Greyhounds in Australia are still leaving the racing industry in neglected condition with signs of deteriorated teeth, improper grooming and broken limbs, advocates say, four years after the Greyhound Welfare & Integrity Commission (GWIC) was established in 2018.
The new survey by the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) involved 18 responses from leaders of community-run greyhound rescue groups in Australia. It found that most dogs arriving at kennels were in poor condition and that some were unable to walk up or down stairs, had untreated wounds from track racing and weren’t socialised for rehoming.
“Eighty-nine percent of community-run Greyhound groups said that the dogs that they took into their care came with pre-existing conditions that required veterinary care, including bad teeth and really poor diets,” Kylie Field, spokesperson for CPG, told VICE.
“Some of these dogs are caged for most of the day. These dogs are not socialised. These dogs are a commodity. So when you have a commodity, you don't really care about how it presents itself. Once you've finished with it, you just hand it over.”
According to the CPG surveys findings, there was no shortage of examples of greyhounds being given up in conditions below the regulated “standard”. While 67 percent of rescue organizations said dogs were “usually” or “sometimes” injured when they arrived at rescues, the same amount said that they arrived without basic grooming.
Though all state codes say that dogs must be socialised before rehoming, just below half (45 percent) said dogs “usually” showed signs of stress, and 28 percent said dogs “usually” didn’t arrive at the shelters a healthy body weight.
It’s not a new phenomenon in the Australian greyhound industry, which has been rife with controversy in the last decade. In 2015, the Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) board was dismissed amid allegations of live baiting, leading to the prosecution and life ban of a number of trainers around the country. In 2017, NSW was the first state to ban racing altogether.
But cries from the NSW Nationals, who posited that the ban would make the government unelectable, caused then-Premier Mike Baird to overturn the decision three months later. Instead, the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel was introduced and the Greyhound Welfare & Integrity Commission (GWIC) was created in 2018.
As part of GWIC reforms, a rehoming initiative for former racedogs, called Greyhounds As Pets (GAP), was launched.
“There's been a lot of promises that the industry was cleaning itself up, especially in New South Wales. And once the ban had come in, and then lifted, there was a lot of political talk that the industry was reformed,” said Field.
“And we can assure the general public that this is not happening at all. The industry is still as dirty, as abusive, as low-life as it has always been towards these dogs.”
“Once you start to regulate this industry then you start to expose all the gaps. You expose the brutality, you expose the poor condition that these dogs are kept in.”
Field claims that while welfare codes require socialisation, racing authorities rarely check whether this is done by industry participants - causing many dogs to fail the industry’s rehoming admission test, leading to euthanasia.
In 2021, $25 million additional dollars was siphoned back into the racing industry to add additional infrastructure under a new funding model that would see GWIC funded entirely by the NSW Government, rather than the industry’s commercial arm, GRSNW.
“We have established an independent regulator for the greyhound industry in NSW and after listening to feedback from stakeholders we know it is important GWIC’s budget is approved and funded independently of the commercial arm of the industry,” Kevin Anderson, the NSW’s Minister for Better Regulation, said in a statement at the time.
“This announcement will allow GRSNW, as the commercial arm for industry’s racing and rehoming initiatives, to invest more into ‘boots on the ground’ welfare projects and support its thousands of participants with better prizemoney returns that support their livelihoods.
“It will also position GRNSW to deliver better facilities at tracks in our grassroots heartland regions across NSW.”
Despite more funding for the better welfare of animals, Fields claims abuse still continues.
“How does any participant justify the high rates of euthanasia that can occur every week across Australia on tracks for small injuries.”
Despite GRNSW releasing steward reports of injuries and deaths each race, Field says that much of the public is unaware of how many dogs die on the track.
“There are dogs killed every week. There are videos of these incidents. We’re talking about catastrophic injuries from dogs colliding at 80kms per hour.”
“I don't think the general public has any idea of how bad it is. And the monitoring of it has just been negligent. It's been neglected by the government for many, many years.”
“At the end of the day, this is about money.”
In response to CPG’s survey, a spokesperson for the Greyhound Welfare Integrity Commission told VICE that, under the Commission's Code of Practice and Rehoming Policy, “there are strong conditions that all greyhound racing participants are required to comply with”.
“These were developed with the welfare of greyhounds being paramount. Any report of breaches of these codes or mistreatment of greyhounds are investigated as a priority by the Commission.”
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