The task is bigger than live baiting

GIVEN all the hustle and bustle, the tri-state reviews of live baiting will no doubt turn up some important results. However, despite some half promises, that’s probably all they will address.

What is equally important is what happens after that. Two subjects must be looked at so the industry can better ensure its future. One is technical, the other organisational. In neither case are the review members the right people to handle the ongoing task.

All the reviews are dominated by lawyers (mostly barristers) and policemen. They may be very good at their day jobs, and well able to identify and follow up on breaches of racing rules or the law, or suggest how those problems emerged. That’s fine. However, they are not particularly qualified to evaluate how the industry is operated or managed. Nor does their brief really extend that far.

There is one exception but it is accidental. In NSW there is an overlapping statutory review of the state Greyhound Act going on. Submissions are due by the end of the month. They will be reviewed by the government and the racing department, neither of which has a great track record of introducing reforms of any kind.

The first and most obvious task is to extend the live baiting subject to training methods in general. For example, why did several trainers resort without thinking to the use of live baiting – or even dead bait which has now been made illegal as well? It’s a longstanding custom but is it really effective? And what are the alternatives?

In contrast, you might also ask why dogs happily chase a dead piece of coloured fluff around the racetrack, and will even enthusiastically nudge it if you have a follow-on-lure. That emphasises it is the motion that counts, surely, just as much as the prospect of a meal.

Let me offer some parallels. A Retriever, with a bit of training, automatically brings back the downed bird, unharmed. A Bloodhound, having sniffed a piece of clothing, takes its master to the lost child. Various breeds track down drugs for the Customs people. A Labrador waits for the lights to change before leading a blind man across the street. A Kelpie rounds up sheep when the boss whistles. An Alsatian corners the crook when asked to do so. All these dogs are keen to do what they are good at. The well trained dog and the human are a natural team. Always have been.

It may be argued that using a prey caters to the natural inclinations of the greyhound. Maybe so, but the use of live bait is not only contrary to racing rules but it also breaches the law of the land as well as everyday community standards. The use of live hares for coursing events is ancient history, which all concerned would know well. With that in mind, the illegal practices could never last. So why did they continue?

That leaves us with some key questions. Given the absence of live (or dead) baiting, what other means might be used to train and enthuse the racing greyhound? The industry must now engage in a full and expert investigation into actual or potential training methods with two aims: first to ensure right is clearly separated from wrong, or better from worse – a necessary step in view of the obvious ignorance of some trainers – and second to provide better direction and education to trainers new and old. There has to be some reference point which improves on “the trainer knows best” theme. The very long term existence of the industry is at stake.

Incoming trainers now learn from their own experience, from old hands, or from the mate down the road, each to varying degrees. Nobody has to pass an exam (although recommended practices do exist they are largely to do with keeping house) and success is measured mostly by the size of the bank balance.

Some do not learn very well, as illustrated also by the recent examples of over-racing. Elsewhere, you might note dogs with 100 runs under their belt, 98 of which have been at the same track over the same distance. That makes little sense either, even to a non-expert like this writer. How boring can it get?

How many trainers are aware of the medical and psychological status of their charges? Do they pay sufficient attention to sociability factors, something which was highlighted at the recent NSW Inquiry? These things impact directly on their health but also on their ability to compete. No doubt many trainers are highly skilled in these arts but, equally, many are not. We don’t know – we just assume – but current events show that to be a risky process.

Of course, it is no bed of roses. Underlining all these elements is the fact that some dogs are faster or keener than others. Just like humans, where some are good at football and others are not. Some are prepared to learn, others are not.

The second and even more vital area to examine is the very structure of racing today – from the amateur, not-for-profit raceclub to the highest levels of state and national authorities.

Arguably, the current mess partly reflects a failure of the supervisory, or stewardship, function to perform satisfactorily. Some answers there will emerge from the existing reviews but how far will the conclusions extend into the management of that same stewardship function, where equal fault must lie (hence all the resignations etc)?

All the evidence suggests that industry management has fallen short on many counts. Probably the most obvious is that the racing industry in its entirety has been losing market share for over two decades, primarily because it has not kept pace with customer needs or community standards. Indeed, it has often deliberately rejected them. Greyhound racing is especially under the pump because, unlike the other two racing codes, it and the greyhound breed are not well regarded by the general public. Mug gamblers don’t mind but the average man or woman in the street does. Industry management has failed miserably to address this shortcoming.

Also consider this perspective. The management-by-committee system, created and enforced by state governments, has been in place since WW2, unchanged except for the occasional musical chairs exercise – which is all that has happened in the current saga. That’s 70 years under a second-rate system which is no longer used by commercially-oriented organisations anywhere in the world. It’s suited only to the local tennis club.

In other words, the world has passed us by and we have not noticed. It’s time we did.

The priorities:

1. Sort out the immediate live baiting crisis.

2. Set up expert studies into training techniques and practices.

3. Evaluate needed reforms to governance and management structures.

Past Discussion

  1. As far as Queensland is concerned the first priority should be to sack the Racing Queensland Board together with their senior management team.

  2. As far as Queensland is concerned the first priority should be to sack the Racing Queensland Board together with their senior management team. 

