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Racing – Animal Welfare

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 8 June 2023

Tags: Animal Welfare, TasRacing, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I want to take you now to the rules of racing, Tasracing Greyhound Animal Welfare Manual, page 13. This is a perplexing thing to find in a government animal welfare manual. In the Frequently Asked Questions, it says:

Why should racing people use animals?

And the second point is:

The role of animals in society is mentioned in the Bible, Genesis 1:28.

What on earth is the Bible doing in the animal welfare manual?

Ms OGILVIE - I don't have that document in front of me. I accept what you're saying if it's there. Maybe it's an attempt at a historic reference.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm interested to know who put that in there. It's ridiculous to put Genesis, effectively a nod to dominion, into the animal welfare manual.

Ms OGILVIE - I don't know where you're going with this but -

Ms O'CONNOR - I just want to know why it's in there.

Ms OGILVIE - I personally am a person who just likes to have good process in documents. I'm not sure where you're headed with that. If you want me to find out who wrote it, is that what your question is?

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you think it's appropriate to have Genesis 1:28 quoted in the animal welfare manual which basically says that humans have dominion over animals and, therefore, what it's doing is seeking to put a kind of biblical justification on the mistreatment of animals?

Ms OGILVIE - I'm an old lawyer by trade and I prefer to deal with the law.

Ms O'CONNOR - Unfortunately, this is the greyhound animal welfare manual so it has some weight in it.

There have been two registered greyhound track deaths this year - Family Tradition, who died after a compound fractured tibia amd fibula on his right hind leg, and Black Roses, who died after a fractured right hock. He was trained by the notorious Anthony Bullock. Greyhound Lil Miss Tegan is also trained by Bullock. She suffered a fracture to the left hind lateral toe on 31 March in Launceston then a joint injury at the Launceston track on 22 May and has been stood down for six months. Such is this industry.

Minister, can you tell us what the status of Lil Miss Tegan is after her multiple injuries? Perhaps this question which has a number of names in it could be put on notice.

Can you also provide information on the following other dogs who have been stood down after injuries for more than 28 days: Cast a Shadow, Ellie's Tractor, Unique Palette, Fernando Rose, Tommy Rico, Villain's Way, Tilicum Ballinie, Assassinate, Nitro Disco, Blackjack Dan, Golden Archer, Dr Hailey, Spoken Law, Jack Twist, Speedy Noodle, Litigate and Blitz Danger.

Ms OGILVIE - There are some amazing names in there. Clarify to me exactly the information you want. I'm happy to take things on notice.

Ms O'CONNOR - What we seek to understand is what happens to these dogs. They're injured and then they're stood down for more than 28 days. There's an issue that came up at the greyhound inquiry about being able to track dogs through their inevitably shortened life cycle. I would like to understand what is the status of those dogs, particularly some information on Lil Miss Tegan at this point.

Ms OGILVIE - Happy to take that on notice but we do have some information on Lil Miss Tegan if you would like that.

Mr HELMICH - Lil Miss Tegan is deceased. Lil Miss Tegan received a stifle injury and a suspected patella injury, and was taken to Sandown Veterinary Clinic, which revealed a complex injury which resulted in the greyhound being euthanased.

Ms O'CONNOR - Vale, Lil Miss Tegan. Shortened life because she has been churned out by this industry.

Minister, we know two dogs have been killed and 19 seriously injured at the track just this year. What is the total number of greyhounds injured or killed in 2023 at race trials, in off-track accidents or during the rehoming process?

Ms OGILVIE - We have that information. Mr Jacobi?

Mr JACOBI - The number of greyhounds euthanased in the 2021-22 year slightly increased to 43 but this included nine greyhounds who were euthanased because of illness or advanced age. Between 1 July 2022 and 5 June 2023, 22 greyhounds have been euthanased, with seven of those greyhounds euthanased because of illness or advanced age, and another was destroyed for attacking other dogs.

