The on-track death of two greyhounds last week has infuriated dog racing activists and led to an investigation of Southland's Ascot Park raceway.
On Tuesday, 4-year-old greyhound Badja Bale was put down after he hit the lure when it malfunctioned and stopped about 80 metres into the race at Ascot Park in Invercargill.
“It wasn't pretty at all,” said Craig Roberts, the dog's trainer. “By that time they are going 55 to 60kmh. Anything going at that speed and hits something, it is a very solid impact.”
The previous day, dog Ronan Machall, was euthanased after crashing into the lure at the Manawatu greyhound track.
The Greyhound Protection League (GPL) condemned the deaths as needless: "It's just another day in the cruel world of dog racing," said Aaron Cross, media spokesperson for the GPL.
Ascot Park has a history of mechanical failures that have led to accidents that Cross says have been ignored by Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ).
“There have been several breakdowns over the past six months there and it hasn't been addressed as vigorously as it should by the board,” said Roberts.
The most recent accident in Southland resulted in two GRNZ board members travelling to Ascot Park to inspect the track.
“We are aware of the concerns,” said GRNZ general manager Jim Leach. “There will be a discussion with the board on Monday but there are some major issues. There may be a need to replace some of the equipment there.”
The Southland Greyhound Racing Club said the track is “definitely in suitable condition” for continued racing.
Until the equipment concerns have been addressed, a large group of Canterbury trainers will not race at the track.
“Given the nature of racing, the amount of times [accidents] happen is acceptable to me,” said Roberts who led a meeting of Canterbury trainers. “But what isn't acceptable to me is when it happens because of clubs' incompetence with their equipment.
“It's one of many dodgy tracks and it brings an added element of risk to racing,” said Cross. “The death of Badja Bale has proved that the Southland track is especially dangerous.”
Twenty-five greyhounds have died on the track this year according to the GPL. Greyhound Racing New Zealand said the number of deaths was high.
“From our point of view, any death is a tragedy,” said Leach. “It is very hard to put a figure on an acceptable level but 25 is a large number of dogs.”
Ronan Machall's trainer said the dogs are just doing what they are bred and trained for.
“These dogs just love to race. All they want to do is chase that bunny,” said Janet Hall, a Manawatu trainer.
She described the death as an unfortunate accident: “We love our dogs dearly. We have had over one hundred dogs go through our place and lost only two on the track."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Pals and playmates (pictures)
Reacting to a sudden cancellation
New Zealand's best deck built yesterday
Appreciating Tony Allen
The meaning of blogging