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Estimates questions on Greyhounds
8 June 2017
GREYHOUNDS - Questions to Minister Gutwein 5th June 2017
Ms DAWKINS - I have a question about amendments to the Dog Control Act. I am sure you are aware Brightside Farm Sanctuary is getting in between 30 and 40 dogs a month, whereas the Greyhound Adoption Program Tasmania gets around 60 for an entire year. Yet in the draft legislation only GAP dogs were able to be unmuzzled. Can you speak on why that has occurred and from whom you sought advice, please?
Mr GUTWEIN - Ms Dawkins , I will get Mr Brown to explain because it has moved on somewhat.
Ms DAWKINS - Yes, I think submissions have got to the next stage?
Mr GUTWEIN - Looking at what I think is a sensible way forward. Mr Brown can bring us up to speed on that.
Mr BROWN - The original proposal was for GAP dogs. It was a recognised training for greyhounds to wander unmuzzled. With consultation we have had significant feedback from the community and a lot of support for other appropriate authorities to be able to be accredited. We are about to put a position to the minister to include a provision, through the Director of Racing, to approve another authority, such Brightside.
Ms DAWKINS - Would the racing industry be the right industry to be looking after dogs' welfare?
Mr BROWN - Originally we proposed Tasracing but we have now removed that, so it is the Director of Racing.
Ms DAWKINS - Integrity?
Mr BROWN - Yes.
Ms DAWKINS - We are much more comfortable with that. How long until that gets the legislative stage?
Mr GUTWEIN - I am waiting on advice to come forward. I have not seen the final advice but I know there has been a lot of interest in ensuring dogs that have been through the Brightside program are provided a pathway and we have worked diligently to find a framework.
In regard to the Director of Racing's involvement, all parties are broadly comfortable with that as it stands.
Mr BROWN - Yes.
Ms DAWKINS - Thank you so much. It will make people very happy to hear that; I can guarantee it.
GREYHOUNDS - Questions to Minister Rockliff 8th June 2017
Ms DAWKINS - Our most recent RTI on greyhound deaths in the industry shows that 291 dogs had been killed within a nine-month period. That is exactly the same as it was the year before if you extrapolate that out for the rest of the year. You say that the industry is reforming on animal welfare but I cannot see any indication that is so.
Mr ROCKLIFF - The greyhound industry is working towards reducing the euthanasia rate by proactively supporting adoption programs that socialise greyhounds as pets and changing breeding rules. The Office of Racing Integrity must be notified when greyhounds are retired from racing and what their intended management will be post-retirement and monitoring management is ongoing. In the 2016-17 financial year, Tasracing is investing some $319 000 in the Greyhound Adoption Program and to date this financial year GAP has rehomed 105 retired greyhounds, surpassing last financial year's adoptions. Breeding rules were also changed in 2015, which resulted in 55 per cent fewer pups being whelped in 2015-16 than the previous year. The impact of this may not be seen until around 2018, as greyhounds must be at least 16 months old before they can commence racing, so expect to see some improvement.
Ms DAWKINS - We know that dogs from Victoria started being dumped here over the Christmas period and we believe that still continues. Also, in news to me, greyhounds are now being offered free on Gumtree. I do not know if that is new, but this is the first time I have seen it.
Mr ROCKLIFF - To be housed or to be raised?
Ms DAWKINS - To be housed, but from the racing industry. Dogs should not be able to be given away in that manner because how could they be assessed for unmuzzling and whether they are worthy to be pets if they are being given away by the industry? That is why GAP is there, to make sure all dogs are assessed and can be unmuzzled
Mr ROCKLIFF - I think you discussed changes to the act with Mr Gutwein in his local government capacity.
Ms DAWKINS - That is all looking really positive. People are really happy with that.
Mr ROCKLIFF - In this area. I saw and welcomed your comments around that. It is important we have the process of the Greyhound Adoption Program and Brightside to socialise greyhounds? I have not seen any greyhounds advertised on Gumtree for -
Ms DAWKINS - Were you aware of that?
Mr THOMPSON - No, I was not.
Ms DAWKINS - No, I was not either, so we will monitor it now.
Mr ROCKLIFF - I would be concerned about that. They do need to go through a proper accredited program.
Mr THOMPSON - Once a greyhound is deregistered, whether it has gone through GAP or not, it is simply a dog. Dogs can be sold, traded or whatever. It is important to make a distinction between the trading or advertising of racing registered greyhounds on Gumtree or some other disposal method, and dogs that could well have already been through a socialisation project and have left the industry.
Ms DAWKINS - They are saying they are ex-racers; that is how they are describing them on Gumtree.
Mr THOMPSON - Most greyhounds probably are ex-racers.
Ms DAWKINS - Yes, or they have not raced because they may not have cut the mustard on the day. I did not believe you could give an ex-greyhound away as a pet without having gone through some sort of socialising process.
