New report highlighting continued cruelty towards racing greyhounds

Victorian Director of the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) Joanne Lee and a rescue greyhound. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

A new report prepared by the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) has found animal welfare issues are still plaguing the racing industry.

CPG has revealed the lack of strict penalties or an independent regulator is facilitating the continued cruelty which is seeing dogs injured and killed.

At the Healesville racing track, one dog was killed this year (Invictus Stella on 27 January 2023, due to spinal fracture), there have been 278 total injuries (the fifth most in Victoria), with 53 of those classified as serious.

Two dogs that were seriously injured at Healesville are now listed as deceased in the industry database.

Since CPG started monitoring in January 2020, there have been four dogs killed on the track in Healesville, as well as 1184 injured.

CPG’s Victorian Director Joanne Lee said all the information in their report should not be a surprise to the industry as it’s provided by Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) and the Victorian Racing Tribunal.

“We’ve gone through their data, their information with a focus on how the Victorian greyhound racing industry is currently regulated, the racing industry participants who mistreat dogs don’t face the same penalties as other Victorians, especially when it comes to things like doping,” she said.

“Our researchers found that their penalty guidelines aren’t being applied because the government failed to mandate them into legislation so the result of that is even repeat offenders just get a slap on the wrist.”

In the report, CPG shared case studies involving a number of cruelty incidents including the December 2022 decision against one trainer, Ian Anderson, who raced his dogs at Healesville.

The Victorian Racing Tribunal found that Mr Anderson had ‘made false and/or misleading statements’ about rehoming four registered racing dogs and again made false or misleading statements about the dogs being shot when they were found deceased.

In an expert autopsy report, it was revealed the cause of death was blunt force trauma. Mr Anderson also faced seven other charges.

Mr Anderson was penalised with disqualification for life, but no fines, despite documents showing that he told the registrar at the Victorian Racing Tribunal he was having ’nothing more’ to do with the greyhound racing industry before the hearing decision.

As reported by the Herald Sun, Mr Anderson denied bludgeoning the dogs and chose to shoot the dogs after his brother told him to put them down, instead of rehoming them with him in Queensland after he suffered a heart attack.

The CPG was pleased Mr Anderson was disqualified for life, but believed he should have been referred for investigation and possible prosecution under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The welfare of racing greyhounds is governed under the Code of Practice for the Keeping of Racing Greyhounds due to their status as ‘production’ animals rather than companions.

Ms Lee said the challenge with GRV being its own judge and jury is that their vision is to ensure racing is a ‘vibrant, entertaining and thriving sport with animal welfare at its heart.’

She said the industry regulating itself is a huge issue.

“That’s where an independent regulator can come into play and be more impartial, more removed and hold the industry accountable for the horrible things that happen.“

“Their annual reports are heavily focused on performance in the industry, betting revenue, industry events, marketing and racing club information, and when you look at the amount that the industry also spends on greyhound welfare, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what they actually receive.

“GRV itself operated at a loss of $7 million in the last financial year, 73 per cent of all of their expenses were attributable to prize money, starter fees, race and club expenses and by contrast, they only spent $8 million or five per cent of that pool on animal welfare and that includes the industry’s rehoming arm, GAP (Greyhound Adoption program).”

According to GRV’s 2022-23 Annual Report, $77 million dollars was spent in prize money and other returns to participants. Close to $23 million was spent on ‘integrity, welfare and racing expenses’.

Two reports related to the greyhound racing industry have been previously commissioned in Victoria; then Racing Integrity Commissioner Salna Perna and then Victorian Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Charles Milne’s reports, brought about by alleged incidents of live baiting discussed in the ABC’s Four Corners program on 16 February 2015.

On page 109, the Perna Report said it was critical that there is a ‘dedicated, professional body’ which is ‘independent of any management influence and commercial concerns of a controlling body.’

On page 4 of Dr Milne’s report, he recommends for a ‘Greyhound Inspectorate’ to be established, removing the auditing and inspectorate functions from GRV, to be controlled by the government and funded by the industry.

A Victorian Government spokesperson said they are ensuring that the Victorian racing industry treats all animals with care and promotes the welfare of racing animals both during their career and in retirement.

“Animal cruelty is not acceptable and we have a clear expectation that Greyhound Racing Victoria will deliver safe racing conditions at each of its venues and the welfare of racing greyhounds will always be a priority,” the spokesperson said.

GRV was contacted for comment.