Dogged by scandal, but keen to be clean

Tuesday 20 October 2015

THE Australian greyhound racing industry has been justly criticised since the shock wave of February’s Four Corners program that exposed the practice of live baiting.

Since then, the CEOs and boards of the entire eastern seaboard are no longer in those jobs and there have been government and/or parliamentary inquiries in four states looking at the greyhound racing industry’s regulation and performance.

Under the spotlight, the industry’s major challenges and poor performance in critical areas have been highlighted and some have challenged the legitimacy of the industry. The most critical of those is the unnecessary euthanasia of greyhounds which have retired from, or were not good enough to begin, a racing career.

The media has widely reported counsel assisting the commission of inquiry into the NSW industry stating that up to 17,000 greyhounds were euthanased every year. This has shocked people and some are asking whether the industry should be banned.

What has not been reported is that this worst case figure do not include the many thousands of greyhounds that live out a full and happy life on their owner’s or trainer’s properties, nor those that are rehomed by unaligned charities. Any number is one too many, but it’s less than reported. The underlying problem is we have not kept quality information about what happens to every greyhound born and this is changing. Industry leaders know unprecedented reform is required if this industry is to rebuild its trust with the community.

As the new governors and managers of the industry take control, we are putting animal welfare at the centre of everything we do. Eradicating unnecessary euthanasia is the central plank of our vision and is being reflected in changed rules, policies, practices and standards now being put in place.

The industry’s operating model must and will change. Regulators will be taking more control over breeding volumes, significantly more resourcing will be dedicated to rehoming efforts, less ­capable greyhounds will be given more opportunity to compete, and race clubs will consolidate.

The industry will become more accountable and transparent. We are willing to involve our critics in assessing our animal welfare and integrity performance so the public can be sure the necessary changes are made and having the required effect.

Greyhound owners, breeders and trainers will be educated through government accredited training about their important role in changing industry culture and to help ensure the industry meets the community’s expectations. In a first step towards accountability, active consideration is being given to restricting trainers to train a maximum number of greyhounds depending on their capacity to maintain a high standard of greyhound care.

Industry accountability will be improved by enhanced greyhound life cycle tracking which will be supported by increased resources for investigations and to ensure compliance with standards. We will put all service providers under regulatory control and implement the system triggers required to know where every greyhound is at all times, and under what conditions they are being looked after.

The industry accepts that longevity and success are tied to the treatment of our greyhounds. This means meeting our moral obligations as much as meeting our legal and financial obligations.

In reflecting how the industry came to find itself in its current circumstances, a couple of factors stand out. There was a clear failure of oversight in some states and a significant price has been paid by the most senior people responsible for those jurisdictions at the time.

Separately, the industry was generally blind to the need for setting accountable breeding volume and rehoming targets. We allowed ourselves to be satisfied with reasonable efforts in these areas without understanding we were failing to deliver what the community expected.

The industry is determined to deal with its issues and demonstrate that greyhounds can be effectively trained without live baiting or training aides associated with animal products.

No stone will be left unturned in ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare and integrity.

Real reform will touch every single greyhound breeder, owner and trainer and every one of the more than 10,000 employees and 30,000 participants who benefit from this $1 billion industry. This will take time but decisive steps are being taken now to achieve meaningful change while the industry invests in research and best practice to underpin its reform program.

We are not yet asking to be trusted. But we do ask for the chance to show we can make the change the community expects of us.

 

The above article written by GA CEO Scott Parker, appeared in The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday 20 October.

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Dogs on the inside. A group of women prisoners have signed up to foster retired racing greyhounds and get them ready for adoption

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