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.
The GRV Board and myself were appointed with a clear brief to drive the real and lasting change that will secure this future. The reports by the Racing Integrity Commissioner and the Chief Veterinarian Officer are our roadmap and new State laws and racing rules focused on animal welfare and integrity also frame GRV’s strategic priorities for reform.
GRV has been comprehensively restructured to make it fit-for-purpose in delivering on these priorities. Policy decisions are now evidence-based and data-driven and there is a clear separation now between the animal welfare, integrity and racing functions, which are more appropriately staffed and funded. We have tripled the funding for our swabbing program to test for prohibited substances and will further increase it in 2016-17. GRV’s team of Authorised Welfare Officers has quadrupled and their powers strengthened, a new Investigations Unit has been established and a further increase in investigators is being implemented. The Investigations Unit is staffed by highly experienced former Victoria Police investigators and analysts and is taking a new approach to ensuring the sport’s integrity, identifying and monitoring issues through a comprehensive risk framework that drives preventive measures and triggers proactive investigations. The Unit also runs an online and phone service at www.grv.org.au, www.fasttrack.grv.org.au and (03) 8329 1196 where people can confidentially report suspicious and unlawful activities and this is generating many valuable leads.
However the absolute key priority for the sport in earning its social license in the 21st century is to ensure that every racing greyhound born in Victoria will have the opportunity to live out its life in full, whether it makes it to the track or not, and with euthanasia only as a last resort in cases of catastrophic injury and untreatable illness. This is a very big challenge but one we must meet if the sport is to continue in Victoria.
GRV is taking on this challenge through several fronts. We are working with participants to better manage breeding numbers and help them develop whole of life plans for their greyhounds. We have analysed track injury reports, provided all the clubs and our track veterinarians with data about their track and average track injury rates and asked them to present plans that will reduce injuries and ontrack euthanasia. GRV’s $34 million capital expenditure program will fund infrastructure needed to implement these plans. GRV is also investing $3.5 million to expand the GAP program, restructuring its assessment processes to give every dog the best possible chance of admission, stepping up promotion of greyhounds as great pets and companions and providing support for other greyhound re-homing organisations.
GRV’s Stakeholder Engagement Workshops have been extremely valuable in analysing and developing solutions to this and other issues as has the Industry Consultation Group. Ultimately though the whole-of-life issue is one that the entire sport must own and all participants have a part to play here. I strongly urge everyone to work with each other and with GRV to secure a strong, well planned and positive future for every Victorian greyhound and so for the code itself. More than 3000 people are employed through the industry with many more relying on the industry for their livelihood. This industry transformation is not instantaneous and it will take place progressively over the next two years or so.
However, I am very heartened by the positive and constructive approach of industry participants and your willingness to engage in and accept changes which place animal welfare first. We love the dogs and we must show how much we do through real and lasting reform.
Chief Executive Officer
Greyhound Racing Victoria