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.
This fall is being driven by a real and fundamental cultural shift within the sport, one that’s captured both in these figures and in the discussions that GRV staff and myself are having with participants. There is an increasing focus on owner accountability and better financial planning to manage the whole of life cycle of the dogs. It’s vital that we sustain this momentum if we want ensure that animal welfare is at the heart of the sport and that we do so as a real collaboration between owners and GRV. There are still many issues to tackle here such as improving breeding practices, reinforcing the responsibilities of owners and making sure all ex-racing dogs are as well prepared as possible to enter GAP and other re-homing agencies. And to further improve re-homing outcomes, GAP is significantly expanding its foster care program with more resources and the appointment of a dedicated manager for the program.
Speaking of collaboration, GRV has received some very positive submissions in response to a proposed suite of rule changes to improve animal welfare, which includes strengthening local rule 42.6 which requires owners to make best efforts to rehome their greyhound. GRV will announce the next steps in this process later this month, along with further refinements of its hot weather and animal transport policies as summer heats up.
On the racing front, the 2016 Melbourne Cup, now in its 60th year, was once again a showcase for Australia’s best greyhounds and a great time was had by all as Ando’s Mac beat an outstanding field to win the world’s richest greyhound race.
Looking ahead, GRV is introducing an innovative new approach to staging and promoting country racing through the 2016/17 Gippsland Carnival. There is more prizemoney on offer through a new points system and more opportunities for regional communities to get involved and you can read more about the Carnival in this issue.
We have also introduced a second weekly race meeting on Fridays at the Healesville Greyhound Racing Club to provide more opportunities for all dogs, including slower and older dogs, to continue their careers on the only straight track in the State. Straight track racing is particularly suitable for veterans racing. Another new GRV initiative, which is this month’s cover story, was the Family Fun Day at the Healesville Club, which brought the local community together to celebrate greyhounds and offered a range of free events, activities and greyhound care services. It was a very well attended day enjoyed by all and GRV is planning another one for early 2017.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone across the sport for a year of great racing and real reform and to wish everyone in the greyhound racing community a happy and safe festive season and a prosperous and productive new year on and off the track.
Chief Executive Officer
Greyhound Racing Victoria