Making Monsters of Men

By Melanie Yarnall

This article is dedicated to Fabio (Extra Tacky) who ran his last race on the 8 March 2017. He sustained a right hind leg fracture and was humanely euthanised by the on-track veterinarian. He was due to arrive in foster the care the very next day, but sadly he did not make it. His foster mum was devastated. Fly to the rainbow bridge sweet boy.

The gambling on greyhound racing tracks is not just made by punters on the sidelines. Every greyhound entering a race meet, is gambling with their life. However, their only danger is not just on the track, but in the hands of the trainers who supposedly care for them daily.

We all saw the footage of the live baiting of greyhounds in the eastern states aired on Four Corners in February 2015. At the time, it was described by one informant that placing animals, gambling and prize purses was a toxic combination capable of turning men into monsters.[1]

In January 2017, most of us saw the footage of the South Australian trainer, Tony Rasmussen sexually stimulating his greyhound to impact on performance before the race. He received a fine of $1,000 (with $250 suspended for a period of 24 months on the condition he does not reoffend), and this was not his first integrity investigation. Note: Rasmussen is not an outcast or shunned ‘bad apple’ of the industry. He is the Strathalbyn greyhound racing club president.

The gruesome underbelly of the greyhound racing industry extends into every Australian state and territory. Trainers inevitably exploit animals, and lay their integrity on the line to possess a fast runner and make a quick buck at any cost.

In a West Australian context, in the last twelve months several integrity investigations have been launched examining the conduct of greyhound trainers, many resulting in significant penalties being sanctioned.

The greyhound racing industry in Western Australia generates little economic benefit to the state whilst receiving comparatively exorbitant amounts of financial support from the Government. In 2015, $15.8 million dollars of government money was given to the WA Greyhound Racing Industry.[2] In the same year 527 greyhound died.[3] In 2016, this amount increased by 8% to $17.2 million.[4] In the same year, 371 racing greyhounds were euthanised. It was deemed that 96 were not fit for racing, 88 were unfit for rehoming, and 187 were euthanised due to on track injuries.[5]

Getting an accurate picture of the greyhound racing industry is difficult and has been stymied whenever questions are asked of Racing and Wagering in WA. The responses have included that there is a lack of data available or that information is not able to be provided within a particular timeframe.[6] What is concerning is the consistent total disregard by governments about animal welfare concerns raised of the industry, and the downplaying of the need for further investigation.

The true nature of the West Australian greyhound racing industry began to unravel when Tony Glenny became a whistle-blower in 2015 in the wake of the Four Corners documentary, and then changed his mind. Glenny had been involved in the industry for over 45 years and convicted of several misconduct offences including live baiting and failing to cooperate with racing officials.[7]  RWWA made an example of his lack of cooperation and stated at the time that his refusal to answer questions strikes at the heart of proper controls and regulation of the industry.[8] As Lynn McLaren stated, that was more indicative of the entire industry and the government, rather than solely of Glenny himself.[9]

The allegations of live baiting raised many questions about the conduct of WA trainers and the industry. A tokenistic investigation was launched, however WA’s peak animal welfare body, RSPCA WA was pushed to the sidelines by RWWA. [10]  No written report of the findings were ever published. And  the Racing Minister at the time, Colin Holt stated that a report was not required.[11]

The lack of transparency and accountability by the government and peak racing body is an impediment to any objective review of animal welfare impacts within the greyhound racing industry. However, the story can be illustrated using the outcomes from integrity investigations to demonstrate to breadth of cruelty and exploitation which is endemic within the greyhound racing industry within WA (and indeed around the nation).

The WA Racing Industry is relatively small in comparison to other states; however, the lack of integrity and disqualifications is by no means minor. Reviewing integrity investigations in WA for the last 12 months has indicated that trainers have been investigated for violence towards greyhounds, needlessly killing them, possession of banned substances, positive drug testing of banned substance by their greyhounds, and failure to comply with regulations.

