SPCA New Zealand

SPCA celebrates findings of Government review into ‘inherently dangerous’ greyhound racing industry

02 September 2021
SPCA celebrates findings of Government review into ‘inherently dangerous’ greyhound racing industry

SPCA supports the findings of the Government’s review into the greyhound racing industry, and welcomes Minister Grant Robertson’s stance that the industry should improve its animal welfare standards or risk closure.

SPCA supports the findings of the Government’s review into the greyhound racing industry, and welcomes Minister Grant Robertson’s stance that the industry should improve its animal welfare standards or risk closure.

The latest review, led by Sir Bruce Robertson, confirms the greyhound racing industry continues to fail to adequately address significant welfare issues, including unacceptably high levels of injuries, euthanasia and breeding of excess animals. The review labels the industry as inherently dangerous, and highlights an ongoing lack of transparency and data recording and animal welfare issues.

SPCA Chief Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale says the industry is not taking animal welfare seriously enough and agrees it’s time questions were raised over its operation future in New Zealand.

“This industry has repeatedly failed to act in a transparent manner and consistently meet even the most minimum welfare standards for the animals involved. I am delighted that the Minister has taken this review seriously by putting the industry on notice,” says Dr Dale.

New Zealand is one of only eight countries that still allows a commercial greyhound racing industry. While SPCA does not support the practice, the charity has been working with the industry to advocate for better welfare standards while greyhound racing is still legal. There is still an unacceptable number of injuries, health issues, euthanasia, over-breeding, lack of appropriate socialisation and inadequate housing and management.

“Given the clear failure to adequately improve welfare standards, we welcome the conversation about whether this industry has a future in New Zealand,” says Dr Dale.

SPCA is also deeply concerned by a number of recently reported catastrophic injury events during racing, as well as several disturbing cases of illegal drug use.

“Giving greyhounds drugs – or any animal for that matter – with substances such as methamphetamine is absolutely appalling. This causes severe distress in the animal and has the potential to trigger fatal health issues. No animal should be subjected to that kind of abuse for human gain,” says Dr Dale.

SPCA has long advocated for meaningful animal welfare reform and has sat on Greyhound Racing New Zealand’s Health and Welfare Committee for the last five years, giving the charity a seat at the table to repeatedly flag animal welfare concerns and call for increased transparency. Good progress was made while there was a dedicated Animal Welfare Manager, but since this position was disestablished in 2019 there has been little if any animal welfare improvements.

SPCA also submitted written evidence and met with Sir Bruce Robertson as part of this most recent Government review. The submission drew attention to recommendations from previous welfare reviews which have not been met, raised concerns about additional welfare issues and transparency of welfare reporting, and called for a wider review of the health and welfare of dogs within the greyhound racing industry. SPCA’s submission also called for a wider review about whether greyhound racing should exist in New Zealand at all.

“We would like to see greater transparency and accountability in the greyhound racing industry to ensure progress is actually being made and steps are actively taken to improve greyhound welfare,” says Dr Dale.

This is the third independent review looking into the welfare of dogs in greyhound racing in the last eight years. Each review has highlighted serious welfare issues. The WHK review was in 2013 and this was followed by the 2017 Hansen Report. 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 against the Hansen Report recommendations were made to the Minister of Racing, the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Greyhound Racing New Zealand chose to stop these reports in May last year, despite Minister Grant Robertson and Minister Meka Whaitiri asking for them to be reinstated, triggering the latest review.

The industry has been given until the end of 2022 to demonstrate improvements, with Minister Robertson stating, “the greyhound racing industry is on notice: either make the improvements needed or risk closure”.

SPCA supports Sir Bruce’s recommendation for the establishment of a Racing Integrity Board Health and Welfare Committeerequiring the full participation of all relevant stakeholders and the ability to implement change where required. SPCA looks forward to working with the Racing Integrity Board on this.

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