Ms O'CONNOR - Why were the others euthanased? Seven - that leaves 15 whose lives were prematurely ended and, apparently, not from illness.

Mr JACOBI - There were 11 euthanased because of injury where the use of euthanasia did not occur on-track. Three of the greyhounds were euthanased on-track at a race meeting.

Ms O'CONNOR - When you were talking about numbers being up and 43 being euthanased, what is that number, the 43?

Mr JACOBI - The 43 was in the 2021-22 year.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. Minister, I might go to what happens to horses in the industry.

Mr WINTER - Chair -

Ms O'CONNOR - This is my third question. You had 12 in your previous round, Mr Winter, just give us a go.

Minister, I don't know if you watched the ABC's 7.30 Report where Caro Meldrum-Hanna did a horrifying story on the welfare of racehorses once they have been expended. What line of sight do we have here on ex-racing horses and can you confirm many of them end up as pet food?

Ms OGILVIE - I cannot confirm that so I will seek some advice on that. I would like to give you a little overview about something you and many in the industry and particularly in the greyhound sector have been concerned about, which is that traceability question. That is work that is aligned with the review of the act and the contemporary model we are developing. I think everyone will get behind that and want to do that. In relation to specifics, I will ask the department to speak to that, particularly around racehorse welfare, including retirement issues.

Ms O'CONNOR - There used to be a program called Off the Track, but it never really got off the ground. We suspect a lot of ex-racing horses end up as pet food and quite a number end up on the Spirit of Tasmania going to abattoirs interstate.

Ms OGILVIE - If you have specifics around those concerns I ask that you bring those forward?

Ms O'CONNOR - I am bringing them forward now.

Ms OGILVIE - But also if you have specifics that we could follow up.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can I get an answer to the question?

Ms OGILVIE - We haven't finished answering the question.

Mr JACOBI - Through the minister, for the 2022-23 year up until 31 March 2023, the statistics for Tasmanian harness retirement - or did you want thoroughbreds specifically?

Ms O'CONNOR - All horses.

Mr JACOBI - Can I split them across, if that is okay?

Ms O'CONNOR - Sure.

Mr JACOBI - I will start with harness - 17 were retired for breeding purposes, 20 died of natural causes, 38 were retired for equestrian pleasure work, companion or kept by the owner, and 22 were euthanased.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do we know why those 22 were prematurely killed?

Mr JACOBI - I don't have the detail on that but if you let me finish, in the meantime we might be able to seek some information on that. A total of 26 were retired as part of the industry retirement program, eight were sent to the abattoir, zero were sent to livestock sale and zero were unable to verify parentage.

If we go to thoroughbred retirement statistics, again in the 2022-23 year up until 31 March 2023, 37 thoroughbreds were retired for breeding purposes, 163 were retired for pleasure, working companion horse, breeding non-racing, and 15 were euthanased. The records indicate zero deceased, seven died through accident or natural causes and four were retired to the abattoir.

Ms O'CONNOR - Retired to the abattoir? That's a nice way of putting it, Mr Jacobi.

Mr JACOBI - There is no nice way of putting it.

Ms OGILVIE - No, it is what it is.

Ms O'CONNOR - They weren't retired. They were sent to the abattoir.

Ms OGILVIE - Do go on.

Mr JACOBI - One was officially part of the PRA retirement program. I have a note here that three related to other, but I will have to seek clarification on that, and none were sent to livestock sale.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, are you happy if I put the question on notice about why the 22 harness racers were euthanased and why the 15 thoroughbred horses were euthanased?

Ms OGILVIE - Yes, I am.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.

Ms O'CONNOR - Of the 22 greyhounds that we heard from Mr Jacobi whose lives were shortened through euthanasia because they're part of this cruel industry that died between 1 July 2022 and 6 June 2023, what was the nature of the injuries that they died from? I'm happy to put this on notice.

