SPCA supports Government review into greyhound racing industry
SPCA is pleased the Government has announced a review into New Zealand’s greyhound Racing industry, following significant animal welfare and safety concerns.
There are significant issues inherent within greyhound racing and the industry body, Greyhound Racing New Zealand, is not taking animal welfare seriously enough. There are unacceptable high levels of injuries, health issues, euthanasia, dogs that are ‘unaccounted’ for, over breeding and inadequate housing.
SPCA has long advocated for meaningful animal welfare reform in greyhound racing in New Zealand. It has also been working with the industry, whilst greyhound racing is still legal, to achieve animal welfare improvements by sitting on their Animal Welfare Committee for the past five years. While some animal welfare improvements were made initially, the removal of the industry’s Head of Animal Welfare and the decision to stop reporting how the industry is tracking against the 2017 Hansen Report recommendations, has meant that it’s increasingly difficult to see what, if any, progress has been made to improve standards.
SPCA’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale says strict and enforced regulations are needed, and the industry must be responsible for all dogs they breed and ensure they have a good quality of life, regardless of whether they are used for racing or not.
“We applaud the government for its decision at a time where animal welfare across all industries is in the spotlight,” she says. “It’s high time the greyhound racing industry was held to account for its poor standards of animal welfare.”
This is the third independent review in to Greyhound Racing in the last eight years. The WHK review was in 2013 and this was followed by the 2017 Hansen Review. Hansen identified a number of the WHK recommendations had not been implemented, and also made 20 recommendations to improve the welfare of greyhounds. Initially quarterly progress reports were made to the Minister of Racing, the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. These stopped in May last year, despite Minister Whaitiri asking for them to be reinstated.
There have been a number of recent catastrophic injury events during racing that have been reported by media and, and as Judge Hansen states, “Greyhound racing is inherently dangerous”. In his 2017 review of the industry, Hansen reported 73 percent of race day injuries were so significant that they resulted in dogs being stood down for between 10 to 28 days. Injuries include general soreness, muscular tear, fractures, split webbing, sprains, lacerations, cramp and hemorrhaging. Hansen reported seven percent of dogs had injuries so severe, they needed to be euthanised on race day.
The Hansen Report also raised the issue of disposability in greyhound racing, with only 59 percent of pups born actually being raced. Of the greyhounds that make it to racing, 45 percent are euthanised with an additional eight percent either dying or the reason for being deregistered being ‘blank’ or ‘other’. Eighty-seven percent of reported euthanasia was for dogs aged between 0-4 years. Although Greyhound Racing New Zealand’s most recent annual report shows a reduction in euthanasia rates, transparency remains an issue. In the 2019/2020 season, the recorded reason for euthanasia in 77 percent of dogs killed is only recorded as ‘other’.
New Zealand is one of only eight countries that still allows a commercial greyhound racing industry. The others are Australia (not all states), Mexico, Macau, Ireland, United Kingdom, the United States (in four states only) and Vietnam.
Social license in New Zealand and worldwide for this sport has dropped and this latest Government review is long overdue. SPCA congratulates Minister Robertson and Minister Whaitiri for launching this review into the welfare of greyhounds used in the racing industry.