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Greyhound racing

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Ratification Date: 03 Aug 2018

Policy

The primary concern of the Australian Veterinary Association is the health and welfare of the dogs involved in the Greyhound racing industry. The management of these animals must be optimised to ensure achievement of positive welfare outcomes in each of the ‘5 Domains’1 throughout the entire life of the Greyhound.

Background

Good animal welfare is encapsulated by the “Five Freedoms; a continuation of this is the “Five Domains” approach, which looks at animals’ needs in five domains of potential welfare compromise and the degree to which those needs are, or are not, met1. The domains are: nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and mental state. The veterinary profession must make every endeavour to ensure all stakeholders within the Greyhound industry are aware of, and work to achieve positive outcomes, in each of these five domains.

At the present time, the veterinary profession is not being utilised to its maximum potential in the development and governance of the industry. Many greyhounds with health concerns are not getting access to adequate veterinary care, which is a trend that needs to be addressed2.

Recommendations

Regulation

The McHugh report2 into the NSW branch of the Greyhound industry made 79 recommendations. These recommendations are supported and should be implemented in all states and territories where Greyhound racing occurs.

The Iemma report in NSW3 has made 122 additional recommendations, which should also be adopted nationally.

Whole-of-life welfare
  • Legislation and industry codes must be developed to ensure the welfare of Greyhounds for their entire life, from breeding and rearing through to training, racing and eventual retirement and rehoming.
  • An accurate and reliable national database capable of tracking the entire life cycle of each Greyhound must be maintained to monitor compliance.
  • Veterinary involvement at all stages of Greyhounds’ lives is key, including advice on: breeding; appropriate early exposure to varying environments, novelty, other breeds, ages and species; routine preventative health care; humane training practices; injury prevention and treatment; and post racing welfare.
  • Schemes that enhance whole-of-life welfare for Greyhounds should be factored into any state funding and industry financial planning. This would include adequate funding for regular random unannounced inspections of kennels/property to ensure appropriate welfare, including the detection of banned substances and practices such as live baiting remains current and responsive.
Veterinarians should:
  • Advocate for welfare improvements for all Greyhounds through education and cultural change.
  • Promote and participate in research into the science of Greyhound medicine, surgery, behaviour and performance.
  • Liaise with local, state and national bodies to ensure the veterinary profession becomes the primary source of expertise on Greyhound health and welfare.
  • Promote compliance with the relevant codes in each jurisdiction.
Breeding and rearing
  • All state authorities should adopt enforceable breeder standards with regular inspection of breeding establishments to ensure compliance. These standards should require education to at least a Certificate III level for those involved in Greyhound breeding and rearing.
  • All Greyhounds must be provided with appropriate environmental enrichment and opportunities to socialise with a range of different people and other animals in varying environmental situations, from puppyhood onwards.
  • A national database should be established to track the entire lifecycle of the dogs.
  • The community has an expectation that overbreeding should not occur.
Training

Recent publicity of the industry demonstrates an inadequate knowledge of appropriate training techniques to maximise the performance of the racing Greyhound. Techniques for maximising sporting achievement have made great progress in recent decades, but this information is not being consistently adopted throughout the industry.

State authorities should require education to at least a Certificate III level for those involved in Greyhound training so that best practice techniques are implemented. There must be education about banned and illegal training practices, and enforcement of the rules around these.

Animals (live or dead) must never be used as bait for training or ‘blooding’ of Greyhounds.

Injuries

There is inherent risk of injury in most professional sports. The Greyhound racing industry should promote practices to minimise injury rates.

Track design and surface preparation play a pivotal role in the cause and prevention of injury to the racing Greyhound. Injury statistics should be made available to all race clubs so that practices used by tracks with the lowest incidence of injury are implemented across the nation.

The attendance of a veterinarian at all track meets and trials, wherever Greyhounds are training or racing, should be mandatory.

Retirement and adoption programs

Breeding, rearing and training practices must be conducive to eventual rehoming of Greyhounds to reduce euthanasia rates. Once an animal ceases to be useful to the industry, it should be assessed for suitability for rehoming. Euthanasia should only ever be considered as a last resort if, after behavioural assessment and rehabilitation, rehoming is not possible. It is incumbent on participants in the industry to minimise the numbers of Greyhounds killed unnecessarily.

Where euthanasia is necessary, this must be performed within an atmosphere of kindness and gentleness, and only by a veterinarian, with an auditable trail in place to ensure compliance with this requirement.

Rehoming and adoption programmes should be nationally coordinated and industry funded, through a specific levy at pup registration.

Export

The Australian Federal Government must introduce regulations to control the export of Greyhounds. Export of Greyhounds must be assessed on a case by case basis. Export of any animals to countries that lack robust animal welfare standards is not supported.

Greyhounds must only be permitted to be exported to destinations where the welfare of each individual dog will be guaranteed. Destinations must have acceptable animal protection laws, acceptable standards of care, acceptable living/racing conditions, formal rehoming programs and life-cycle tracking systems. Where these measures are not in place, Greyhounds must not be exported. Stringent government-regulated export standards are urgently needed.

References

  1. Mellor DJ. Extending the ‘Five Domains’ model for animal welfare assessment to incorporate positive welfare states. Animal Welf 2015;24:241–253.
  2. Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound ​Racing Industry in NSW https://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/
  3. Iemma M, Draper S, Scott B et al. Recommendations of the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel. February 2017 http://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/101738/final-panel-report-february-2017.pdf. Accessed January 2018.
  4. Lefebvre D, Giffroy J-M, Diederich C. Cortisol and behaviour responses to enrichment in military working dogs. J Ethol 2009;27:255–265.
  5. Bradshaw JWS. The effect of feeding enrichment upon working ability and behaviour of kennelled working dogs (Technical Note). J Forensic Sci 2008;53:1400–1404.
  6. Rooney NJ, Gaines S, Hiby E. A practitioners guide to working dog welfare. J Vet Behav 2009;4:127–134.
  7. Appleby D. Puppy socialisation and habituation. Part 1: why is it necessary? Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, 2010. http://www.apbc.org.uk/articles/puppysocialisation1, Accessed January 2018.
  8. RSPCA. Knowledgebase: five freedoms for animals. 12 June 2009. http://kb.rspca.org.au/Five-freedoms-for-animals_318.html