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.
The phrase “Social License” has been much discussed lately following the NSW Government decision to close greyhound racing in that State. For GRV, it means one thing – if it’s not good for the dogs, it’s not on for the code. Our industry will, and must always, put the welfare of the dogs first, in accord with the expectation of the community. Greyhound racing in Australia has a long and rich heritage, both as a sport and as an important part of many local and regional communities. However, community expectations have changed over the past century and the code must change too if it wants a sustainable future.
It has again been another very busy month for Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV). Seven of GRV’s eleven stakeholder engagement workshops (covering nine topics) have now been held, generating comprehensive discussion and new thinking about a range of issues, and this is covered in more detail in this edition of Greyhound Monthly Victoria. One workshop topic, breeding and breeding controls, looked at how we can make sure that enough greyhounds will reach the tracks ready to race for the sport’s long term future, while also ensuring that as many retired greyhounds as possible will have the best rehoming opportunities. On this subject, GRV has also been studying a recent downward trend in litter numbers and the implications this has for future breeding controls.
GRV had its biggest ever GAP Adoption Day on 1 May with a record 70 dogs finding new homes. This was a great effort by everyone involved, particularly GAP’s foster carers and other volunteers who did a wonderful job looking after the dogs and talking with their potential new owners. Then on 4 May, the Warrnambool Cup Rock ‘n’ Race night drew one of its largest audiences ever with around 1800 people coming along for great racing and live entertainment.
The last month has once again been a very busy and productive time for GRV. We successfully celebrated 20 years of GAP with A Dog’s Breakfast and received wide media coverage about the 20th anniversary. Both our recent GAP adoption days and Little Big Day Outs have enjoyed record numbers and generated good media stories.
As you can see from this issue of Greyhound Monthly Victoria there’s a lot happening right now in the sport across the state. This year’s Australian Cup at The Meadows drew one of the biggest crowds ever seen there, to watch Dyna Double One become just the third greyhound in world history to win $1 million in prize money. And in April the heats start for both the Warrnambool Classic, which introduces a new generation of racers to the sport, and the Warrnambool Cup.
GRV is continuing to build its internal capability and following a major review of GRV’s organisational arrangements, a new structure has been developed that will provide a better balance between GRV’s role in delivering a high quality racing program and its statutory responsibilities for integrity and animal welfare, which will now receive a much greater emphasis. For example, a nationwide search is now underway to identify outstanding candidates for the now vacant positions of General Manager, Integrity and General Manager, Animal Welfare. I will provide more details about GRV’s new structure in the next issue of Greyhound Monthly Victoria.