2 Sep 2021

Greyhound Racing Industry 'on notice' over transparency, animal welfare - Minister

3:37 pm on 2 September 2021

The Greyhound Racing industry has unnecessarily obfuscated information, the government's reviewer says, and the minister has warned it is being put "formally on notice".

Greyhound dogs racing on sand track

Photo: 123rf

The review by Sir Bruce Robertson, released today, found that while some of the recommendations of the previous Hansen report on the industry had been met many of the new policies were incomplete, or had not been audited or enforced.

It found that Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ)'s claim that all the recomendations of that report had been met - on which it based the decision to stop its quarterly reports to the government - was contentious and there was not enough time to rule on whether that was correct.

"Thirteen recommendations from the Hansen Report were highlighted as areas of concern. The remaining recommendations from this report were not raised to any substantive level, nor were specific concerns made with regard to their progress," the report said.

"Some submitters have alleged that GRNZ has maintained a culture of silence to those who are pushing for greater reform or publicly challenging decisions or lack thereof," the review said.

The lack of reporting had also generally increased the concerns about the body's progress against the recommendations, and GRNZ had been reluctant to provide data to Sir Bruce.

"Until there is a change regarding that transparency and communication,

there will be suspicion and distrust, and a rational robust and reliable assessment cannot be made," he wrote.

In a letter to the industry, Racing Minister Grant Robertson said while the issues the report identified were not insurmountable, the industry must address data recording, transparency and animal welfare concerns and report back to him by the end of 2022.

He said the new Racing Integrity Board also needed to step up, and he would be asking Sir Bruce as Chair to raise the profile of animal welfare at the board.

"If these issues cannot be remedied, then the industry will cease to have a social license."

"I want to be clear today - the greyhound racing industry is on notice: either make the improvements needed or risk closure," the minister said in a statement.

"It will take a clear effort on the part of GRNZ to not only ensure that change is made across the entire industry, but that these changes are communicated to the public. All information should be recorded, and it should be available."

Animal welfare concerns

The review also found that while the number of greyhounds euthanised had reduced significantly in the past four years, 'no reason given' was "the most common reason by a significant margin".

While progress had been made on rehoming, many dogs were not suitable due to their behaviour and a lack of socialisation, and had been criticised as an "ambulance at the bottom of the cliff" measure.

There was also "serious disquiet" over the large scale of the handful of breeders dominating the racing scene.

Some kennels had "well in excess of 100 greyhounds on their property", raising concerns over welfare and care of the dogs, and the effect on rehoming them in future.

The review said there could be a way forward for the industry, but it would need to bring in:

  • Comprehensive data on the position of each animal from birth to death
  • Avoiding overbreeding by assessing of the number of animals required
  • Clearing up the rules, policies, standards, health and welfare provisions of GRNZ, and the Ministry for Primary Industries' Codes of Welfare and Regulations
  • Socialisation programmes for all greyhounds for future rehoming
  • Thorough professional kennel visits
  • Continuous surveillance of tracks including a serious assessment of the introduction of straight tracks
  • A rigorous assessment of animal welfare in large scale operations
  • Reintroduction of a standalone Animal Welfare Manager (GRNZ had combined this role with the Racing Operations Manager role)
  • A Health and Welfare Committee with full participation of stakeholders and the ability to implement change
  • A continuation of quarterly reports to the relevant ministers and Racing Integrity Board

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