ACT to look into dog racing allegations from last night’s Four Corners

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JOY Burch has responded to last night’s shocking revelations on the ABC’s Four Corners program about the use of live baiting of successful greyhounds in Australia.

The footage shown on the ABC’s Four Corners program last night in relation to the live baiting of greyhounds is truly shocking and as Minister for Racing and Gaming I am saddened to see people engaging in this illegal activity which is so cruel to animals.

I am advised that the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission has never received any complaints about live baiting in the ACT and also that there are no greyhound trainers based in the ACT.

We do however have regular race meets at the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club where interstate trainers and greyhound owners, who are predominantly licensed and based in NSW, conduct operations. I have directed the Gambling and Racing Commission to make enquiries as to whether any of the trainers shown in last night’s program have raced their greyhounds in the ACT.

An issue as serious as this one deserves a national approach, and I am committed to working with my colleagues in other states to ensure this abhorrent practice is stamped out.

I will be writing to my fellow Racing and Gaming Ministers around the country asking for this to be on the agenda at our next meeting. I will also be seeking assurances from other states that when greyhounds come to the ACT to race they haven’t been trained in this inhumane way.

The ACT Government cares deeply about ensuring the safety and welfare of all animals, including those that are part of our racing industry, and I am committed to working with my colleagues around Australia to strengthen the regulation of greyhound racing nationally.

[Photo by James Creegan, attribution licence]

UPDATE: The RSPCA has eight points of objection to the greyhound industry.

1. Illegal use of live animals to train racing greyhounds
Live baiting refers to the practice of using live animals for the purpose of training greyhounds. This practice is illegal in all states and territories in Australia. ‘Bait’ animals are tied to a mechanical lure and hurled at speed around the track while greyhounds are released to pursue and catch them. Live baiting may also involve pulling animals on leads/ropes and inciting dogs to catch them. The animals involved suffer horrific pain, fear, injury and distress and will eventually die. The same animals may be used repeatedly, suffering a very long and painful death.

2. Overbreeding and oversupply of greyhounds
Thousands of greyhounds are born in Australia each year that are surplus to Industry requirements. Industry statistics show that up to around 40% of greyhounds born (7000 greyhounds every year) will never receive a registered racing ‘name’ and hence never race. This problem is exacerbated by financial incentives for breeding, appearance fees as well as the lure of prize money. Ongoing ‘wastage’ continues over time as active racing greyhounds retire from racing or are discarded due to injury or sub-optimal performance, among other reasons.

The racing career for a greyhound is relatively very short. Dogs who begin a racing career usually start racing at about one-and-a-half years of age and are generally retired by two to five years of age, or earlier if they develop injuries or do not perform well.

Many of these unwanted greyhounds will be euthanased despite being otherwise healthy and rehomable. Statistics on the fate of unwanted greyhounds are not published by industry, but based on the available information it is clear that the euthanasia rate is unacceptable high, with a conservative estimate of 9,000 adult greyhounds put down every year.

While greyhound adoption programs are a step forward, they cannot cope with the high numbers of greyhounds (thousands each year) moving through the system. Only a very small proportion of ex-racing greyhounds (around 1000) are adopted annually in Australia through industry greyhound adoption programs.

3. High rate of injuries suffered by racing greyhounds
Injuries are common in greyhound racing and are a major cause of wastage. Injuries are a major animal welfare issue as they cause pain, suffering and distress to the affected animals. Various types of injuries are regularly reported including serious bone fractures and muscle injuries: the first turn of the racetrack is a common site for accidents or collisions to occur. Serious injuries can lead to death on the track or require immediate euthanasia. Injury statistics are not published for all tracks, but based on industry figures we estimate that more than 600 greyhounds may be injured every month on greyhound tracks during races across Australia. Additional injuries will occur during training.

4. Inadequate socialisation and inadequate environmental enrichment
Many greyhound puppies and adult greyhounds are never adequately socialised, either with other dogs or with humans. Dogs that are socially deprived are more likely to develop fearfulness and antisocial behaviour which impacts negatively on their welfare. Lack of adequate socialisation also makes it more difficult to rehome retired or unwanted greyhounds.

5. Administration of banned substances
Various pharmaceutical substances have been administered to racing greyhounds in the quest for enhanced performance and increased potential to win races. Racing authorities maintain a list of banned substances and run drug testing programs, however drug use still occurs. Administration of banned substances is a serious animal welfare issue as many of these drugs can have serious physical and psychological effects on greyhounds. Dogs have tested positive to a range of substances including amphetamines, caffeine, anabolic steroids, Viagra, and cocaine.

6. Lack of industry transparency and accountability
Currently there is a major lack of published data on the life cycle and outcome for racing greyhounds. This lack of transparency has major ramifications in terms of tracking animal welfare outcomes in the industry. Missing figures include: the exact number of greyhounds born each year; the number of greyhounds ‘named’ as a proportion of the greyhounds born; rates of euthanasia and the number of racing greyhounds exported.

7. Inadequate regulation or enforceable standards
The Greyhound Racing industry is overseen by each state and territory’s Greyhound Racing Authority who is responsible for both the regulation of the industry and its commercial development, promotion and marketing. Animal welfare standards in the industry are minimal and in many cases unenforceable. This self-regulatory model fails to ensure that the welfare of greyhounds is prioritised and can lead to serious conflicts of interest, such as the use of financial incentives to promote greyhound breeding which in turn drive up wastage rates.

8. Export of greyhounds
Australian greyhounds are sold and exported overseas for racing purposes to a range of countries including China and Vietnam. Exporting places them at significant risk of poor animal welfare outcomes including stress and injuries associated with long-distance transport, lack of animal welfare legal protection in importing countries, and the potential to enter the dog meat trade. In 2014, Greyhounds Australasia introduced voluntary suspensions of greyhound passports to certain destinations due to animal welfare concerns.

There’s also a page for letting the Minister’s know what you think.

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  1. Never had a complaint – pffft. I know there were some issues with live baits being used in Canberra many years ago. Ask some of the previous track managers.
    And there are trainers living in the ACT, but they are registered through NSW. Someone in her office needs to check their facts.

      • So right. It’s difficult to get traction within the industry and people outside generally put it in the too hard basket.
        Personally I’d like to see the end of any industry that exploits animals for human pleasure, but I’d settle for basic humane treatment across the board.

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