Greyhound racing puts its case
Greyhound racing enthusiasts and administrators turned up at Parliament last week to refute suggestions that large numbers of healthy dogs were killed in the industry.
But the arguments of the industry leaders were far less convincing than the couple of dozen enthusiasts who turned out in support.
Aaron Cross and the Greyhound Protection League presented a 1500-signature petition to MP Mojo Mathers in February calling for a government inquiry into the industry. Mr Cross had estimated that at least 1000 retired racing dogs were unaccounted for each year and he feared they were being killed.
Greyhound Racing New Zealand chairman John McArthur opened his presentation to the Government Administration Select Committee with a photo of some of the 25,000 domestic dogs that he said were killed each year by the SPCA.
However, Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard immediately challenged him: Was that exclusively the SPCA? Or did it include council pounds and private veterinary practices? What was the source of the number?
Mr McArthur clarified that the number was all dogs killed but could not say where the figure of 25,000 came from.
"A lot of that would be anecdotal," he said.
Mr McArthur went on to say greyhound racing was part of a proud working bond between humans and dogs.
"We respect dogs and have always done. Claims that we mistreat dogs are not true."
The industry had commissioned an independent report on dogs' welfare.
"Its investigation has been given full carte blanche," he said.
"Any recommendations that they come in with will be fully implemented."
However, he refused to undertake to provide the completed report to the committee.
"It might have sensitivity around it, from a commercial point of view."
Mr Mallard challenged again.
"You mean people might stop betting if they knew some facts?"
Mr McArthur told him the industry would not be hiding the investigation recommendations.
Greyhound Racing New Zealand official veterinary adviser Malcolm Janson said Mr Cross had shown the select committee pictures of severely malnourished dogs that he had said were typical of racing greyhounds.
Mr Mallard challenged a third time. He had attended the meeting when Mr Cross spoke to the petition and he had heard no allegation that the malnourished dogs were part of the racing industry.
Mr Janson told the committee dogs had an optimum racing weight and it was not in owners' or trainers' best interest to keep dogs at an unhealthy weight.
Racing dogs were regularly tested for performance-enhancing drugs and the industry was moving to random testing away from tracks.
Greyhound racing manager Stu Cashen quoted several alternative numbers of dogs to those quoted in the petition but acknowledged that the industry figures were incomplete because they did not include dogs that had never been named.
"We at Greyhound Racing New Zealand are the first to admit our database is not accurate," he said.
Some trainers had "bulk registration" arrangements with their local councils, so there might be more dogs in the industry than local authority records showed.
However, he was unable to tell the committee who the trainers were or which territorial authorities were involved.
The industry was working hard to improve reliability of its knowledge of dog numbers, he said.
Greyhound Racing New Zealand general manager Jim Leach told the committee 5000 people were involved in greyhound racing. It contributed $76 million each year to the country's gross domestic product and provided 764 full-time-equivalent jobs.
Many people who are involved in greyhound racing come from very depressed areas and harm to the industry could have quite serious consequences to their livelihoods, he said.
Greyhound owners were more convincing about their regard and care for the animals.
Mark Rosanowski said he had been involved in greyhound racing since he was 14.
"It was really like racing your domestic pet," he said.
"One of most devastating things that has happened to me was my retired greyhound running into an accident at the beach. He broke his neck. I had to carry him - dead - from the sand dunes back to my car," Mr Rosanowski.
"I'm not interested in pain and suffering and, if I thought it was going on in greyhound racing, I would drop out."