News State New South Wales Horse racing deaths in NSW revealed for the first time

Horse racing deaths in NSW revealed for the first time

horse racing nsw
The numbers were released to Greens animal welfare spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi. Photo: Getty
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Sixteen horses died on Racing NSW tracks between January 1 and June 30 this year, The New Daily can reveal.

Another 13 have been euthanised after being injured in a race.

There have also been three cases of sudden death due to cardiovascular failure associated with racing, according to figures obtained by NSW Greens animal welfare spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi under freedom of information.

Two horses died on Harness Racing NSW tracks between January 1 and August 6, and another two were euthanised due to their injuries.

The numbers were revealed after the Information and Privacy Commission told the racing agencies they must comply with freedom of information laws, as reported by The New Daily last month.

Racing NSW said 67 horses were so injured in the first half of this year they either retired or took prolonged time off.

“It should be noted, 10,572 individual horses started in races with 53,245 starts between them in the 12-month period to 30 June 2018,” Peter Sweney, General Counsel of Racing NSW said in his response to Dr Faruqi.

Ninety-four horses were injured in harness racing as at August 6.

Harness Racing NSW chief executive John Dumesny told The New Daily horses collectively raced about 34,500 times a year.

Dr Faruqi called for a special commission of inquiry into the industry.

“Whenever animals and gambling are mixed, animals always come last by a long way,” she said.

“When animals are treated as disposable commodities and valued only for their profit, unfortunately injuries and euthanasia seem to be all too common.

“We need to get to the bottom of how many horses die for the sake of a bet.”

A spokesperson for NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole said the industry was leading the nation on animal welfare initiatives.

“The Greens should just be honest and admit they want to shut down the racing industry, something that would put thousands of working people out of a job.”

Horse retirements in Racing NSW

Mr Sweney said Racing NSW has “the most comprehensive and robust retirement program for racehorses” in Australia.

nsw horse racing
Overseer Janelle Bowden prepares Memphis at St Heliers Correctional Centre. Photo: NSW Justice / Colin Lavender

Horses are re-trained to ensure they are equipped to be re-homed for jumping, hacking, eventing, polo, dressage and pleasure riding.

Inmates at St Heliers Correctional Centre – at Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley – care for up to 80 horses at a time under a partnership with Corrective Services NSW that has been running since 2012.

“This operation has proven to have positive outcomes for both the horses and the inmates, with improvements in inmate behaviour and reduced recidivism rates,” Mr Sweney said.

NSW RSL also operates a similar Homes for Heroes program for returned servicemen with physical and mental health issues at Picton, southwest of Sydney.

Horse deaths on racing tracks are notified in public steward reports but not recorded in the Racing NSW annual report.

Harness Racing NSW

Mr Dumesny reiterated Harness Racing NSW was transparent and accountable and provided information when requested.

“We take care of the horses in the most humane way and veterinarily [sic] practical ways,” he told The New Daily.

Where we can we save these beautiful horses.

“Unfortunately these things do occur.”

In his response to Dr Faruqi, Mr Dumesny said the number of horse deaths and injuries would be detailed in the 2018 annual report.

The 2016-17 annual report did not provide information on deaths and injuries.

harness racing nsw horse deaths injuries
Harness Racing NSW horses collectively race about 34,500 times a year. Photo: Getty

It said about 80 per cent of standardbreds were “re-homed in areas of leisure activities and breeding” nationally on retirement.

Mr Dumesny told Dr Faruqi that horse deaths and injuries are reported by stewards onto an internal portal, which registers on a national database.

The Regulatory Veterinarian reviews the reports and refers them to him, he said.

Dr Faruqi also made similar inquiries in questions on notice in the Legislative Council.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd wrote to both racing regulators on June 13 to tell them they were accountable to the public and needed to comply with the GIPA (Government Information Public Access) Act.

Dr Faruqi will be sworn into the federal Senate this week after resigning from state parliament.

Racing NSW declined to comment.

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