While GRV has been busy working with clubs and participants to build a strong long-term future for the sport, animal welfare and integrity are still its key priorities, both strategically and in daily operations.
It has been another busy month for GRV as we continue to work on developing a strong and sustainable long term future for the sport. As I mentioned last month, the capital works program is now well underway to ensure that Victoria’s greyhound racing clubs have the infrastructure they need to improve track safety, support industry development through new training centres and deliver a great experience for racing audiences and community events. GRV is also working to strengthen the clubs in the many roles they play in their communities by funding people to provide dedicated support for the clubs and also developing a collective strategic plan and new marketing initiatives.
A new year begins and whilst GRV has completed much of the development work and significant progress has been made in implementing aspects of the major reform work, there remains much to do in 2017. There are some very significant and large scale tasks ahead that GRV aims to complete this year to help secure the sport’s long term future. Among them is to conclude our response to the reviews undertaken by Sal Perna, the Racing Integrity Commissioner and Dr Charles Milne, Victoria’s Chief Veterinarian.
As we enter 2017, I think it’s worth reflecting on what’s been achieved over the past year by Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) and the sport. GRV has been substantially reformed in line with the recommendations by the Racing Integrity Commissioner and the Chief Veterinarian. Local Rules of Racing have been updated and revised, a new registration framework now better regulates participants and animal welfare rules have been strengthened. More dogs are being re-homed and new breeding controls have been introduced while racing opportunities have been improved for greyhounds of all ages and opportunities.
The release of Victorian track injury and euthanasia rates for the first time, in Greyhound Racing Victoria’s (GRV) 2015-16 Annual Report, attracted negative comments, particularly on social media, as GRV anticipated it would. But we are committed to being transparent and accountable and the figures for the last financial year, while quite unacceptable, at least provide a clear benchmark for the industry’s progress in achieving re-homing of dogs bred for racing. I am pleased to report that since July 2015, there seems to be a significant decrease in euthanasia rates and an increase in re-homing rates.
The big news this month is a major reversal on the banning of greyhound racing in NSW. While this is good news for the thousands of people involved in greyhound racing in NSW, the strict new framework for the sport in that State is a clear reminder that we can’t let the pace of reform in Victoria slacken. GRV’s 2016 Annual Report lays out the challenges ahead and the goals that GRV has set to drive a major transformation of the sport.
I think it’s now clear to participants and other stakeholders that Victoria’s greyhound industry is now changing permanently. It’s no longer just racing with some animal welfare programs attached. Instead it must be about the whole lifecycle of every Victorian greyhound, on and off the track. I am confident that real reform can be achieved in the sport of greyhound racing but only if it’s driven by genuine cultural change in how we manage the careers and lives of the greyhounds, and in particular that we are able to fully re-home all greyhounds other than for medical or temperament issues.
The biggest highlight of August was undoubtedly the Victorian Greyhound Awards at Sandown Park where many of Victoria’s greyhound racing community came together to celebrate some great achievements over the past 18 months. Fernando Bale was quite rightly judged greyhound of the year and I congratulate all the nominees and winners on the night. Both the Premier, The Hon Daniel Andrews, and the Minister for Racing, The Hon Martin Pakula, also provided strong messages of support on the night for the industry and for the reforms now underway. The Victorian Greyhound Awards was a great showcase of the commitment, passion and hard work of the good people who have driven the sport’s achievements and that will underpin the journey of reform we need to take to secure its long term future.