Nothing has changed – Dennis Anderson discusses how greyhounds are still dying and disappearing in NSW

This is a transcript of a talk given by CPG National President Dennis Anderson to the NSW Young Lawyers Animal Welfare Committee on 25 May 2020.

Good evening everyone, before I cover the topics I have been asked to address I will explain how I became a greyhound activist. 3 years ago I adopted an ex racing greyhound. She was, and still is, very anxious around all breeds of dogs except greyhounds.

I had the names of her litter mates so I thought I would just contact the owners of her litter mates and see if they had the same issue and if so, had they been able to overcome it. After much research I could not find these dogs nor their owners. I sensed that something is wrong with this industry. Then I read the report by Michael McHugh and was horrified. That was the start of my journey as a greyhound activist.


My talk this evening will cover:

An overview of the NSW greyhound racing industry in 2020

The greyhound racing industry is conducted by a commercial entity GRNSW. The total number of active greyhound tracks in NSW is 33. By comparison Victoria has 13, the US 8, UK 22 and Ireland 16. The industry is financially supported by a gambling industry that is the largest by population in the world and by our main political parties.

The current NSW government has promised the greyhound racing industry $34m to be spent over five years. Caro Meldrum Hanna, who first investigated the greyhound story for Four Corners, stated that the greyhound racing industry generates $90 million per year for the State Government in tax. Not a bad investment for $6m per year.

The Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC) has calculated that the actual registered greyhound population as of April 2020 is 26,852. This comprises 6,505 greyhounds who are actively racing, 6,970 greyhounds who have been whelped but are yet to race and 13,377 greyhounds who have been retired to industry participants.

Remember that figure of 13,377 dogs retired to industry participants. I will return to this figure of retired greyhounds later.

GWIC has not been able to assess how many greyhound owners there are in 2019 due to the inaccuracy of data received in July 2018 from GRNSW.

GWIC estimates that in 2019 there are about 3,900 trainers, breeders and attendants. Once again GRNSW did not keep proper records.

GWIC is working on this and hopes to be able to present accurate figures in its FY 19/20 annual report.

What has happened since the Four Corners exposé

In Feb 2015 ABC Four Corners screened an expose of live baiting of greyhounds showing possums and piglets being tied to mechanical lures to be chased and torn to pieces by greyhounds.

As a direct result of this program in March 2015 then premier Mike Baird appointed ex High Court Judge Hon Michael McHugh to conduct a special commission of inquiry into the greyhound racing industry in NSW. This inquiry lasted for 15 months and produced a 370 page report.

‘overwhelming evidence of systemic animal cruelty, including mass greyhound killings and live baiting’

In June 2016 McHugh delivered his report to the government. The report found ‘overwhelming evidence of systemic animal cruelty, including mass greyhound killings and live baiting’, and concluded that the industry had ‘fundamental animal welfare issues, integrity and governance failings that cannot be remedied.’ The report found:

Over a 12 year period 80,000 greyhounds had ‘disappeared. The industry referred to these dogs as ‘wastage’.

40% of greyhounds born never go on to race.

McHugh labelled it a ‘cruel industry’ and stated that without gambling there would be no greyhound racing in NSW. McHugh also identified that the future of greyhound racing in NSW is a political decision.

In July 2016 the NSW Government announced its intent to shut down the greyhound racing industry, with legislation introduced to affect a full closure by 1 July 2017.

Four days later the then leader of the opposition Luke Foley announced that Labor opposed the ban and would fight against it.

A combination of the racing and gambling industries, the ALP, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and radio shock jocks campaigned against the ban. As a result of this campaign the government lost a by election in the former blue ribbon National seat of Orange to the SFF which was largely fought on the issue of the greyhound ban.

The loss of the Orange by election spooked the government into overturning the ban. In Oct 2016 the government announced that it would cancel the ban and appoint a Greyhound Industry Reform Panel to review the McHugh report and to provide recommendations on potential new animal welfare and governance arrangements to reform the industry. The chair of the panel was the former Labor Premier Morris Iemma.

Greyhound Industry Reform Panel

In February 2017 this panel provided the government with a report which contained 122 recommendations, all except one were accepted by the government.

One of the main recommendations was the establishment of the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission.

