Thousands of greyhounds feared killed
More than 2300 former racing greyhounds destined for rehoming over the past year have allegedly disappeared and are feared dead, according to a new study.
The case study by the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) provided exclusively to news.com.au found in the 2019-2020 financial year a total 3569 racing greyhounds in NSW were supposed to be adopted into new homes. However, statistics have revealed a total 2338 dogs have completely disappeared.
"Where are these 2000-plus dogs? We suspect unprofitable racers are still being got rid of," CPG president Dennis Anderson said. He believes many of the dogs, aged between two and four years old, have been killed.
The case study has sparked a furious response from the independent regulator of the greyhound industry in NSW, the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC), which has disputed the findings in a lengthy statement.
A spokesperson for Greyhound Racing NSW also dismissed claims from the CPG, and suggested the figures were falsified.
The NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson, who is responsible for racing, has also responded to the claims, telling news.com.au "there is a robust program in place" to ensure greyhounds live a long and healthy life.
In 2016, the McHugh Inquiry was launched following the confronting ABC Four Corners investigation into the greyhound racing industry, which found live animals were being used to bait greyhounds.
The inquiry also discovered thousands of dogs "disappeared" or were killed after being retired from racing.
President of the CPG, Mr Anderson, said dogs were found in mass graves by authorities, and in some cases had been illegally bled out or killed, with blood used for pet transfusions.
"The people involved in greyhound racing are in it for the money and no matter how much they say they care about animal welfare, they don't. It comes a very poor second," he said.
"We believe animal cruelty for profit has no role in Australia in 2020."
Mr Anderson said he doesn't think the greyhound racing industry was affected by the coronavirus pandemic "at all".
He said most races continued throughout the pandemic, and betting mostly took place online.
He claimed the minister responsible for racing, Kevin Anderson, had not taken steps to empower GWIC to implement whole-of-life tracking for racing greyhounds. GWIC is the independent regulator of the NSW greyhound industry.
Mr Anderson said the NSW Government still only tracked greyhounds owned by registered industry participants - which didn't cover greyhounds kept by non-industry participants. This is despite committing to whole-of-life tracking for racing greyhounds in 2017.
"Our State Government has failed to ensure their safety," he said, adding there were currently eight inspectors tasked with monitoring 26,000 working and ex-racing greyhounds across NSW - a job he described as impossible.
News.com.au understands there are in fact 11 full-time employees on GWIC's enforcement team.
Mr Anderson said the CPG was not concerned about greyhounds adopted by private rescuers, as they generally go to "loving homes" - but it was concerned about dogs whose whereabouts are "unknown".
"It would be a simple matter for the State Government to ensure the transfer of identifying details for racers from the NSW regulator to the NSW Pet Registry when dogs are retired from racing, so they don't disappear, yet no action has been taken. Why is this so?"
Mr Anderson has called on the Minister to introduce whole-of-life tracking for racing greyhounds, to fund rescues and sanctuaries, increase penalties for rule breakers in the industry, reduce breeding and racing and make tracks safer.
GOVT 'TAKES GREYHOUND WELFARE INCREDIBLY SERIOUSLY'
Better Regulation and Innovation Minister Kevin Anderson defended the government's record on greyhound welfare in a statement to news.com.au, saying GWIC was effective at protecting racing dogs in the state.
"This government takes greyhound welfare incredibly seriously and under GWIC, there is a robust program in place to give registered greyhounds a long and healthy life after racing," the Minister said.
"When retired greyhounds are sold, retired or given away to members of the public who are not industry participants, they remain protected. GWIC oversees the registration of retired dogs to their new owners so that they can be monitored by either the Commission, Local Council or RSPCA inspectors.
"We also recently established a new Code of Practice so that NSW can take the lead with the highest welfare standards in the country, and are embarking on a review of the Greyhounds Act to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
"These actions demonstrate our commitment to achieving long-term sustainability and welfare standards in the greyhound industry that reflect the public's expectations."
INDEPENDENT REGULATOR DISPUTES CLAIMS OF MISSING GREYHOUNDS
GWIC disputed the findings from the CPG in a lengthy and detailed statement provided to news.com.au, published in full at the end of this article.
