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18th of January 2018

Politics



Dead dogs: 1447 greyhounds known to be euthanised in four years, report reveals

Greyhound Racing New Zealand says it is already actively working on all 20 recommendations in the Hansen report. JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF

Greyhound Racing New Zealand says it is already actively working on all 20 recommendations in the Hansen report.

A review of welfare issues affecting greyhound racing in New Zealand has revealed more than 1440 dogs have been euthanised in just four years.

But the findings from the independent review, commissioned by the New Zealand Racing Board back in November, suggests the true number of greyhounds euthanised during the four year period is "much higher".

Undertaken by former High Court judge Rodney Hansen QC, the review looks at progress on welfare over the four years since the last significant report, known as the WHK review, back in 2013.

Racing minister Winston Peters says the welfare report into greyhound racing makes for disturbing reading. KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Racing minister Winston Peters says the welfare report into greyhound racing makes for disturbing reading.

Hansen's findings were made public on Wednesday. He said some progress has been made but there was a long way to go to reach acceptable welfare standards.

READ MORE:* SPCA investigates live-bait use* Greyhound racing has gone to dogs* Trio guilty of brawling at dog track* Gang threats yelled in track scuffle

The report revealed 1447 greyhounds had been euthanised between the 2013/14 and 2016/17 seasons. 

But alarmingly, there were also 1271 dogs who are unaccounted for.

The Hansen report said 1447 greyhounds have been euthanised in the last four seasons. GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

The Hansen report said 1447 greyhounds have been euthanised in the last four seasons.

Racing Minister Winston Peters said the findings of the Hansen report on greyhound racing were disturbing and deeply disappointing.

"This week I made a point of meeting with the NZ Racing Board in person to coincide with the board receiving the Greyhound Racing NZ response. The industry was left in no doubt just what dismal view the Government has of this," Peters said.

"When the welfare of greyhounds should be paramount, the Hansen report has revealed rates of dog euthanasia, the numbers of 'unaccounted' for dogs, and low numbers of rehomed greyhounds which are simply unacceptable," he said.

The Associate Minister of Agriculture, responsible for animal welfare, Meka Whaitiri, said the report made for sobering reading.

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"New Zealanders expect that animals are treated humanely while they are racing and after they have retired from racing and this report demonstrates that the industry has some way to go to meet those expectations," she said.

Hansen's report referred to a lack of reliable data on the outcome of greyhounds who never make it to the race track and those who are retired from racing.

"It is clear that the steps taken since the WHK report have been ineffective to reduce the number of greyhounds being euthanised and to ensure that accurate records are kept of deaths for any reason," Hansen's report said.

"The number of greyhounds reported as euthanised continues at high levels with evidence of widespread non-compliance with reporting requirements strongly suggesting the true figure is much higher," the report said.

"It is imperative that NZGRA put in place processes that ensure that the life of every greyhound whelped is tracked. That will require a level of commitment to monitoring and enforcement that has not been achieved to date."

Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ) said it was actively working on all 20 recommendations in the report.

"The report correctly identifies that there are several gaps in our knowledge of where dogs are located through their life cycle," GRNZ said in a statement.

"We have invested in ground-breaking new population management software which we will roll out progressively from 2018. This will enable us to model the impact of breeding and importation, and then actively work with owners and trainers to ensure overpopulation is avoided." 

The Hansen report had not confirmed any instances of either live baiting or dead baiting in New Zealand in recent years but stated: "there is an investigation currently underway which may reveal evidence of relevant breaches of the Code of Welfare".

The SPCA currently has an open investigation into allegations of live baiting at the Manawatū kennels of Lisa and Brendon Cole, who have not commented on the allegations.

The use of live bait as a lure is believed to increase the dogs' drive to chase, but it is illegal in New Zealand, whether the animal is dead or alive. GRNZ guidelines only allow artificial lures.

Green Party animal welfare spokesman Gareth Hughes said the greyhound industry needs to immediately prove it can operate in a humane way, with decent animal welfare standards. 

"Greyhounds shouldn't be dying for people's viewing and gambling pleasure," he said.

"If the death, injury, and re-homing rates can't be significantly improved, and better data collection and tracking enforced, the social license for this industry should be revoked," Hughes said.

"The industry also needs to improve its rules on euthanising dogs so that killing the animal is not used a cheap way of disposing of dogs when the owners are finished racing them."

 - Stuff

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