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Time to end greyhound racing in the ACT

By Tammy Ven Dange - 21 April 2015 21

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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
dungfungus 8:04 pm 21 Apr 15

pajs said :

No need for a ban. Just remove the government subsidy and let them stand on their own feet. Same goes for horse-racing.

Why stop there?
The big money goes to the four football codes and not necessarily through the front door. There is absolutely no return on investment subsidising any sport.

tuco 7:37 pm 21 Apr 15

I worked to re-home greyhounds for five or six years. My family would foster dogs under the Greyhound Adoption Program and prepare these sleek and noble beasts (thanks Darryl) for new lives on people’s lounges and laps. We took more than a dozen dogs from the track to fantastic new lives in some surprising settings.
I think it’s a bit rich to tar the entire industry with the disgusting efforts of a few. What about we send some people to jail, fine them until their eyes squint and warn ’em off for life. But the actions of a few are not the answers of all. It’s more complex than just “ban it NOW”. But perhaps that’s a too sophisticated approach. Perhaps all we can do is just stand and scream, rather than working to solve a problem.

rubaiyat 7:27 pm 21 Apr 15

vintage123 said :

When I was a child growing up in the country my parents looked after a friends greyhound whilst he went on holidays, whilst it was gentle in nature and very passive as soon as it saw our three cats halfway down the paddocks it chased them and killed them all. We were too naive and too slow to do anything. When the owner returned he explained that he used live baits to train his greyhounds. Looks like nothing has changed.

Amazing how “My dogs never” and “That’s an exaggeration, it’s only the few bad apples” then becomes total astonishment that what everyone knows about is a day to day fact. Then after being FORCED to do something about it with a virtual gun held to their heads, they will claim to have cleaned it all up.

At that point that you know it is back to business as usual.

btw The RSPCA does its good work hampered by those in various industries who join it with the sole aim of sabotaging its efforts to prevent cruelty to animals.

chewy14 7:09 pm 21 Apr 15

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.

vintage123 5:48 pm 21 Apr 15

When I was a child growing up in the country my parents looked after a friends greyhound whilst he went on holidays, whilst it was gentle in nature and very passive as soon as it saw our three cats halfway down the paddocks it chased them and killed them all. We were too naive and too slow to do anything. When the owner returned he explained that he used live baits to train his greyhounds. Looks like nothing has changed.

gazket 4:37 pm 21 Apr 15

Dame Canberra said :

I think the key point is that the ACT Government is using taxpayer money to prop up an industry that delivers a negligible return on investment.

Join the queue , there is plenty of that going on. We are paying for electricity that will be used by South Australians .

pajs 4:27 pm 21 Apr 15

No need for a ban. Just remove the government subsidy and let them stand on their own feet. Same goes for horse-racing.

A_Cog 4:17 pm 21 Apr 15

Calm down. There’s nothing to worry about.

Joy Burch is the Racing Minister.

With a top performer like her, this will all be sorted out right quick.

GardeningGirl 2:50 pm 21 Apr 15

Even without the animal welfare aspect I don’t understand why the government is funding it. We’re always hearing about belt tightening and there’s not enough money for other far more popular and/or beneficial things. Add the animal welfare concerns and it really makes no sense (especially after being reminded of all those other bans in Coco_Black’s comment). Why were the government and all those greyhound trainers who don’t do things like that unaware until the Four Corners story?

mcs 2:11 pm 21 Apr 15

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.

chewy14 1:44 pm 21 Apr 15

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?

Dame Canberra 1:35 pm 21 Apr 15

Grimm said :

Nice to see you tarring everybody racing greyhounds with the same brush because of a few bad apples in the industry.

Would be much like saying the RSPCA and the ALF are the same and all terrorists….

Live baiting aside, there are plenty of reasons (as Tammy outlines above) for animal welfare groups to be concerned about greyhound racing. But I don’t think that means that all greyhound racers are doing something wrong, or that those who don’t look after their animals are in the majority.

I think the key point is that the ACT Government is using taxpayer money to prop up an industry that delivers a negligible return on investment. Whether there are animal welfare issues or not, we should be questioning why hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars are being spent in this way.

Grimm 1:15 pm 21 Apr 15

Nice to see you tarring everybody racing greyhounds with the same brush because of a few bad apples in the industry.

Would be much like saying the RSPCA and the ALF are the same and all terrorists….

Coco_Black 12:49 pm 21 Apr 15

Greyhound racing must end. The industry has hijacked a docile and beautiful breed of dog for its own greed. The welfare of these animals is in dire straights. Greyhounds are deservedly family pets. They love to run as much as Whippets, Salukis. Borzois, Afgans and Azawakhs. They love to cuddle,play silly buggars, lounge around and do things like all the other breeds of dogs in the world are allowed to do. The muzzle laws are antiquated nonsense from the 19th century. A dog walking on lead is the law for any other dog, save the greyhound. Why? The poor things can’t defend themselves if attacked by another dog.

The ACT has banned rodeos and circuses with exotic animals in 1992. Most recently, the ACT banned certain factory farming practices. We’re the most progressive jurisdiction in Australia. It’s TIME, Canberra. Greyhound racing must end. It’s 2015. These dogs, once the breed of the nobility, deserve to be our ‘best friend’ once again in history.

Dame Canberra 11:10 am 21 Apr 15

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.

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