The death of Wagtail Sage – how WA injury recovery schemes are failing greyhounds

by Free the Hounds, greyhound welfare advocacy group based in Perth, Western Australia

Trackside euthanasia in WA has significantly decreased over the past couple of years due to the introduction of two injury schemes. The schemes mostly cover dogs who’ve sustained fractures to either the hock or foreleg.

One scheme provides financial support to the owner/trainer to help cover the costs of treating the injury while the dog remains in the care of the trainer.

The other scheme allows the owner/trainer to hand the dog over to Racing & Wagering WA’s (RWWA) Greyhounds as Pets programme to be treated at RWWA’s expense. This is the most popular scheme as trainers don’t want unprofitable dogs taking up kennel space. Without these schemes, many dogs would be euthanised trackside.

In 2020, 46 greyhounds entered the most popular of the two schemes, the Greyhound Injury Full Recovery Scheme (GIFRS). So far in 2021, 11 dogs have entered the scheme.

We do not consider these injury schemes as any sort of welfare initiative as greyhounds still suffer immensely.

There can be long term health implications, such as muscle wastage, back/hip problems and plate infection. These injuries can cause extreme pain and discomfort to the dog, treatment can involve major surgery and rehabilitation can be long. There can be major complications with treatment causing further pain, suffering and even death.

The death of Wagtail Sage

Last year FOI requests to RWWA asked for veterinary reports for GIFRS dogs over the 2019-20 financial year. Only 1 report came back, this was for Wagtail Sage. Further questioning gave us a timeline and details of what happened to this boy.

30 October 2019 hock fracture while racing
Wagtail Sage fractured his right hock at Cannington on 30 October 2019 after he collided with another dog on the home turn. He was stood down for 90 days and entered the GIFRS.

Soon after, Wagtail Sage had surgery on his hock and spent 2 months recovery in kennels.

We do not believe a dog, recovering from a major injury/surgery can receive adequate care in kennels, where they are not appropriately supervised nor in a comfortable setting.

7 January 2020amputation due to recovery complications
Complications with the recovery resulted in Wagtail Sage having his right hindleg amputated on 7 January 2020. He then went into foster care.

17 January 2020 – severe infection and necrotic tissue
On 17 January 2020 Wagtail Sage was back at the veterinary hospital presenting with the following as noted in the veterinary report:

– Has been licking wound and was discharged without an Elizabethan collar, wound now open.
– Surgical wound open caudally, purulent discharge, putrid smell.
– Quads of right hindleg swollen and painful to touch.
– Surgical wound broken down and infected.
– Swab pus debris and resuture advised.

Wagtail Sage then had another surgery to treat the infection of amputation site. Details of surgery as noted in report included:

– Large incision made around old surgical wound (part of which had broken down and part of which was still sutured) with scalpel blade.
– Skin removed and underlying subcutaneous tissue removed.
– Many parts of underlying muscle and subcutaneous tissue necrotic.
– Penrose drain placed in wound to allow drainage and tacked to skin.

22 January 2020 – euthanasia
On 22 January Wagtail Sage was euthanised. He was only 3 years old.

R.I.P. Wagtail Sage. We are so sorry this happened to you 💔

Wagtail Sage’s story demonstrates that treating a fracture can be complicated, potentially deadly, and should not be taken lightly.

Wagtail Sage suffered for months following his racing injury. This could have been prevented had he not raced in the first place. The only way to prevent these injuries and ongoing suffering is to ban greyhound racing altogether.

We urge our followers to contact their newly elected local MP and Minister for Racing and Gaming and let them know why you oppose greyhound racing and want it banned. Reece Whitby MLA – Minister for Racing and Gambing –


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