Australia’s greyhound racing authorities want greater powers to stamp out the animal cruelty they say threatens the viability of the entire industry.
Seventy trainers in Victoria, NSW and Queensland have been implicated in using live animals to ‘blood’ dogs, a practice the RSPCA believes is entrenched and systemic in the industry.
Industry figures joined animal welfare groups in labelling the illegal training practice abhorrent, disgusting and unnecessary.
Peak body Greyhounds Australasia’s CEO Scott Parker said the industry clearly rejected live baiting and its 30,000 participants who play by the rules have had their reputations severely and unfairly damaged by the conduct of a small minority.
“It shocks us that it isn’t seemingly just one person who is ignorant of the rules and has been led astray,” Mr Parker said.
“The footage did allegedly show people that know the rules, they know the law and they’ve risked not only their own reputation, their own livelihood, but the reputation and livelihoods of 30,000 others and that’s completely unacceptable.
“If found guilty, they don’t deserve the right to belong to this industry.”
Greyhound Racing Victoria will get enhanced surveillance technology and more welfare officers and stewards but chair Peter Caillard said the body wants greater powers over animal welfare including removing restrictions over night inspections.
“We want the powers so we can prevent this from happening,” he said.
Greyhound Racing NSW chief executive Brent Hogan said live baiting needed to be stamped out for good.
“What we need to look at is the powers around surveillance and inspections – and we need to make sure those powers are sufficient to allow us to weed out (these) activities,” he said.
Twenty-four trainers and staff have been suspended in Victoria, NSW and Queensland but Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland says 70 people including high-profile trainers have been implicated.
Mr Caillard said there was no evidence to suggest live baiting was being used in Victoria beyond a privately owned training facility at Tooradin.
GRV officers have inspected the site 16 times since September 2009, but it took surveillance footage from animal activists for the facility to be suspended pending an investigation.
“It does just show the power of simple technology and unrestricted access compared to the restrictions the controlling bodies have had to operate under,” Mr Parker said.
Mr Caillard said the allegations will tarnish the sport’s image.
“This is devastating for the greyhound racing industry because it’s simply disgusting conduct,” he said.
“Here you have a small number that have done something abhorrent, not just the wrong thing, something absolutely abhorrent. Of course it’s going to have a bad effect on greyhound racing.”
RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker said the group has received further tip-offs after the initial revelations in ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday.
She said it would likely take weeks rather than days to lay charges.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said it was a state matter but the government will work with the states to ensure the greyhound industry remains viable and ethical.