ACT News

RSPCA calls for tighter regulation of greyhound industry

Minister for Racing and Gaming Joy Burch has described reports of live baiting in the greyhound racing industry as "truly shocking" and has ordered a commission to investigate the matter further.

On Monday night, ABC's Four Corners program showed secret surveillance footage of piglets, rabbits and possums being mauled and used as live bait for greyhounds to increase their performance on the track.

Greyhound racing in NSW has no independent regulator with power to root out criminal and unethical practices.
Greyhound racing in NSW has no independent regulator with power to root out criminal and unethical practices.  

The footage prompted strong reactions for animal welfare groups with RSPCA ACT chief executive Tammy Ven Dange calling on the government to introduce more strict regulations of the greyhound industry in Canberra.

Ms Ven Dange said she was disgusted and appalled by the footage and stressed the live baiting had been "an elephant in the room" for too many years.

A screenshot of the <i>Four Corners</i> program on the greyhound racing industry.
A screenshot of the Four Corners program on the greyhound racing industry. Photo: ABC

Ms Burch said no complaints about live baiting had been received by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission but race meets in Canberra attracted interstate trainers and greyhound owners.  

"I have directed the Gambling and Racing Commission to make enquiries as to whether any of the trainers shown in last night's program have raced their greyhounds in the ACT," she said.

"An issue as serious as this one deserves a national approach, and I am committed to working with my colleagues in other states to ensure this abhorrent practice is stamped out."

Ms Burch said she would write to her interstate colleagues and ask for the matter of animal abuse in the greyhound industry be prioritised at their next meeting.

"I will also be seeking assurances from other states that when greyhounds come to the ACT to race they haven't been trained in this inhumane way," she said.

Ms Ven Dange said live baiting was likely to continue as "whenever you take an entity with a combination of people, animals and gambling there is going to be all sorts of incentives to cheat".

"The greyhound racing community has not been regulated to the same level as other sports like cycling and horse racing."

With 95 per cent of its participants licensed with Greyhound Racing NSW, the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club's board of management said it welcomed the interstate body's move to establish a taskforce to investigate the extent of "illegal" live baiting and animal cruelty.

"[The board] is disgusted by the footage and is extremely disappointed with the conduct of a minority impacting on the reputations of hard working, law abiding participants in the ACT," the club's board said in a statement.

"The taskforce will help ensure that live baiting and animal cruelty identified in NSW are eradicated as quickly as possible."

Ms Ven Dange called on Canberrans to lobby Ms Burch to introduce tighter regulations on the industry and to voice their opposition to live baiting.

"Almost everything we do in the animal welfare space relies on the public to help change rules as the electorate is important to politicians."

The airing of the footage on Monday night followed Fairfax Media's report on Sunday that a parliamentary inquiry has been set up to scrutinise allegations of industry mismanagement, inappropriate distribution of TAB funds and widespread mistreatment of dogs in the $50 million-a-year greyhound racing industry in NSW.

Last year, Fairfax Media exposed allegations of race-fixing, drug use, money laundering and alleged criminal activity within the greyhound racing industry, despite reforms that had been aimed at cleaning up the sport. 

Ms Ven Dange said secret surveillance footage could sometimes cause trouble for inspectors as the videos could not be used in court if they were illegally obtained.

"This has caused issues in other states with some big cases because the inspectors have had to drop the charges due to a lack of evidence," she said.

"The producers of the program alerted inspectors and gave them enough time to raid the properties and collect enough evidence to prosecute."

Ms Ven Dange said inspectors had responded to one report of live baiting in the ACT but did not have enough evidence to progress the investigation further.

Ms Ven Dange said the practice of live baiting also gives an unfair advantage, as the blood of live animals makes greyhounds more aggressive and potentially faster on the track.

Live baiting was criminalised decades ago because of its extreme cruelty and performance enhancing aspect. Dogs now chase a mechanical lure around the track instead. 

Opposition Minister for Racing and Gaming Brendan Smyth called on the local racing community and the government to ensure live baiting was not practiced in the ACT

"It is important that the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club ensure that none of its members or those who race their animals here in the ACT are training by using these barbaric measures," he said. 

"It's barbaric, it's cruel and it's not the measure of a civilised society or an industry that is there for entertainment."

with Clare Colley