Mr ROCKLIFF - I agree with you. I have not seen the ad and I have not seen the wording of the ad and the like. I would be happy for you to send me the link. When it comes to the first part of your question, greyhounds routinely move around Australia for racing and breeding. The Office of Racing Integrity is responsible for controlling the location of registered greyhounds. It is not seeing any instances of registered greyhounds from interstate being sent to Tasmania to access the Greyhound Adoption Program, although all Australian states operate a GAP program. Eligibility for entry of retired greyhounds varies between states.
In Tasmania, GAP is run by a state-owned company, Tasracing, which is subject to financial operational oversight. The GAP follows national protocols with respect to behavioural assessments and rehoming of greyhounds to ensure they are appropriate to be placed into the community following their racing career. The cost and logistics of sending interstate dogs to Tasmania to access the Tasmanian GAP or other rehoming organisations are likely to be a major disincentive for such action. Your question was also around racing greyhounds.
Ms DAWKINS - I met with an officer from Racing Integrity at Brightside. We talked to Emma Haswell about the dogs she had been receiving, which were coming through from Victoria. Once the racing industry in Victoria tightened, it was cheaper for people to send their dogs to Tasmania rather than to put them through GAP in Victoria or to euthanase them. That is why they were being dumped here. The officer we spoke to on the day seemed to understand that. It was not the first time he had heard it. Those dogs were being killed and turned into blood and bone or just dumped. Emma was taking them from the butcher as they were arriving at on the north-west coast, to Brightside and going through a process to rehome them. This is not new information, but more concerning because once Victoria started tightening up, it seemed the dogs were increasingly sent to Tasmania.
Ms DAWKINS - Only a few months after the report was handed down from the inquiry into greyhound racing, a leading trainer was charged with doping a dog with arsenic. The question that we are left with is, do the industry really take seriously the community's concerns? Do they really want to gain a social licence?
Mr ROCKLIFF - I have met with representatives of the greyhound racing industry. They are serious about reforming the industry. They are concerned about the social licence. Anything that the Government can do to support change in the industry, we will do. Investment in the GAP program is an example of that. I believe they are willing and want to change for the better. There are people in all three codes of racing, which is why we have an integrity function in fact, that may want to cut corners.
Ms DAWKINS - Arsenic is not cutting a corner, is it?
Mr THOMPSON - Arsenic is a prohibited substance.
Ms DAWKINS - Absolutely.
Mr ROCKLIFF - Just like many others, not allowed.
Ms DAWKINS - Someone has purposely done that. The question is how many people are charged with doping in the greyhound industry on an annual basis?
Mr ROCKLIFF - We have some figures here for you.
Mr THOMPSON - We have rules in the racing industry, as we have in all other industries. Generally they are the rules for the minority of people because most of the people do the right thing most of the time. Generally we have swabbed this year, and we will have by the end of the racing season, I think about 3500 animals. I am sorry, I do not have the split-up between the three codes. Of course, that includes swabs taken from riding participants. About 2.7 per cent of those swabs are actually positive. They are the rules for the minority, and it is a very small minority.
Ms DAWKINS - I think you said 105 dogs had been adopted out through GAP in the last year, but I have a different number.
Mr ROCKLIFF - I will just go back to be sure.
Ms DAWKINS - Let us just assume there is a number of dogs being adopted out through GAP. Brightside is rehoming between 30-40 dogs per month without any government funding at all. Is there any pathway for Brightside to be funded to do that work? These are dogs surplus to the industry that cannot find a pathway through GAP. There is a finite number of dogs that can never be adopted through GAP, but if we do not want these dogs to die for absolutely no reason, they can still have a future as a pet. Is there any possible way for Brightside to be allocated the funds to do that?
Mr ROCKLIFF - It was 105 retired greyhounds, which surpassed last year's financial year's adoptions, which is encouraging. Brightside is an animal rescue education and rehoming facility based in the Huon Valley in Tasmania. I organised a meeting with Ms Haswell recently but unfortunately she was unable to make it. She was very busy but I am happy to meet with her. Brightside is a registered charity organisation largely funded by donations and/or bequests. They are seeking additional funding and have publicly stated as much. Along with all other animals, Brightside takes in retired racing greyhounds and adopts them into the community. Tasracing met with Brightside for the first time on 17 March this year and a follow-up meeting is planned in the near future, including a visit to Brightside's operations.
I said to my team I wouldn't mind having a look myself. I am not sure if the greyhound committee went out there, but I would be interested.
Tasracing is interested in learning more about the work that Brightside does, particularly their procedures in behaviour testing of greyhounds prior to their adoption into the community. Tasracing's Greyhound Adoption Program follows the national protocols for behavioural and temperament testing and this is an important aspect of their work, ensuring that greyhounds who are adopted into the community are suitable. Tasracing is working hard to progress the build of a dedication centre for the GAP to increase its capacity to re-home more greyhounds. Tasracing and the Government recognise the important work Brightside and other re-homing organisations do. I think you mentioned the work 'pathway', I think there is potentially a pathway. I am not going to rule it out.