GWIC said CPG "made several incorrect assumptions" about the number of greyhounds they believed should have been adopted or had gone missing, and the Commission "does not agree with the CPG that there are '2338 missing greyhounds'."
"Prior to the establishment of the Commission, it was estimated that 30 per cent of greyhounds whelped (born) may never race, however since the commencement of the Commission and the introduction of industry reform, breeding numbers have reduced significantly and we cannot assume that this figure continues to fit the situation of the past three years."
The statement also noted that "just because a greyhound does not race in NSW does not mean they do not race at all. New South Wales is a well known exporter of young greyhounds to other states and jurisdictions in Australia.
"The Commission has found that most greyhounds that do not race, or that are retired from racing, remain in the custody of their owners or trainers and therefore remain registered with the Commission.
"As a result, they are not included in rehoming statistics published by the Commission.
The full statement is below.
CPG said it put together the case study with publicly available data published by GWIC, and also cited data from Greyhounds Australasia. CPG's case study uses data showing greyhounds whelped, and moved into either racing or deemed unsuitable to race.
The case study then subtracted the number of greyhounds euthanised or killed, according to GWIC data, to find a number it believed should have been eligible for adoption in the 2019/2020 financial year.
WHY DO GREYHOUNDS DISAPPEAR?
According to the case study from CPG, understanding the scale of disappearing greyhounds involved understanding their life cycle.
• Greyhounds puppies are weaned at about eight weeks, and raised in litters until about six months old.
• They start the "breaking in" process at 12-16 months - this is when they begin chasing a lure at speed.
• Some puppies don't progress past this stage because they're assessed as not being competitive.
• The remainder go to pre-training. Greyhounds Australasia reports 40 per cent of whelped dogs never race.
• The average racing career of a greyhound is 363 days.
• At the end of a greyhound's career, dogs are kept for breeding, adopted to a new home, or they disappear.
FULL STATEMENT FROM THE GREYHOUND WELFARE AND INTEGRITY COMMISSION
"The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds has made several incorrect assumptions relating to the number of greyhounds that 'should have been adopted' or are 'missing'," the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission said in a statement.
"The Commission does not agree with the CPG that there are '2338 missing greyhounds', with reasoning outlined below.
"The numbers cited have not taken into account greyhounds that remain with their original owner, trainer or breeder, as is often the case. For example, in GWIC's recent compliance check of greyhounds whelped between 1 July and 30 September 2018, 98.5 per cent were found to still be in the custody of a registered participant.
"It is also claimed that 40 per cent of greyhounds whelped are considered unsuitable for racing. Prior to the establishment of the Commission, it was estimated that 30 per cent of greyhounds whelped may never race, however since the commencement of the Commission and the introduction of industry reform, breeding numbers have reduced significantly and we cannot assume that this figure continues to fit the situation of the past three years.
"Greyhounds whelped in 2017/18 are nearing two years old, and many of them would have recently commenced their training for racing and have not yet competed in a race.
"The Commission will closely monitor the data in the coming months and years to determine industry trends.
"Similarly, just because a greyhound does not race in NSW does not mean they do not race at all. New South Wales is a well known exporter of young greyhounds to other states and jurisdictions in Australia.
"The Commission has found that most greyhounds that do not race, or that are retired from racing, remain in the custody of their owners or trainers and therefore remain registered with the Commission. As a result, they are not included in rehoming statistics published by the Commission.
"Evidence of this can be seen in the quarterly Retirement and End of Life reports on the Commission's website. These greyhounds are still subject to Commission inspections and monitoring.
"The Commission continues to educate the industry on their reporting obligations under the Racing Rules. On many occasions, greyhounds that are no longer racing but remain with an industry participant as a pet have not yet been reported to the Commission as retired.
"A large portion of 2020 has been spent validating the status of greyhounds in these situations.
"The CPG provides no supporting evidence for their claim that 40 per cent of greyhounds whelped are 'deemed unsuitable to race' nor an explanation for where 2649 racers comes from. The Commission cannot validate this data."
Originally published as Thousands of greyhounds feared killed