There was a happy ending to a court case which Stratford-upon-Avon District Council brought against Stephen Hitchman and his retired Greyhounds.

Mr Hitchman, from Welford-on-Avon, faced having to destroy three of his nine retired Greyhounds after the council claimed he required permission to use his property as a boarding kennel for housing more than six dogs. His neighbours had also complained.

Mr Hitchman, who owns Greyhounds in training, bought the Warwickshire smallholding in June 1995 in order to give his own Greyhounds “an honourable retirement” after their racing careers had ended.

The average age of Mr Hitchman’s Greyhounds is nine years and he has owned them since they were brought over from Ireland at 14 months old.

The life expectancy of a Greyhound is around 10 years. The judge ruled that destroying three of the dogs would constitute a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Instead it was ruled that Mr Hitchman should naturally reduce the number of dogs at his property by not replacing those which die in the future.

Mr Hitchman, who also has cattle on his property, keeps three greyhounds in his house, while the remaining six live outdoors in heated kennels. All the dogs have the run of their own paddocks.

In the past some of Mr Hitchman’s dogs have rested at his property whilst recovering from injury before returning to the track.

Mr Hitchman describes retired Greyhounds as “very gentle, loving and good with children of all ages”, and says they are recognised as making good pets which are easy to care for.

Mr Hitchman, who says he is “over the moon” with the verdict, had spoken before the court case with actress Annette Crosbie, renowned for championing the cause of retired Greyhounds. She was present at court to provide what Mr Hitchman describes as “moral support”.