Viewers of Monday night’s Four Corners were shocked to see greyhound trainers using the illegal practice of live baiting, which involves tying live animals such as possums, rabbits and piglets to race posts to motivate the dogs to run faster in races. Ultimately, the animals are mauled to death.
Four Corners, alongside the RSPCA and Animal Liberation Australia, captured two-time Australian greyhound trainer of the year Darren McDonald using live animals for bait, as well as renowned trainer Tom Noble. Paul Anderton, a former steward in the regulation body of Greyhound Racing Victoria, was also found guilty of live-animal baiting.
As a result of the investigation, 10 Victorian and six NSW trainers have been stood down from the industry. South-east of Melbourne, the Tooradin race track has been closed down.
The Four Corners investigative called for a nationwide inquiry into the Australian greyhound racing industry and training methods.
How is the industry currently regulated? How does it enforce rules?
Self-regulated bodies have the responsibility to inspect greyhound tracks and training methods if they believe a race dog is being trained in a corrupt, fraudulent, negligent or improper manner. This includes using live animals as bait instead of a stuffed animal.
But self-regulation does not appear to be working: Sal Perna, Victoria’s inaugural Racing Integrity Commissioner said yesterday he was shocked when he saw footage of live animals being mauled by greyhounds, as he has only received one complaint about live-baiting in five years. “I have been in this role for five years. I have never seen anything like this before,” he said.
What are the penalties for breaking the rules?
Those responsible for live-animal baiting face a 10-year ban from the sport, in accordance with Greyhound Racing Victoria’s own Animal Welfare Penalty Guidelines. Live baiting is also a criminal offence; it is punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) and can attract a jail term of up to two years and a fine of more than $30,000.
It has not yet been said whether the trainers across Australia who were caught on camera live-animal baiting have been charged or whether they will face court.
What is being done as a result of the Four Corners expose?
Since the report went to air, there have been various calls for more stringent greyhound racing regulations. The Western Australian Greens have called for an independent inquiry into the greyhound racing industry across NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
In response to Four Corners’ story, Greyhound Racing NSW announced the establishment of a task force led by former High Court justice Michael McHugh.
The Victorian government has commissioned Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp to undertake a broad investigation into the greyhound racing and training industry and pledged $3 million to strengthen Greyhound Racing Victoria’s investigation capacity. Sal Perna will also conduct an independent probe.
How can the industry be improved?
Animal welfare activists across the country have agreed the only way to ensure live baiting stops is to get rid of self-regulation of the industry. A greyhound re-homing activist told Crikey that without full-scale reform, all of these cases of cruelty could be dismissed as being “a few bad apples”.
Animal Justice Party member and Greyhound Racing Campaign spokesperson Eleonora Gullone said the Four Corners report showed “the complete failure of the model”, calling for an independent regulatory body with proper resources to take control.
Founder of the Australian Racing Greyhound Kevin Pitstock published a statement on the organisation’s website, calling for the chairs of Greyhound Racing Victoria, Greyhound Racing New South Wales, and Racing Queensland to stand down or be removed at once. He also called for the chief stewards of the three authorities to go. Australian Racing Greyhound also wants to see a life ban on those found guilty of live-animal baiting.