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Time to end greyhound racing in the ACT

By Tammy Ven Dange 21 April 2015 21


On 16 February 2015,  ABC’s Four Corners program aired a report showing video footage of live baiting practices in greyhound racing across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

Not since Four Corners exposed the horrific treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs in 2011 has a single news report on animal welfare had such a significant impact. Within days of the program going to air, the New South Wales Government terminated the employment of Greyhound Racing NSW’s CEO and board members. Queensland and NSW’s racing bodies immediately suspended implicated trainers, owners and dogs. It took about a month, but eventually Greyhound Racing Victoria’s entire board also resigned.

It would be naive to think that live baiting does not occur in the ACT, particularly given that the practice has occurred in other states. While RSPCA ACT hasn’t had any useful leads yet, we have received a few calls that are taking us closer and closer to finding usable evidence that such practices actually do occur in the ACT.

In the meantime, in the months following the Four Corners report, we have seen even more inquiries, investigations, prosecutions, suspensions and even lifetime bans across the country.  We have also seen one of the other ugly side effects to greyhound racing with a mass grave found near Bundaberg earlier this month filled with 55 greyhounds that were shot or bludgeoned to death.  Similar investigations are currently underway in New South Wales.

This is just a small representation of what happens when a population of such wonderful animals are overbred in the hopes of finding the one lucrative champion amongst the litters. However, live baiting and the overbreeding and oversupply of greyhounds are just two of the many issues that RSPCA has with the greyhound racing industry.  The others include:

  • Low rehoming rate
  • High rate of injuries suffered by racing greyhounds
  • Inadequate socialisation and environmental enrichment
  • Administration of banned substances
  • Lack of industry transparency and accountability
  • Export of racing greyhounds to countries with poor animal welfare standards
  • The use of greyhounds to supply donor blood and plasma to vet clinics, universities and research laboratories

The ACT has one greyhound racing club, the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club. It responded to my attempt to meet after the airing of the Four Corners report with a general media release. You can view the release on its website, as well as several others issued by Greyhound Racing NSW.

Greyhound Racing NSW, you may ask? That’s because the ACT does not have its own regulatory body for greyhound racing. Instead it relies completely on the NSW body to license and regulate its trainers, owners and racing. The concerning issue is that nowhere on the GRNSW website or Facebook page (that I could find anyway) does it even mention the ACT.

One of the supporting views of greyhound racing in many places is that there is a significant economic benefit to the community. Locally however, government documents and studies show that the ACT Government has committed to ongoing funding of the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club until 2016/17 (including $978,375 in 2013/14). The Club also does not have to pay any industry taxes.

Furthermore, the 2011 Investigation into the ACT Racing Industry report showed that the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club added just $472,984 worth of value and the equivalent of five full time employees to the local economy. With inflation taken into account, simple math shows that it is the ACT taxpayers paying for this industry, not benefiting.

Given greyhound racing’s inability to self-regulate to ensure any kind of reasonable standards for animal welfare, and that the industry provides no economic benefit to our community, it is time for Canberra to decide if we:

  • Trust that Greyhound Racing NSW can properly regulate and monitor animal welfare in the ACT; or
  • Set-up our own monitoring and controlling authority to ensure that the industry is properly regulated locally (at the taxpayer’s expense); or
  • End greyhound racing in the ACT, given the animal welfare risks and lack of economic benefit it provides to the local community and its residents.

I think the answer is quite obviously option three. If you agree, I encourage you to write to the following ministers asking them to reconsider the greyhound racing industry in the ACT.

Tammy Ven Dange is the Chief Executive Officer of RSPCA ACT. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @tvendange.

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21 Responses to
Time to end greyhound racing in the ACT
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mcs 7:19 pm 23 Apr 15

chewy14 said :

mcs said :

chewy14 said :

mcs said :

chewy14 said :

Dame Canberra said :

Wait, what? The ACT Government funds our greyhound racing industry close to a million dollars per year and Canberra only gets around half of that value back in return?

Surely that money could be better spent elsewhere.

Yeah that doesn’t sound legit, I’d like to see the reports quoted here. Does that “value to the local economy” include all gambling revenue going back to the government as well as all other associated benefits of this industry?

That number is correct – see the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission Report from 2011. No gambling revenue from ACTTAB goes back to the Government anymore – ACTTAB has been privatised.

Ignoring the welfare issues for a moment, if you are going to run the economic benefit argument against the Greyhounds, the same argument should be raised against the other two racing codes as well – the harness racing and the thoroughbreds. Their economic returns are equally as pitiful, in particular when you consider that the Horses get somewhere around $7 million pa.

Ah yes I found it. That number is the 2009-10 number and us only the direct return to the ACT government, leaving out the gambling revenue return (which admittedly for ACT dogs will be tiny anyway) out or any indirect benefits that flow from the industry.

Interestingly, the ICRC thinks it’s reasonable to treat the racing industry separate from the wagering industry. Surely they’re almost totally linked and should be looked at holistically.

Either way this article isn’t really comparing apples with apples by trying to use that figure to claim the greyhound industry isn’t viable in the ACT. Unless the author wants to remove all public funding for any entity that doesn’t have a direct financial return to the government.

The gambling return to the ACT from betting on ACT racing is tiny, across all codes. I can’t remember where I saw it but only a small part of the turnover of ACTTAB is actually from betting on ACT races – with a vast majority of it on interstate racing, across all codes.

I’d guess this was the basis of the work done to suggest they were racing and wagering were ‘seperate’ questions in the ACT. Quite clearly, as you identify, they are not per say – but I guess the view taken was that ACTTAB would easily survive with or without actual local racing product, whereas the local industry would not survive without funding provided by Government (originally through ACTTAB, now through the Budget).

Yes, taken in isolation, of course ACTTAB would survive without an ACT racing industry but what happens when every state takes the same view? That their wagering industries will survive without their racing industries because gamblers will simply bet on someone else’s racing?

There is a limitation in that way of thinking that tries to split the two industries. At some point, limiting the product will severely limit the revenue or any prospect of growth.

Of course that doesn’t apply across all states, and if it did would be a disaster. But I think its a fair way to look at the ACT context itself – and one really does wonder why the Government spends so much money a year to prop up the industry.

Interestingly enough, there is a significant push from the TABs etc to develop alternate revenue streams compared to Australian racing product (for instance, cartoon racing through trackside, and a lot more coverage of international racing) – mainly because its far cheaper for them in terms of fees payable on the content.

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