The Commission is responsible for:

  • Controlling and regulating greyhound racing.
  • Administering the Greyhound Racing Rules.
  • Registering greyhounds and industry participants (including but not limited to owners, breeders, trainers and bookmakers.)
  • Investigating animal welfare and integrity concerns relating to greyhound racing in NSW.
  • Employing race stewards, inspectors, investigators and veterinary officers.

In addition to this recommendation regarding the formation of GWIC, the panel made recommendations covering all aspects of greyhound racing in NSW including how to reduce off the track deaths and deaths and injuries on the track.

Greyhound deaths and disappearances off the track

The Greyhound Industry Reform Panel made a number of specific recommendations to significantly ‘reduce over-breeding and ‘reduce the number of greyhounds euthanised. The recommendations included: whole of lifecycle registration, owners of greyhounds to be principally responsible for the welfare of their greyhounds for their full natural life, ensuring their suitability to be rehomed at any stage of their lives and strict controls on euthanasia.

However, the reform panel contained an escape clause. Recommendations 76 stated The greyhound racing register should not include greyhounds that retire and are retained by non-industry participants.

Recommendation 86 aimed to provide strict controls on euthanasia. It stated “Euthanasia can only be administered by a qualified veterinary surgeon who deems it to be in the greyhound’s best interest, or by an owner in the circumstances prescribed under the POCTA Act 1979.’

As we shall see the intent of these recommendations has NOT been met.

Greyhound Racing Act 2017

As result of the government accepting all but one of the Panel’s recommendations the government passed the Greyhound Racing Act 2017. This Act provides the legal framework for the regulations, codes and policies pertaining to greyhound racing and welfare in NSW. But as far as protecting greyhounds is concerned the Act contains an almighty escape clause for the industry. It defines a greyhound as:

‘greyhound means a greyhound that is owned or kept in connection with greyhound racing.’

Thus, greyhounds who are retired from racing and not retained by a registered industry participant are not covered by the Act. There is an old joke “Question.:. when is a door not a door? Answer: when it is ajar. To paraphrase this joke, Question: when is a greyhound not a greyhound? Answer: when it is not owned by an industry participant.

We shall see that this loophole enables the greyhound racing industry to dispose of its unwanted dogs.

Following the passing of the Act new greyhound regulations and policies were put in place.

Greyhound Racing Regulation 2019

Regulation 8 Term of registration of greyhounds

A registered greyhound remains registered until—
(a) the greyhound dies, or
(b) the greyhound is registered as a companion animal under the Companion Animals Act 1998, or
(c) the greyhound ceases to be a greyhound to which the Act applies, or
(d) the registration is cancelled under the Act.

What this means?

GWIC can only track and inspect those greyhounds owned by registered industry participants. This has significant importance for the welfare of dogs transferred to non-industry participants.

GWIC Rehoming Policy

Clause 5. Rehoming requirements

A greyhound owner must make genuine attempts to rehome any greyhound that they do not wish to retain. If an owner is unable to rehome the greyhound privately, they must first seek the greyhound’s admission to the Greyhounds As Pets (GAP) program. If the greyhound is not admitted to the GAP program, the owner must then:

  • seek to rehome the greyhound through at least one other pet rescue or rehoming organisation; or
  • seek the greyhound’s admission to the GAP program a second time.

Clause 12 Euthanasia following unsuccessful attempts to rehome

Where an owner of a greyhound has complied with the rehoming requirements in clause 5, and the owner intends to have the greyhound euthanased, the owner must, at least 10 business days before the greyhound is to be euthanased, notify the Commission of their intention by lodging a completed Intent to Euthanase Greyhound Notification form.

What this means?

An owner can transfer the dog to a non-industry participant and GWIC has no legal authority to track and inspect to ensure the dogs welfare. The non-industry participant could euthanise the dog and GWIC do not have to be informed.

A registered industry participant can euthanise the dog if a private re-homer cannot take it and it has been rejected twice by GAP.

GAP will reject a dog if it reacts to another dog that is not a greyhound. This rejection means that the industry participant can euthanise the dog.

The private re-homers have advised CPG that they take dogs rejected by GAP and successfully rehome them.

Disappeared dogs

I have been advised by an employee of a well-known animal welfare organisation that when GRNSW handed over their records to GWIC there were 20, 000 greyhound that could not be accounted for.

