The greyhound racing industry has unnecessarily obfuscated information, says the government reviewer, and the minister warned that “formal notice is being given.”
Sir Bruce Robertson’s review, released today, found that while some of the recommendations in the previous Hansen report on the industry had been met, many of the new policies were incomplete or had not been audited or enforced.
It found Greyhound Racing New Zealand’s (GRNZ) claim that all the recommendations in that report, on which it based the decision to suspend its quarterly reports to the government, had been met to be controversial and there was insufficient time to comment on it. if that was correct.
“Thirteen recommendations from the Hansen Report were highlighted as areas of concern. The remaining recommendations in this report were not raised to any substantive level, nor were specific concerns raised regarding their progress,” the report said.
“Some presenters have alleged that GRNZ has maintained a culture of silence towards those who are pushing for further reform or publicly challenging the decisions or lack thereof,” the review said.
The lack of reports had also generally raised concerns about the agency’s progress on the recommendations, and GRNZ had been reluctant to provide data to Sir Bruce.
“Until there is a change in terms of transparency and communication,
there will be suspicion and mistrust, and a rational, solid and reliable evaluation cannot be made, “he wrote.
In a letter to the industry, Racing Minister Grant Robertson said that while the issues identified in the report were not insurmountable, the industry should address concerns about data recording, transparency and animal welfare and inform you to late 2022.
He said the new Racing Integrity Board also needed to step up, and would be asking Sir Bruce as chairman to raise the profile of animal welfare on the board.
“If these problems cannot be remedied, then the industry will no longer have a social license.”
“I want to be clear today: the greyhound racing industry is aware: either make the necessary improvements or risk closure,” the minister said in a statement.
“It will take a clear effort from GRNZ to not only ensure that changes are made across the industry, but that these changes are communicated to the public. All information must be recorded and made available.”
Animal welfare concerns
The review also found that while the number of greyhounds euthanized had dropped significantly in the last four years, “for no reason given” was “the most common reason by a significant margin.”
Although progress had been made in rehoming, many dogs were unsuitable due to their behavior and lack of socialization, and had been criticized as an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” measure.
There was also “serious concern” about the sheer scale of the handful of breeders who dominated the racing scene.
Some kennels had “more than 100 greyhounds on their property,” raising concerns about the welfare and care of the dogs, and the effect on their relocation in the future.
The review said there could be a way forward for the industry, but it would need to incorporate:
- Complete data on the position of each animal from birth to death
- Avoid overbreeding by evaluating the number of animals needed.
- Clarify the rules, policies, standards, health and welfare provisions of GRNZ and the Welfare Codes and Regulations of the Ministry of Primary Industries.
- Socialization programs for all greyhounds for future relocations.
- Comprehensive professional kennel visits
- Continuous monitoring of the tracks, including a serious evaluation of the introduction of straight tracks.
- A rigorous assessment of animal welfare in large-scale operations
- Reintroduction of an independent Animal Welfare Manager (GRNZ had combined this role with the role of Manager of Racing Operations)
- A Health and Wellness Committee with full stakeholder participation and the ability to implement changes.
- A continuation of the quarterly reports to the relevant ministers and the Career Integrity Board.