Numerous inquiries into greyhound racing have highlighted the serious failure of self-regulation in the greyhound racing industry. When the duty of regulation falls upon an organisation that is also responsible for marketing and promoting the industry, there is an obvious conflict of interest – and greyhounds pay the price. Here are three tails that showcase this failure perfectly.
Tail 1: Queensland (2015)
Greyhound’s name: Outa Change
Trainer’s name: John White
Regulator failure: Racing Queensland and Queensland Racing Disciplinary Board
What happened to Outa Change?
- 19 Sep 2015: Outa Change injures her tail when it gets caught in the running rail of the lure. A section of her tail is degloved and partially severed. This section is amputated by her trainer, John White.
- 23 Sep 2015: Racing Queensland integrity officers inspect Outa Change at John White’s kennel and issue a directive to take Outa Change to a vet.
When questioned regarding his failure to seek any veterinary attention to the greyhound John White stated that in his opinion such action was not warranted.
Source: Steward’s report
- 6 Nov 2015: John White pleads guilty to a charge of not providing Outa Change with veterinary attention when necessary. Racing Queensland sentences him to a 6-month disqualification.
- 17 Nov 2015: Outa Change is scratched from her final listed race at Ipswich for being seasonal. She is now listed as retired but is not registered for breeding, nor has she any litters to her name.
- 10 Dec 2015: John White appeals to the Queensland Racing Disciplinary Board, saying he did not take Outa Change to a vet because of “his experience in the industry and his association with greyhounds and sheep with respect to tail injuries”. He was comfortable that amputating the dog’s tail and then spraying it with iodine was the correct way to treat her injury.
- The board is sympathetic to John White. Their report notes, “it is unfortunate that he has been…ostracised from the greyhound industry for a period of more than one month.”
- The Queensland Racing Disciplinary Board withdraws John White’s disqualification and downgrades it to a suspension for time already served, allowing John White to resume training immediately.
What is the law in Queensland?
In Queensland, it is an offence under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 to dock a dog’s tail. Any non-veterinarian who docks a dog’s tail…is liable for prosecution. A conviction carries a maximum penalty of $11,780 for individuals.
Source: Queensland Government
Racing Queensland noted in their initial report that they intended to report this case to the RSPCA. It is unknown whether they ever did so, especially after their sentence was knocked over upon appeal.
Tail 2: New South Wales (2016)
Greyhound’s name: Wilby Mighty
Trainer’s name: Gareth Miggins
Regulator failure: Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW)
What happened to Wilby Mighty?
- 17 Dec 2014: Wilby Mighty injures his tail during Race 3 at Richmond when he collides with the running rail. The steward, an ex-police officer named Norm Becroft, directs his trainer Gareth Miggins to take him to the track vet for examination after the race.
“…I could see that the tail was broken and bent at an extreme angle approximately 9cm from the tip of the tail. I could see flesh and bone at this time.”
The track vet, Dr. Greg Bryant, examines the tail, bandages it and advises Gareth Miggins that Wilby Mighty needs to be taken to a vet ASAP due to the severity of the injury. Gareth Miggins displays a reluctance to bring Wilby Mighty to a vet that night. He questions Dr. Bryant on how much vet treatment will cost and Norm Becroft on whether GRNSW will pay for Wilby Mighty’s operation.
Later that night, 9cm of Wilby Mighty’s tail was found near the track (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE). The tendrils of nerves, tendon and ligaments protruding unevenly from the tail suggest that it was ripped off, not cleanly severed.
“The sinew or nerve appeared to be approximately 30cm long. The flesh and bone protruding from the end appeared red and was warm to the touch. From my experience in attending crime scenes for over 16 years as a NSW police officer I formed the opinion that the piece of tail was extremely fresh and literally had only recently been severed.”
- 19 Dec 2014: Wilby Mighty is flown back to Queensland in spite of his severe injury.
- 20 Mar 2015: GRNSW issues charges to Gareth Miggins for (1) ripping Wilby Mighty’s tail off which is negligent and constitutes misconduct; (2) not providing Wilby Mighty with veterinary attention when necessary; (3) failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering; and (4) making a false statement to a GRNSW compliance officer that he did not rip the tail off Wilby Mighty.