The motivating factor in writing this paper has been the need to focus on the lack of ethics and integrity within the industry, in conjunction with the fatality and injury rate of the innocent participants, the greyhounds.

The death and injury rates speak for themselves, sadly a little too late for the thousands of greyhounds who have died as a consequence of their trainers’ pursuit of a quick buck. In 2017 by 11 March, 14 greyhounds had lost their lives on the track, mostly due to fractures. Such injuries are entirely treatable and the greyhound could be retired to become a companion animal. The only obstacle to such an outcome are the trainers since they do not want to spend money on veterinarian fees . Since there is no accountability mandated by the government to implement animal welfare standards, this is a too common occurrence. In 2017, that have also been 164 race injuries recorded thus far at race meets in WA. Greyhounds truly are running for their lives, and the welfare concerns are being ignored.

In February 2017, an integrity investigation was undertaken against Keith Harding into an incident which occurred at the Cannington track. The incident was recorded as an improper act in handling his greyhound, Freeway Shadow on return to the kennels. He pleaded guilty and received a $1500 fine. [12] No specific details of the offence have been made available, however given the severity of the sanction presumabley the offence related to the violence towards his greyhound.

In March 2017, Keith Harding was inducted into the industry’s Hall of Fame, greyhound racing’s highest accolade. He was described as one of the most highly respected greyhound trainers in WA.[13] Harding’s lack of integrity and his received conviction as an animal abuser highlights the industry’s lack of integrity since their “bad apples” are also often their celebrated trainers.

Harding isn’t the only trainer to be held in high regard, and inducted into the Hall of Fame whilst having their integrity called into question. In January 2015, Linda Britton was suspended for 18 months for returning positive drug tests on her champion greyhound.[14] Linda Britton was inducted into the Hall of Fame post sanction by the industry as was  Harding. RWWA stated they never questioned Britton’s eligibility for the industry’s highest accolade despite her disqualification.[15]

Other notable investigations include trainer Phillip Worthington, who in November 2016 was convicted and had his licence revoked for a period of three years for retirement and subsequent euthanasia of three of his greyhounds and failing to present them to GAP for assessment.[16] Worthington killed them, rather than giving them a chance at life post-racing. This from people with the industry who constantly exclaim that they love their greyhounds.

In September 2016, Peter Hepple and vet, Phillip Lawton were convicted of offences related to the possession and positive drug testing of Hepple’s greyhounds to Fertagyl[17]. Fertagyl is used on breeding bitches to bring them into season, as it is believed their racing performance is enhanced just before or on the day they come into season. The drug was developed to treat ovarian cancer in cows, and it can cause a hypersensitive reaction and miscarriage in canines.

Steven Shinners was investigated in August 2016 for failing to comply with racing regulations at his residential property, and for possession of testosterone without a valid prescription[18]. He received a fine for $2,800.[19] Drug possession for use on greyhounds is commonly reported  amongst trainers. Another trainer,  Dennis Calleja was convicted in July for possessing banned substances, failing to produce his medical log book, and abusing an official who asked for this documentation[20]. Calleja received a five-month disqualification and $1400 fine.[21]

Trainers continually demonstrate a blatant disregard for animal welfare. In August 2016, Brian Jacobson was given a three-month suspension for kicking his greyhound, Channing at the Northam track[22]. His ban ceased on the 12 December 2016, however he moved his racing operation to the Northern Territory during this time and has since received a life ban there. He is believed to have retired from the industry.

In February 2016 Joshua Jovanovic was investigated in relation to four dexamphetamine tablets found on the floor of the main kennel buildings.[23] He was convicted and received a 12 month ban.[24] However, what is most shocking of all is that none of his dogs were drug tested.