Ms OGILVIE - Is that another layer to your question on notice that you'd like further particulars?

Ms O'CONNOR - The question on notice was more about specific greyhounds, named greyhounds, this is about the nature of the injuries that led to them being euthanised.

Ms OGILVIE - I think we do have that information and I'm happy to seek that from Mr Helmich.

Ms O'CONNOR - As Mr Jacobi's, I think this is possibly part of the same data set, what was the age of those who died allegedly old age and what were the natural causes that resulted in death?

Mr HELMICH - I can probably provide some detail in relation to the first question which is in relation to on-track deaths. Locknane Serpent was an on-track euthanasia, Black Roses was an on-track euthanasia, Family Tradition was an -

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Helmich, thank you, but the question was the injuries rather than where they were killed.

Ms OGILVIE - The nature of the specific injuries?

Mr HELMICH - Locknane Serpent was found to have a fractured left foreleg and was euthanised on-track. Black Roses was found to have a fractured right hock and was euthanised by the on-track vet. Family Tradition was found to have a right hind tibia fibula fracture and was euthanised by the on-track vet. I think I provided the detail for Lil Miss Teagan previously. In relation to the other injuries, I have where they were euthanised. There was an unnamed dog which was whelped on 22 March 2022 as a result of a dog fight. An unnamed dog was whelped on 8 November 2021 and euthanised as a result of a leg break which was not a track injury, as I understand.

Ms O'CONNOR - None of these dogs are sent to the vet to have their injuries tended to, are they?

Ms OGILVIE - Was that the end of the list, Mr Helmich?

Mr HELMICH - That wasn't the end of the list, but I can provide some additional information.

In relation to the dog that was in a dogfight, that dog was treated by the Deloraine vet and the certificate was received by the Office of Racing Integrity. In relation to the dog which had its leg broken, it was treated by the Launceston vet and we've received a certificate. Going up the list if you'd like me to, another unnamed dog which had a broken leg was whelped on 18 September 2021 and was euthanised. It was seen by the Mowbray vet, and we received the certificate. A dog by the name of Robbie Raider was injured and had a lesion as a result of that injury and was treated by the eastern shore vet. Another unnamed dog, which was whelped on 12 December 2020 which was the result of a dog fight. That dog was deceased prior to veterinary care. Grand Teton was euthanised as a result of a fractured right hock, was treated by the on-track vet and taken to the Deloraine veterinary clinic where it was euthanised following scans. Chevelle fell during a trial and was taken to the eastern shore vet.

Ms O'CONNOR - Fell during a trial and injured to the extent that the dog was euthanised? Seriously. It is devastating. It is a litany of tragedy.

Ms OGILVIE - That is the limit of information.

Mr HELMICH - It was injured in a trial, it received a fractured right hock, and due to the extent of injury the greyhound was euthanised.

Ms O'CONNOR - A fractured hock is a death sentence for greyhounds, isn't it?

Mr HELMICH - It is important to note that in all of these instances, the certificates are provided to the Office of Racing Integrity. With the vast majority of them, I actually approve the euthanasia of each animal.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is a heavy burden to bear, Mr Helmich.

Mr HELMICH - It is not one that I take lightly, Ms O'Connor, absolutely not.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am sure it is not.

Mr HELMICH - There are probably more dogs that the vets approach me for euthanasia and I do not allow the euthanasia to occur. Where they are injured on track, the Greyhound Recovery Rebate Scheme provides funding for those dogs to be repaired. I do, with a number of these dogs, require that those injuries are repaired so that they can be rehomed.

Ms O'CONNOR - To the other part of the question, maybe it is better to put it on notice, the age of the dogs that are classified as having died of old age, what were the natural causes that resulted in the deaths of dogs and the one that died at trial, why were they taken to the vet? Do you know, Mr Helmich?

Ms OGILVIE - Through me, if you wouldn't mind. I will confirm.