- 16 May 2015: Wilby Mighty runs his last race at the Bundaberg track in Queensland.
- 25 May 2015: Wilby Mighty is euthanised.
- 7 Aug 2015: In an email, the then-Chief Steward of GRNSW confirms that the panel believes “Mr Miggins is responsible for this heinous act and should be punished accordingly.”
- 21 Nov 2016: Gareth Miggins is cleared by GRNSW. Amazingly, GRNSW rules that Wilby Mighty’s tail must have been severed during the race when he sustained the injury – completely ignoring photographic evidence and the statements from the track vet and steward that the tail was broken but intact after the race.
All charges against Gareth Miggins are dropped except the charge of not providing Wilby Mighty with vet care, for which he is fined $2,000 ($1,000 of which is suspended for 12 months).
What is the law in New South Wales?
It is an offence in New South Wales under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to dock the tail of a dog. Any non-veterinarian who docks a tail is liable for prosecution. The maximum penalty for individuals convicted of this offence is $5,500 or imprisonment for six months or both.
- Feb 2013: Gareth Miggins was given a 12-month suspension after presenting Sheza Piranha with amphetamines in her system. In Jun 2013, this was downgraded to a 4-month suspension and backdated to February so he could return to racing straightaway.
Sheza Piranha was injured in her last race on 10 May 2014 with muscle strain. She is now listed as retired.
- May 2014: Gareth Miggins was fined $500 ($300 suspended) for using offensive language on 30 Apr 2014 when an embargo was placed on one of his dogs, Rontagonal, by racing officials.
Rontagonal last raced on 4 Jun 2014, where he was suspended for 28 days for marring. He never raced again and is now listed as retired.
- Jul 2015: Gareth Miggins found guilty of doping again and fined $3,000 after he presented Wildash Wildfire with hydrocortisone in her system on 18 Mar 2015.
Wildash Wildfire was scratched from her last listed race (11 Oct 2016) due to having an injured off side hip support. She is still listed as racing.
In this article about GRNSW finding him not guilty of ripping off Wilby Mighty’s tail, Gareth Miggins calls himself “a gentle giant”. Considering his official record in QLD and NSW, we beg to differ.
Tail 3: Victoria (2017)
Greyhound’s name: Super Ballotelli
Trainer’s name: Jason Formosa
Regulator failure: Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) and Racing Appeals & Disciplinary Board (RADB)
What happened to Super Ballotelli?
- 19 Jun 2015: Jason Formosa is fined $1,000 ($600 of which is suspended) for having kennels in “unsatisfactory conditions” during an inspection on 17 Feb 2015.
- 6 Jul 2015: Stewards pull up Jason Formosa on the number of times Super Ballotelli was being raced, as he had raced every two to three days in the lead-up to that race meeting. Formosa dismisses stewards’ concerns. During the race, Super Ballotelli begins slowly and collides several times with another dog.
- 29 Jul 2015: The Bendigo track vet, Dr. Chi Wai Wong, conducts a pre-race examination after blood was noticed dripping through a bandage on Super Ballotelli’s tail. Dr. Wong removes the bandage and finds that his tail is fractured and partially severed. Handler Jordan Formosa claims he was not aware of the injury.
Dr. Wong applies a compression bandage and tells Jordan Formosa to get Super Ballotelli vet care. Jordan Formosa claims he was told to treat the tail, but does not recall being told to take him to a veterinary surgeon.
- 30 Jul 2015 (or thereabouts): Jason Formosa amputates part of Super Ballotelli’s tail with a surgical blade without any anaesthetic or pain relief and left the wound open. He sprays it with ‘True Blue’ antiseptic.
“The amputation performed by Mr. Jason Formosa to have been inappropriate and that the way it was done would have caused infection and pain. Treatment of the wound using ‘True Blue’ was inappropriate, ineffective and harmful to the health of the tail…it would not have cleaned away contamination or prevented infection.”
- 3 Sep 2015: Super Ballotelli is brought to a race track for the 4th time since Jason Formosa cut off his tail. The track vet has to tape his tail because it is bleeding.
“The sporadic bleeding between 29 July 2015 and 16 September showed that the healing of the distal end of the tail was not satisfactory. The tail was healing with fragile granulation tissue and no tissue pad forming…this clinical condition would have caused pain and suffering.”
