An independent investigation has found “unacceptably” high rates of injury and euthanasia in the Northern Territory’s greyhound industry.
The investigation was prompted by trainer and member complaints
No evidence of live baiting or fraud was found
The report recommended a new rehoming program to reduce euthanasia rates
The investigation began in June last year after complaints were made by trainers, club members and others about the Darwin Greyhound Association (DGA).
Lawyers Hutton McCarthy carried out the investigation after it was commissioned by the NT Consumer Affairs Commission and the NT Racing Commission.
No evidence of live baiting, fraud or widespread misconduct was found.
But in the report released on Tuesday, the investigators said “inadequate treatment” of greyhounds was observed, including poor kennelling and high rates of injuries and euthanasia.
A series of recommendations have been made to improve animal welfare standards, governance at the association, and oversight by the NT government.
The investigators found 36 greyhounds were euthanased in 2019 and 2020 and more than 20 of these were because of an injury.
Most of the dogs euthanased were two, three or four years old.
The paperwork for “retired” greyhounds was also found to be deficient.
The report also noted fewer drug swabs had been conducted per race dog in the NT, but positive results were far higher than elsewhere in the country.
“We were informed that the Racing Commission and Licensing NT have no budget allocation to perform drug swabs, which are expensive,” the report said.
Greyhound association ‘welcomes’ findings
DGA president Robbie Brennan said the club welcomed the findings and would focus on animal welfare improvements.
“We are responsible as the racing club to provide the best facilities possible for the dogs to race on,” Mr Brennan said.
“Hence we have spent a lot of money and time, and it’s ongoing, to make sure that the track’s up to standard, to make sure the dogs don’t sustain injuries that are life threatening, or any injuries at all.”
Mr Brennan said he agreed with the finding that the club’s governance practices had not kept pace with the industry’s considerable growth in revenue.
He said “cultural change” had been difficult at the club.
The investigators have recommended an industry-funded greyhound adoption program be operational by no later than July next year.
The report noted the NT Racing Commission had been proactive and invited scrutiny of its own practices, which the investigators said could be improved.
“This was recently underscored by the DGA itself determining to cease racing at Winnellie Park, citing concerns regarding the condition of the track, rather than the regulator doing so,” the report said.
The investigation also found Licensing NT failed to adequately monitor and evaluate the association’s use of government funding.
All greyhound racing jurisdictions in Australia promised in 2017 to put a welfare strategy in place for the animals, but the investigators found the NT had not done this.
In addition to a welfare strategy, the report recommended the racing commission create a code of practice for NT greyhound racing that is appropriate to the conditions.
The investigators have also asked the NT government to ensure the NT Racing Commission, including stewards, are properly funded to carry out their functions.