Ms O'CONNOR - Through the minister.

Mr HELMICH - Why were they taken to the vet?

Ms O'CONNOR - Isn't there always a vet on site for trials and races?

Ms OGILVIE - Through me, and we did have this information available yesterday. There is a little granularity to how that works. The attendance and those issues around trials and races, whether they are trials or meets.

Mr HELMICH - I can confirm on the information I have here that Chevelle was at a trial and was taken to the Eastern Shore Veterinary Centre as a result of a fractured right hock. I assume the question that you are asking, which is in relation to the Tah Bernard recommendations that vets need to be either at the track or procured in such a way that immediate attendance can occur, my understanding is that those circumstances are procured in that manner. Tasracing does have arrangements in place at both the Elwick track and the Launceston track in relation to that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you saying there is always a vet at these trials and races?

Mr HELMICH - No, that is not what I am saying. What I'm saying is that the recommendation was that they be either at the trials or procured in such a way that they could immediately attend. My understanding is that that is procured. Why this dog was taken to the vet in this instance, I haven't got that information. I can only assume it was more timely to do that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, one of the recommendations from the inquiry into greyhound racing which I chaired some years ago was that there be some caps on greyhound breeding. Are there any plans to make sure fewer dogs are being bred into this industry to die premature deaths?

Ms OGILVIE - I'll have to ask Mr Helmich if there is an update on that. I'm happy to answer it myself, so just repeat your actual question.

Ms O'CONNOR - There's no restraint on the number at the moment on the number of dogs that are bred into the industry, which encourages what used to be termed 'wastage'. Is there consideration being given to introducing caps on breeding?

Ms OGILVIE - Really what you're asking about is whether they'll be caps on a specific breed under the legislation that sits within minister Palmer's portfolio.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, I'm asking about caps on greyhound breeding.

Ms OGILVIE - Well, the management of animal breeding and dog breeding sits within Jo Palmer's portfolio but I'm happy to address it as a general issue. What I would say -

Ms O'CONNOR - Respectfully, I don't think it sits with her, because it's about the Rules of Racing.

Ms OGILVIE - It is managed in two parts; I think you're probably right about that. Ms O'Connor, I fully appreciate the depth of your passion for this area and I too am a dog lover. What I would point to is the work we've doing around traceability which I know is something both industry and, shall we say, those who are more activist around the greyhound sector, have wanted for a long time. My view is that that will drive the change you are seeking, once we have the traceability. We have records here, but as you've seen, it's a -

Ms O'CONNOR - Why don't you have traceability yet? It was a recommendation that came out of the greyhound inquiry eight years ago.

Ms OGILVIE - That's right, and we're delivering on that. I am very pleased to be the minister who is delivering on that, so I think that's where we go with that one.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can we just ascertain, then, maybe we'll just get a snapshot of the last three years, how many dogs were bred in 2021, 2022 and 2023?

Ms OGILVIE - We may need to have that on notice; I don't know if we have that information. We might see.

Mr HELMICH - I would be able to provide that information relatively quickly, but perhaps not at the table.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you happy for me to put that on notice?


Ms O'CONNOR - Can you just explain before I hand on, why hasn't there been life cycle traceability for this industry when the inquiry recommendations came down eight years ago? You've been minister for a year and there's been a Liberal government -

Ms OGILVIE - And I've implemented it.

Ms O'CONNOR - I don't know if you've quite implemented it yet, but you would have a line of sight as to why there's been resistance to whole-of-life tracking for these beautiful dogs.

Ms OGILVIE - I am implementing traceability, there's no resistance.

Ms O'CONNOR - So when will it be fully implemented?

Ms OGILVIE - It is part of the bill that we're developing that you will have an opportunity to see to make sure you are comfortable and confident with that. Those issues are very real and very sensible and important. I think the review, which I have read, made a lot of sensible recommendations. Traceability will assist on a number of levels and we're moving on that.