RWWA have recently launched a new public affairs campaign, which is nothing short of propaganda in an attempt to sustain the industry. The current campaign entitled, “Leap, Lead, Love” portrays greyhound racing as a bond and love between animals and their humans, which is a complete juxtaposition of what the lead industry body investigates regularly.[25]

Greyhound trainers love their greyhounds so much, that they disregard them without a second thought with a lethal injection beside the race track, or refuse to seek veterinarian help for their dogs when they injure themselves. These trainers who supposedly love their dogs regularly inject them with banned substances to make a quick profit. There is a lack of accountability from RWWA who condone cruelty and have a vested interest in the continuation of the greyhound racing industry to maintain their own livelihood. It would be like the RSPCA condoning cruelty and backyard breeding to maintain stock and to line their own pockets.

The greyhound racing industry is based on greed and cruelty, and relies on the exploitation of these gentle, noble creatures. You bet they die, and you bet they suffer. And people who were just men are turned into monsters.

References

[1] Four Corners. Making a Killing. By Caro Meldrum-Hanna and Sam Clark. http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/02/16/4178920.htm

[2] WA Greyhound Racing Association Annual Report 2014-2015, pg 14.

[3] WA Legislative Assembly 2016. PQON: Greyhound Racing Industry 10 May 2016. Lisa Baker and Terry Redman.

[4] WA Greyhound Racing Association Annual Report 2015-2016, pg 17.

[5] Perth Now. WA euthanised greyhound figure released in Parliament. November 11, 2016

[6] The Honourable Lynn McLaren MLC. Petition 130- Oppose Greyhound Racing.

[7] Laura Gartry. 18 May 2015. WA Greyhound trainer Tony Glenny pleads guilty to Racing and Wagering Inquiry http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-18/wa-greyhound-trainer-pleads-guilty-to-misconduct-charge/6478700

[8] The Honourable Lynn McLaren MLC. Petition 130- Oppose Greyhound Racing.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Jacob Kagi. Oct 2015. No Proof of Live Baiting in WA Greyhound Racing Industry, RWWA says. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-15/no-evidence-of-live-baiting-in-wa-greyhound-industry-rwwa/6857454

[11] Extract from Hansard – Legislative Council, Wednesday, 21 October 2015, between Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Col Holt

[12] Kennel Notes, Issue 6. 22 February 2017 1http://www.greyhoundswa.com.au/files/2015/01/20170222KennelNotes.pdf

[13] Inductee 2017: Keith Harding. 3 March 2017. http://www.rwwa.com.au/home/media-centre/inductee-2017-keith-harding-5384.html

[14] Katherine Ernst. WA’s Leading Lady, Linda Britton Disqualified for 18 Months. January 2015. https://australianracinggreyhound.com/australian-greyhound-racing/west-australian-greyhound-racing/was-leading-lady-linda-britton-disqualified-for-18-months/60262

[15] Kathryn Ernst. 3 February 2015. Disqualified Linda Britton takes out WA’s Leading Trainer Award. ttps://australianracinggreyhound.com/australian-greyhound-racing/west-australian-greyhound-racing/disqualified-linda-britton-takes-out-was-leading-trainer-award/60855

[16] Greyhounds – Stewards Inquiry – Mr Phillip Worthington. 30 November 2016. http://www.rwwa.com.au/home/industry/greyhounds-stewards-inquiry-mr-phillip-worthington-5084.html

[17] Ibid.

[18] Katherine Ernst. 20 October 2016. Stewards wrap: Trainer suspended for permanently-banned substance

https://australianracinggreyhound.com/australian-greyhound-racing/stewards-wrap-trainer-suspended-for-permanently-banned-substance/82419

[19] ibid

[20]ibid

[21] ibid

[22] ibid

[23] ibid

[24] ibid

[25] Steve Butler. 15 March 2017. These cute puppies want to change the way you think about greyhound racing. https://thewest.com.au/news/perth/these-cute-puppies-want-to-change-the-way-you-think-about-greyhound-racing-ng-b88395624z

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Making Monsters of Men

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s