A couple of weeks ago, Crikey reported on the death toll at greyhound racing tracks around the country in January, and how state governments had abandoned their commitments to improve animal welfare in the brutal and, for far too many dogs, lethal gambling industry.
This elicited a grumpy response from the NSW body charged with greyhound welfare, insisting that it was on top of all the problems in the industry — especially the problem Crikey identified, where an alleged “whole of life-cycle tracking system” amounted to “until the dog owner gives the poor beast to someone who’ll kill it for them”.
“When greyhounds are sold, retired, or given away to members of the public who are not industry participants, the Commission has no lawful right to intervene in any way in relation to those dogs,” Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC) CEO Judy Lind noted, admitting the basic problem, but assuring us that moves were afoot to make sure “rehoming” by racing industry participants involved real homes with real addresses.
How that fixes the problem isn’t exactly clear, given the ease with which a dog can be handed on once it’s a “companion animal”. She also says there are “enforceable obligations” in relation to rehoming, including heavy penalties if owners give dogs away to someone who is going to euthanise them.
But that’s still dead easy to circumvent, and anyway, GWIC’s own policy provides dog owners with a huge defence against any action: the threshold is that they have to knowingly give the dog to someone who is going to euthanise it, a tough case to make in court.
Still, the quarrel of greyhound welfare advocates isn’t really with Lind and GWIC, which can only regulate to the extent the law allows. It’s with the NSW government, which has caved into the interests of the racing industry (and let’s not forget, the NSW Labor Party was even worse on this matter — at least Mike Baird had a go).
Let’s go back to Lind’s comment about not having a “lawful right to intervene” when a dog is given to someone outside the industry. Why doesn’t it have such a right? Because the government refused to give it to them.
In 2017, the government introduced the Greyhound Racing Bill, purporting to establish “whole of life tracking” for dogs. It did no such thing. As the Greens’ Mehreen Faruqi pointed out during the debate:
There currently is no plan to track greyhounds once they have been adopted. It is conceivable that a trainer could adopt out an animal to a relative or associate, who would then be free to dispose of the animal to the local pound or have the animal euthanised, with the trainer having discharged their responsibilities.
But, hey, let’s give the Berejiklian government the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that was an oversight, or a drafting error, that could be rectified, once the Greens had called attention to it?
After all, you can’t do “whole of life” tracking, which is what Minister Duncan Gay promised in introducing the bill, if it stops as soon as the owner palms it off to a mate to kill it.
Well, last year the government issued its Greyhound Racing Regulation 2019. Did it fix the problem? Nope. Once again, owners were allowed to simply get rid of their dogs to someone who would dispose of it. And again, Faruqi, now a senator, pointed it out:
There is still no plan to track greyhounds once they have been adopted. The proposed register would allow an owner to adopt out an animal to a relative or associate, who would then be free to dispose of the animal to the local pound or have the animal euthanised, with the owner having discharged their responsibilities. This is an ongoing concern which has been a risk for some time and which has not been addressed.
Lind can do her best, but the NSW government simply doesn’t care about greyhounds and isn’t interested in holding a barbaric industry with a long history of lawbreaking to account. Nationals minister Kevin Anderson is the one who should be answering for this, not the regulator he has failed to give sufficient power to.
Meanwhile, things on dog tracks go from gruesome to sickening. When we last reported, the number of greyhounds euthanised at tracks around the country this year was 12.
According to the Coalition for Protection of Greyhounds (CPG), the death toll reached 31 by the end of January, including five in NSW. Victorian racetracks continue to be a charnel house for greyhounds, with 12 dogs euthanised at races there, often for treatable injuries such as broken wrists.
CPG has put forward a package of reforms to make racing safer given the lack of political will to ban it, but they appear to be falling on deaf ears.