Greyhound welfare claims dog embattled racing industry

Jack Gramenz and Alex Mitchell |

Critics say a greyhounds investigation is a waste of time because a ban is already off the table.
Critics say a greyhounds investigation is a waste of time because a ban is already off the table.

Authorities have promised an investigation into allegations of poor animal welfare in greyhound racing, but industry critics say it’s a waste of time with a ban already ruled out.

Greyhound Racing NSW chief executive Robert Macaulay resigned on Tuesday after the report by the organisation’s former chief veterinary officer Alex Brittan became public.

The report included claims greyhound deaths were hidden, adoption rates exaggerated and dogs pushed to race at levels causing injuries.

Claims to be investigated include allegations greyhound adoption numbers have been exaggerated. (Joe Castro/AAP PHOTOS)

Premier Chris Minns firmly denied the industry’s future was in jeopardy while promising a full investigation into the allegations.

“We’re not going to shut (greyhound racing) down,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Racing Minister David Harris said a formal inquiry into the industry would be launched to create a pathway for it to continue operating.

Mr Harris issued a show-cause notice to the Greyhound Racing NSW board earlier in July, alleging it had breached the terms of its operating licence.

Board members have until Friday to respond.

“It is no secret (our) relationship has become strained, because I make no apology for asking for the highest level of welfare and integrity,” the minister said.

Mr Harris received the bombshell report in June and referred it for further scrutiny, while the government backed Animal Justice MP Emma Hurst’s bid for the documents to be made public.

Investigations into the serious allegations made within the document were ongoing and the claims required careful scrutiny, a Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission spokeswoman said in a statement.

Concerns were raised over allegedly fudged numbers in deaths and adoptions, with on-track vets tasked with conducting an impossible number of examinations among the report’s allegations.

Deaths were not being accurately or transparently reported, and owners who fail to notify of deaths are not facing any meaningful penalties.

There was a substantial backlog in dogs needing new homes, and an internal acceptance those greyhounds represented “an unsolvable problem”, the report alleged.

A protester holds a placard during an Anti-Greyhound Racing rally
The Greens want the greyhound racing industry shut down completely, saying it’s incapable of reform. (Jeremy Ng/AAP PHOTOS)

Greyhound Racing NSW has appointed former Victorian police chief Graham Ashton to investigate Dr Brittan’s allegations.

“That is a demonstration of how serious we are about ensuring the matters raised by Dr Brittan are thoroughly investigated,” a spokesperson said.

“In addition to investigating specific claims, Mr Ashton has the power to evaluate best practice standards relating to the welfare of greyhounds within the Greyhounds As Pets NSW program and make any relevant recommendations.”

The Greens continued calls for the industry to end, labelling greyhound racing “incapable of reform” and saying the premier was pre-empting the findings of an investigation, which could therefore not be taken seriously.

The inquiry needed to be out of the government’s control, open-ended, public, and must protect whistleblowers, MP Abigail Boyd said.

“Anything else would be a continuation of the protection racket afforded to this corrupt industry that has been allowed to run by its own rules for far too long,” Ms Boyd said.

Then-NSW premier Mike Baird in 2016 announced a ban on greyhound racing after evidence of extensive misconduct within the industry, but backflipped before the plans took effect.

Greyhound racing was banned in the ACT in 2018, but the industry operates in all other states and territories. 

The bulk of the nation’s racetracks are in NSW and new facilities are under construction.