Greyhound racing deaths being 'covered up'

NEIL REID
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2013

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Greyhound racing officials are accused of hiding the true extent of dog deaths as they go about their "sham" investigation of the industry.

As a review gets under way into the industry - including welfare of the super-quick, but physically vulnerable canines - officials from Greyhound Racing New Zealand have stopped publicly releasing the numbers of dogs that die after racing incidents.

Greyhound Protection League spokesman Aaron Cross told the Sunday Star-Times that instead of reporting the number of dogs that break legs or are put down, "we now have a new generic description ‘referred to vet for assessment' of which there were 22 instances for the month of January. We know there have been fatalities during this period. And we're concerned that this manner of cover-up compromises the integrity of raceday vets, an issue we're discussing with the New Zealand Vet Council".

The GRNZ-commissioned review into dog welfare got under way last month with the first meeting of a panel that the racing body says is 100 per cent independent. The review is being carried out by accountancy firm WHK and is chaired by Bill Colgan, a former interim chief executive of the New Zealand Racing Board.

GRNZ initiated the review following public pressure after an August 2012 Sunday Star-Times investigation, which highlighted numerous trackside deaths and claims from the Greyhound Protection League that up to 10,000 former racers were deemed "missing". At the time, GRNZ general manager Jim Leach contended that injuries to racing dogs were "part of a fact of life", but stressed the industry went to "an extreme amount of trouble" to ensure the welfare of dogs.

Cross last week labelled the investigation a "sham". He said it could not be labelled independent as the panel featured people with close links to the gambling industry. "We believe if the racing industry has nothing to hide they should co-operate with the demand for a truly independent inquiry into the extent of injuries and the outcomes for racing greyhounds," Cross said.

Leach did not respond to a request for comment. He said earlier that the review would take about six months to complete.

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