Greyhound inquiry plans slammed

NEIL REID
Last updated 12:16 10/11/2012
greyhound lure
DOUG FIELD/FAIRFAX NZ

CHASING: Greyhound racing bosses want an inquiry into their industry, but also want to chose the people doing the review.

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Plans for the greyhound racing industry to oversee the investigation into its standards and safety procedures have been labelled a ''farce'' by animal rights advocates.

Greyhound Racing New Zealand general manager Jim Leach confirmed last month that he backed an inquiry into the $75 million industry he oversees.

But he rejected calls for the inquiry to be handled by independent observers, saying his own officials were best equipped to review the at-times deadly industry.

Greyhound Protection League spokesman Aaron Cross was alarmed at Leach's response, saying it left him questioning ''what is it that they don't want us to find''.

His feelings have intensified following the deaths of three greyhounds at New Zealand race tracks in just two days during the past week.

''If the dog-racing industry believes its activities can withstand the scrutiny of public opinion, then it should welcome an unimpaired inquiry from an independent party,'' Cross said.

''There has been mention of dog-racing bringing money into New Zealand. Its a fair amount of money, quite a lot of weight - a heavy burden on the backs of 2000 or so racing greyhounds who are expected to perform, to and beyond their capacities, to meet the expectations of patrons.

''The price they pay in blood ought to be known by patrons and the public if we're to tolerate this continuing.

''If the industry can't come clean, then they should be shut down.''

The three latest greyhounds to die were euthanised at race events.

One had dislocated a leg, another fractured a hock and a third had fractured a leg after colliding with a fence.

''This is blood sport,'' Cross said. ''Every day, there is blood shed for the sake of gamblers' entertainment.

''I challenge this industry's right to exist. It has gone on for long enough.''

The GPL has been joined by the likes of the Green Party and SAFE in calling for a full and frank review into the greyhound racing industry.

While backing a review of sorts, Leach says it should be handled in-house.

''Our view is that there is no need for an independent inquiry,'' he said.

''We believe we can get appropriate people to have the investigation for us. I don't think we have any reason why we wouldn't want to make it a genuine inquiry.''

Leach said the inquiry could be launched before Christmas.

The Star-Times launched an investigation into the racing industry in August, following the deaths of another three racing dogs on New Zealand tracks within the space of a week.

The paper revealed that up to 10,000 dogs - including former racers and their offspring - were deemed ''missing'' by the GPL.

Cross said that each year the greyhound racing population increases by about 1450 dogs, a figure combining New Zealand-bred puppies and those imported from Australia.

On that basis, he said, New Zealand's total greyhound population should stand at between 12,000 to 14,000.

But a survey carried out by the GPL - that involved reviewing local body dog licensing registration records - showed that there were just 3000 registered greyhounds in New Zealand.

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It has now emerged that some dogs who have been put down following race track incidents are officially listed as ''retired'' in industry records.

Cross said he hoped growing pressure on greyhound racing industry officials would see them relent and open up the review to proper ''public scrutiny''.

''Their unwillingness to consent to an independent review raises alarm, and leaves us questioning motive,'' he said.

''They've been caught out severely. Playing the 'shock and surprise' card at this point isn't a very credible move for an industry that prides itself on record keeping and organisation.

''We need to see some serious transparency and accountability for greyhounds introduced to the racing industry. Investigating themselves is a bit of a farce. What's the point ... it's not a good look.''

- Sunday Star Times

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