Remember I asked you to keep in your mind the GWIC figure of 13,377 greyhounds who have been retired to industry participants

It is ridiculous to suggest there are 13,377 “retired” greyhounds in the possession of industry participants.

Where are they keeping these vast herds of hounds? Are they all being held in 13,377 cages and being fed and vetted by the industry members? Where are these huge barns or warehouses located? They simply don’t exist.

It would be laughable if it didn’t hide a much darker truth about the “retirement” of the majority of racing greyhounds in NSW!

Breeding

Both McHugh and Iemma were concerned about overbreeding and wanted measures to reduce breeding. How has this worked out? In FY16/17 3056 dogs were bred in FY 18/19 it was 3747.

CPG Investigation

CPG conducted its own investigation into missing greyhounds. We discovered that in FY 17/18 there were 4,000 dogs unaccounted for and in FY18/19 that figure was 3,560.

Greyhound deaths and injuries on the track

Greyhound Industry Reform Panel Report

The reform panel recommend that ‘GRNSW develop new track design and safety standards. While some standards could be developed based on existing information, comprehensive standards should be set after the University of Technology Sydney UTS research is complete. These standards would need to be approved by the integrity commission, as well as the timeframe for their implementation.

Given the close link between animal welfare and track safety, GWIC would retain the capacity to intervene in track design and safety standards if they do not prove effective in reducing the rate of and severity of greyhound racing injuries.

An optimal track design may not be possible at all existing tracks depending on existing infrastructure, space and costs. The standards should require track design that promotes the safest form of racing. This could involve a mix of infrastructure and variations in race conditions. For example, less safe tracks may be restricted to racing fewer dogs per race.

GRNSW will need to determine how it can best meet any new standards. This could involve rationalisation of the number of tracks.

Recommendation 103 Research already commissioned by GRNSW on track design and safety by the UTS should be completed and funded by the commercial entity.

Recommendation 104 GRNSW should develop minimum track design and safety standards that support the safest provision of racing.

Recommendation 105 These standards and a timeframe for implementation must be approved by the Integrity Commission, which will retain the capacity to intervene in track design and safety standards if they are not delivering appropriate animal welfare outcomes.

UTS Report

GRNSW paid the UTS to investigate how to make tracks safer. The UTS report was given to GRNSW in June 2017.

The report made a number of specific recommendations regarding track design. The main recommendations involved track design, the lure and the number of dogs in a race.

The UTS report stated

‘Para 6.15 It is strongly recommended that GRNSW consider developing purpose-built straight tracks.

Para 6.26 It was concluded that the installation of an extended lure system must be a primary injury reduction intervention.

Para 6.64 UTS strongly recommends trialling reducing the number of starts per race from 8 to 6.

Despite the government agreeing to improving track safety there is not a single straight track in NSW, races are not limited to 6 dogs per race and the extended lure has not been introduced.

We understand that GRNSW conducted a 6 dog trial in NSW. The results have never been made public.

We sought a meeting with the CEO of GRNSW to discuss these matters. Despite numerous follow up requests by email and phone no meeting occurred.

Two and a half years after GRNSW received the UTS report greyhounds are still being killed and injured on oval tracks and in 8 dog races.

CPG Analysis

CPG conducted its own analysis of 6 vs 8 dog racing and straight vs oval tracks. This analysis supported the findings of UTS. 6 dog races and straight tracks are proven to reduce deaths and injuries on the track.

Prevent of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA)

Figures issued by GWIC show that in the 15 months between 1 July 18 and 30 Sept 19 109 greyhounds died on the track and another 3,245 were injured. So far in 2020 there have been 23 greyhounds killed and 1,009 injured on NSW tracks.

Greyhound industry spokespeople admit that death and injury on the track are inevitable.

Mr Geoff Rose a regional director of NSW Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association and the president of the Gunnedah Greyhound Racing Club was quoted in the Northern Daily Leader newspaper on 6 December 19.

“You’re never ever gonna eliminate injuries, the same as you can’t eliminate injuries in football.”

He continued, “I can’t see why they’re [the CPG] complaining.”

By any measure this is a massive failure of preventing cruelty to greyhounds

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