A new Equine Welfare Officer has been appointed by the Canberra Racing Club to protect the welfare of horses while training and racing at Thoroughbred Park and into retirement.
Chris Polglase has taken up the role after being a Racing NSW Steward for 16 years and working in various jobs at Thoroughbred Park over the past two decades.
Canberra Racing Club CEO Andrew Clark said Mr Polglase was well-practised in ensuring compliance in the industry.
“Chris is a fantastic addition to the team and brings with him a high level of integrity and a genuine passion for horses,” he said.
“The appointment is further evidence of the Canberra Racing Club’s ambition to be an industry leader in equine welfare.
“Chris will work closely with industry stakeholders to ensure a sound and broad welfare framework is implemented, ensuring safety throughout each stage of the horse’s life.”
The appointment comes less than a month after Greens MLA Jo Clay tabled a petition in the Legislative Assembly calling for the ACT Government to withdraw all public funding from Thoroughbred Park, which sits at around $7.5 million for all racing codes each year.
The petition labelled the horse racing industry “out of step with community expectations in the ACT” and claimed that the horses live and die “at the behest of an industry with questionable ethics”.
“Despite protestations about jobs and ‘loving their animals’ the primary motivator is financial and personal success and glory for the trainers and owners – not the horses,” the petition said.
Ms Clay had backed a call for a Royal Commission into the industry but did not outline a personal position on whether horse racing in the ACT should be banned.
Mr Clark said the appointment of an Equine Welfare Officer was under consideration prior to the petition.
“Chris will be initially tasked with conducting a self-analysis review of the current management of Equine Welfare at the club and, in so doing, he will benchmark the club against other principal racing authorities and racing clubs,” he said.
“Any recommendations for improvement will be tabled in a report which is provided to myself as CEO and the committee. It is the club’s intention, as showcased through our vision statement of our current strategic plan, to have the best in class equine welfare outcomes and the appointment of an Equine Welfare Officer will assist in driving this.”
There have been at least six horse deaths in Canberra over the past five years.