Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, we would like to understand how many dogs have died at Tasmanian tracks this year. In the annual report it talks about seven dogs that were euthanised in the 2020-21 financial year; apparently, the number that died was seven.
The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds has put together a list for 2021 so far, which includes dogs called Card Talk, Blue Twist, Zevatron, Magic Lea, David Moss, Rojo Nugget, Action Plus, Magical Max and Rivergum Flyer. That's already nine so far this year. Do we have more information on how many dogs have actually died as a result of racing?
Ms HOWLETT - Thanks, Ms O'Connor. Overall, track deaths are decreasing, as I spoke about earlier. Euthanised-on-track numbers: in 2018-19, 18 greyhounds were euthanised on track. In 2019-20, 13 greyhounds were euthanised on track - and that was noting that we had the COVID 19 shutdown for 10 weeks. In 2020-21, seven greyhounds were euthanised on track. In this financial year, 2021-22, four greyhounds have been euthanised.
Ms O'CONNOR - Is that correct?
Mr ERIKSSON - There have been five greyhounds euthanised or that have died on track this financial year. One died, not euthanised, it came into the catching pen and just collapsed and died in the catching pen. An autopsy was carried out, and there was no apparent reason for the dog's death, but that was counted as one of the five. So, we've had four, plus the one that died, and again, we don’t know why.
Ms O'Connor, we keep statistics on a financial year basis, well aware that the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds looks at it on differing levels, on calendar years, on financial years and changes around. We do look at it and keep our statistics on a financial year basis to align with our reporting cycle, as is normally done by all the other PRAs - principal racing authorities - around Australia for both equine and greyhound. So, we keep in line with the national reporting that is there.
Ms O'CONNOR - One of the recommendations of the greyhound inquiry was that there be full birth-to-death tracking of all dogs in the industry in Tasmania, and that this should include dogs that arrive here from the mainland to race. Do we know exactly what happens to all dogs that are born into this industry from the moment of their birth until their death - usually premature death, I might note?
Mr ERIKSSON - Ms O'Connor, thank you for that. The responsibility - sorry, I should say the legal ability, of the racing authorities in all states is only up until the dog retires. Once they retire to a pet life or to breeding or rehoming - once they're outside of being a licensed racing animal - then we have no authority. That is a challenge, and I note that from you.
But in relation to those greyhounds - and in fact, thoroughbreds and standard-breds, as they are racing animals - prior to their retirement, yes, we can track them down. That is reviewed by the Office of Racing Integrity through stable and kennel inspections, where they take the information that is recorded on the national system and validate that, and effectively do an audit.
So, we are able to track the whereabouts of an animal, and if an animal is not there, then the ORI is able to question the trainer as to what has occurred, through that checking process. However, once they are a non-racing animal, we do not have that authority, legal or otherwise.
Ms HOWLETT - We will commit to closely work with industry to implement appropriate actions in response to the recommendations of the 2016 Joint Select Committee report into Greyhound Racing. Their 31 recommendations have either been addressed in full, or are ongoing actions.
Recent improvements include -
- the development of a new local rule in greyhound racing that provides for higher retirement standards. In particular, no healthy greyhound will be able to be euthanised without prior approval of the Office of Racing Integrity.
- stronger legislative powers being provided to the ORI and their staff to assist with animal welfare matters by authorising staff under the Animal Welfare Act 1993.
- the creation of additional licence categories - whelper and rearer - that are in line with the life stages of a greyhound.
- Tasracing funding the desexing of all retired or retiring greyhounds.
the establishment of the Greyhound Recovery Rebate Scheme to assist in the rehabilitation of all injured greyhounds.
Updates on each select committee recommendation are made available to the general public on the Office of Racing Integrity's website. That was most recently updated in July 2021.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, you said the Greyhound Recovery Rebate Scheme can provide veterinary assistance for all injured greyhounds. I just rattled off a list of nine names, and these were dogs that were injured on the track: 'bumped at first turn, fractured left hock - that was Zevatron and it was killed; 'Bumped at the start of the race, faltered at the first turn, broken right hind hock.' Why aren't more of the dogs that are injured on track rehabilitated and given the chance of a long and good life?
Ms HOWLETT - The aim of implementing the Greyhound Recovery Rebate Scheme was to reduce incidents of euthanasia at race meetings due to injury, by providing financial support for the repair and rehabilitation of those injuries. The scheme has increased funding to the on-track Greyhound Recovery Rebate Scheme payment to cover vet expenses from $1500 to $3000 per greyhound per injury.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, with respect, I understand you have a brief in front of you but the question is, why are so many injured greyhounds killed on the track?
Ms HOWLETT - We're very proud of implementing this.
Ms O'CONNOR - Well, there have been some improvements. That's great, and a lot of it came from the pressure of the parliamentary inquiry that the Greens helped to establish after the Four Corners program - but I'm asking you, why are so many injured dogs just killed on the track instead of being sent to the vet and being given a chance at rehabilitation and living out their full lives?
Mr ERIKSSON - If I may, minister. Ms O'Connor, there is a discussion that takes place around the quality of life and the ability of the greyhound to recover. I am not a vet; I don't make that decision. We support the vet's advice on that, and that's where it is.
The intent of the scheme is to provide a vehicle where the monetary impact - which is, I believe, the focus there - of repairing or remediating an injury to an animal is taken away and funded by the industry. There have been a couple of incidents where Tasracing has funded more than $3000 when we've had that discussion with the trainer. The scheme is there not to mandate it, but to take part of the financial burden onto the industry, as its responsibility, to ensure that an injury is remediated.
Now, we will not be able to do every single one. A compound fracture, and the greyhound may not have an appropriate quality of life. I don't know. I am not qualified to make that call.
Ms O'CONNOR - I've seen three-legged dogs running along the beach, Mr Eriksson.
Mr ERIKSSON - That is not my call, Ms O'Connor, we rely on the vets.