them and help them,” Handy said.
“It can be quite stressful moving from a race dog to a pet, there are certain things we need to expose them to that they would not normally see as a race dog.
“It is great to have an amazing facility here to work with.”
Sunshine Coast trainer Travis Elson and North Queensland-based Jo Wooler are two of the major trainers who utilise GAP for their retired greyhounds, with both winning the coveted Queensland Racing Integrity Commission Welfare Award at the TAB Queensland Greyhound Awards in recent years.
Handy says many trainers stay in close contact with the families that take on their retired greyhounds, with the former trainers keen to know how they are transition to life after racing.
Adoption Day is part of National Greyhound Adoption month, where throughout the month of April GAP programs around the country promote the benefits of owning a greyhound.
To keep everyone COVID safe on Sunday, tours of the GAP facility must be pre-booked.
Click here to make a tour booking.
For more information, contact the GAP team on 1300 087 021 or visit their website to find your greyhound.