- 11 Sep 2015: Jordan Formosa gallops Super Ballotelli.
- 12 Sep 2015: Super Ballotelli’s tail is bandaged more tightly than normal. The bandage used is not fresh.
“That overly tight bandage…would have assisted to cause necrosis of affected tissue, together with infection. This would have been compounded by an overly tight bandage being on since 11 September 2015 and not being changed despite a hydrobath on 12 September 2015.”
- 16 Sep 2015: Super Ballotelli is presented to race. The track vet, Dr. James Chadwick, unwraps his tail bandage during a pre-race examination. He finds the tail is painful and the detached 5cm of tail is “undergoing gangrenous necrosis due to a combination of infections and a lack of blood supply due to tape”.
“If the infections continued without treatment it may have been life threatening.”
Super Ballotelli is taken that night to have the necrotic section of his tail amputated – this time by a real vet.
- 17 Nov 2015: Super Ballotelli is scratched from his last listed race. No reason is provided. He is now listed as retired.
- 26 Feb 2016: Jason Formosa is awarded 2015 Trainer of the Year at the Shepparton Greyhound Club even though he had dodgy kennels and cut off a dog’s tail with no pain relief in the same year.
On a side note, Racing and Wagering WA must be relieved to know they are not the only ones who look ridiculous for naming a confirmed greyhound abuser Trainer of the Year.
- 19 Jan 2017: Jason Formosa faces the RADB, charged with (1) failing to provide Super Ballotelli with veterinary attention; (2) failure to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering; and (3) doing something that is negligent, improper or constitutes misconduct. Jason Formosa pleads guilty to the first charge on the basis of the withdrawal of the other charges.
Unbelievably, instead of being tough on someone who admits to chopping off a dog’s tail without pain relief, continuing to race him and leaving him in pain for months until he almost died, the RADB tamely agrees to drop charges (2) and (3) and sentences Jason Formosa to just a $5,000 fine. RADB also issues a 6-month disqualification, but fully suspends it for 24 months out of consideration for “Mr. Formosa’s personal circumstances”.
To really drive home their reluctance to disqualify Jason Formosa, RADB includes this note in their report:
“We note that had charges 2 and 3 been pursued and resulted in a finding of guilty a more substantial period of disqualification would have been considered by the Board, given that the effect of pain and suffering to the greyhound would have been considered more acutely.”
What is the law in Victoria?
Tail docking…can only be carried out in Victoria by a registered veterinary practitioner for therapeutic reasons (for the health or welfare of the animal). Upon being found guilty, fines of up to 246 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment apply if a person (other than a vet) conducts a prohibited procedure on an animal.
Source: Victoria State Government
Given that Jason Formosa has admitted to amputating Super Ballotelli’s tail himself and he is not a veterinarian, it is clear that he is guilty of breaking the law. Is GRV or RADB going to report this so he can face criminal prosecution?
Nothing has changed.
In spite of reassurances from regulators and state government racing ministers that the greyhound racing industry is cleaning up its act, making great progress in improving animal welfare and throwing the ‘bad apples’ out, it is abundantly clear that this is still a self-regulated industry that protects its own. To reiterate:
- In 2015, QLD’s John White cuts off a dog’s tail and has his disqualification sentence downgraded to nothing more than suspension for time already served.
- In 2016, GRNSW ignores evidence that Wilby Mighty’s tail was still intact (though broken) after his race ended and even concludes that it must have somehow fallen off during the race despite their own photo showing the tail still intact.
- In 2017, Jason Formosa is allowed to set the conditions of his own sentencing when it comes to what crimes he will and will not be punished for – even though RADB itself acknowledges the dropped charges are very serious ones.
For some time after the Four Corners live baiting expose in Feb 2015, many people harboured hope that the industry truly would get its act together for the sake of the greyhounds. But given how regulators in three states have essentially allowed industry participants to get away with DIY (lack of) vet treatment between 2015 – 2017, there is very little hope for true integrity and justice. It would seem that greyhound racing truly cannot reform.
Join us in our nation-wide rally to Shut It Down on April 9. Nothing has changed; the only way to protect the greyhounds is to end greyhound racing.