Welfare lobbyist's canine census

23:00, Jan 10 2013
Greyhound
DOG'S DAY: Greyhound Protection League co-founder Belinda Lewer with her pet Garnet, an ex-racing dog.

A Palmerston North animal welfare lobbyist's investigation into greyhound numbers is behind her call for councils to force racing dog owners to register their animals.

In what she believes is the first "census" of greyhound numbers in New Zealand, Greyhound Protection League co-founder Belinda Lewer says she has found serious discrepancies which suggest trainers are not registering all their animals.

It appeared thousands of dogs had not been registered.

The Greyhound Protection League was founded by Mrs Lewer and fellow animal welfare advocate Aaron Cross in January last year and they have sent their census to Parliament to be tabled before this year's review of the Animal Welfare Act.

They want owners to register their dogs so they can track exact numbers.

The National Dog Database of purebred greyhounds on February 2011 recorded 2423 registered purebred dogs, with 1440 of them officially listed for racing in New Zealand. Through exhaustive calls to councils, trainers, and animal services that took her almost five months to complete last year she found the total number of greyhounds accounted for in New Zealand, including crossbred dogs, was 3079. According to Australasian greyhound racing figures, in the past nine years 7058 greyhounds have been imported into New Zealand.

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Mrs Lewer said "simple math" raised serious questions over those numbers. The census made a projection, assuming each dog lived an average 12 to 14 years, that an estimated 17,000 greyhounds should be living in New Zealand, Mrs Lewer claimed.

Mrs Lewer said enforcing registration of racing dogs would help animal welfare groups track the numbers euthanased when injured or deemed unfit to race, and she would be meeting with the Palmerston North City Council next month to table the issue.

"Ideally, we would like the sport to be banned. It's a blood sport . . . People go to the races and say, ‘see, the dogs love it', but I have heard dogs screaming in pain, and it's not nice."

Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ) general manager Jim Leach said the racing board had made moves to require that all racing dog owners microchip their animals. The organisation had recently begun supplying its own chipping service which complied with council regulations. However he said it was not up to the racing industry to police trainers' compliance with the rules.

"It is the responsibility of all greyhound trainers in New Zealand to register their dogs," he said.

GRNZ had set up Greyhounds As Pets six years ago and the registered charity established by GRNZ to find homes for retired racing greyhounds. It had since adopted out more than 850 ex-racing greyhounds.

There are currently 32 greyhounds registered with the Palmerston North City Council. Principal environmental health officer Pita Kinaston said it was not known whether the dogs were used for racing or were pets. A further 32 dogs are registered with the Tararua District Council, 70 are registered with the Rangitikei District Council and 68 are registered with the Wanganui District Council. The Manawatu and Horowhenua district councils were not immediately able to supply figures.

Manawatu Standard