3 Sep 2021

Greyhound racing industry given ultimatum

6:28 am on 3 September 2021

Greyhound racing in Aotearoa may be shut down if it can't pick up the pace on animal welfare.

Greyhound dogs racing on sand track

Photo: 123rf

A government-commissioned review has accused the industry of a lack of transparency and communication.

In April, Racing Minister Grant Robertson set the hare running, announcing a review into greyhound racing - the third in 10 years.

Yesterday, Robertson said he had an ultimatum: "Either things improve or they lose their social licence to exist".

Animal welfare spokesperson Will Appelbe from SAFE thought that time should already be up.

"Anything other than a total ban on greyhound racing will continue to put dogs at risk."

He said the standards of welfare were shocking, noting that hundreds of dogs were euthanised without clear reason and some even tested positive for methamphetamine.

He said time-after-time they had been given the chance to improve - but nothing had changed.

"The industry's been given countless opportunities to clean up their act but still, hundreds of dogs are being injured and killed every year, it's unacceptable."

Greyhound Racing New Zealand racing operations and welfare manager Michael Dore said he was well aware of the criticism.

"There's anti-racing people just like there are anti-vax people and they've got some pretty extreme views. Don't get me wrong, historically greyhound racing wasn't covering itself in glory, but there's a new team in town and we have made significant changes."

He disputed the report's accusation that his organisation had made its job harder by obfuscating information and pushing back against those with an interest.

"We don't really have any context in regard to that. I've been open and upfront with anybody - I can't think of anybody who's asked us for information that we haven't provided."

Greyhounds as Pets general manger Lucy Sanford-Reed said as pets, greyhounds enjoyed the comforts of a couch - a far cry from the racetrack.

"They're charming dogs, they're quite gentle and they're often quite unobtrusive in the way that they are in the house."

Although demand might skyrocket initially for them if racing stopped, she said it may not be sustainable.

"So long as racing is on the table, there will always be greyhounds that will need rehoming when they're no longer racing. If racing is banned then that's a whole new world that we need to think about."

Greyhound Racing New Zealand now has until the end of next year to show - in the words of the review - an unrelenting focus on data recording, transparency and animal welfare.

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