  3. why do greyhound trainers  have to stand down when there is aproblem horse trainers get positive swabs and can still race or transfer their horses to other trainers makes you wonder if there is a conflict of interest why is the board still there nsw and Victoria were given there marching orders imeadiatley try and ring someone at RQ all you get is answering machines you can leave a message but no one will ring back maybe the whole staff needs a good overhaul how pathecti that we have to pay for this investigation when it is quiet obvious some people have been sitting on their fat you know what

  4. why do greyhound trainers  have to stand down when there is aproblem horse trainers get positive swabs and can still race or transfer their horses to other trainers makes you wonder if there is a conflict of interest why is the board still there nsw and Victoria were given there marching orders imeadiatley try and ring someone at RQ all you get is answering machines you can leave a message but no one will ring back maybe the whole staff needs a good overhaul how pathecti that we have to pay for this investigation when it is quiet obvious some people have been sitting on their fat you know what

  5. WE need to get personalities like the dog whisperer Harry Cooper and Caesar Milan to perform before TV audiences and participants breaking in greyhounds  to nullify the damage done by top trainers who have been blooding greyhounds
    Even in the days before the blood sport coursing was banned and very light fines if any were dolled out on participants caught blooding, many trainers, including top trainers did not recourse to blooding because of unintended consequences associated with greyhound stress ie unable to kennel without massive weight loss(, unable to travel,anxiety , diabetes, ulcers etc.

  6. WE need to get personalities like the dog whisperer Harry Cooper and Caesar Milan to perform before TV audiences and participants breaking in greyhounds  to nullify the damage done by top trainers who have been blooding greyhounds

    Even in the days before the blood sport coursing was banned and very light fines if any were dolled out on participants caught blooding, many trainers, including top trainers did not recourse to blooding because of unintended consequences associated with greyhound stress ie unable to kennel without massive weight loss(, unable to travel,anxiety , diabetes, ulcers etc.

  7. well written, further education and training is a must, once you get your trainers licence you should have to attending trainings during the year to ensure you are doing the correct thing. there needs to be one large training facility in each state where all involved with greyhounds can obtain further training and for all the new people getting involved.People involved with greyhounds need to be held accountable along with the greyhound boards to make she we are ALWAYS doing the right thing by the greyhounds.

  8. well written, further education and training is a must, once you get your trainers licence you should have to attending trainings during the year to ensure you are doing the correct thing. there needs to be one large training facility in each state where all involved with greyhounds can obtain further training and for all the new people getting involved.People involved with greyhounds need to be held accountable along with the greyhound boards to make she we are ALWAYS doing the right thing by the greyhounds.

  9. Congratulations Bruce on a very well constructed and written article. There are three other issues which I think are far more serious however, and I will be interested to see how the new board handles these issues.  Management is the first issue, and until this is dealt with nothing of any substance will be achieved. I would rather not canvas the other issues in this form at this time but anyone cam contact me if they wish, [email protected]

  10. Congratulations Bruce on a very well constructed and written article. There are three other issues which I think are far more serious however, and I will be interested to see how the new board handles these issues.  Management is the first issue, and until this is dealt with nothing of any substance will be achieved. I would rather not canvas the other issues in this form at this time but anyone cam contact me if they wish, rogerjclark49@gmail.com


  11. Bruce, your item 3 needs to extend beyond greyhound administration. The Senate Committee on matters reporting etc of animal cruelty in a lawful manner now has 137 submissions published on its website. The submissions to the committee have closed but there are a lot of submissions still to be examined and published including my own.Most of the substantive submissions are in favour of defining unlawful reporting conduct. The Australian Medical Association as a whole sees a need for stronger animal welfare legislation rather than restrictions on reporters but sees biodiversity problems in trespass. Greyhound Australasia submission to the enquiry either does not exist or its in a later batch to be released. There is a lot of short submissions backing animal welfare groups generally under an ag/gag heading. A contrary view is held by submission 90 which deals with the greyhound matters and the four corners. 
    The old Greyhounds Australasia (ANZGRA) when it was run as  conference would have been first off the block with a submission to the Senate. The GA is a national body and the legislation is national (National legislation is a part of their charter)
    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/Animal_Protection_Bill

  12. Bruce, your item 3 needs to extend beyond greyhound administration. The Senate Committee on matters reporting etc of animal cruelty in a lawful manner now has 137 submissions published on its website. The submissions to the committee have closed but there are a lot of submissions still to be examined and published including my own.Most of the substantive submissions are in favour of defining unlawful reporting conduct. The Australian Medical Association as a whole sees a need for stronger animal welfare legislation rather than restrictions on reporters but sees biodiversity problems in trespass. Greyhound Australasia submission to the enquiry either does not exist or its in a later batch to be released. There is a lot of short submissions backing animal welfare groups generally under an ag/gag heading. A contrary view is held by submission 90 which deals with the greyhound matters and the four corners. 

    The old Greyhounds Australasia (ANZGRA) when it was run as  conference would have been first off the block with a submission to the Senate. The GA is a national body and the legislation is national (National legislation is a part of their charter)

    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/Animal_Protection_Bill 

  13. Sorry my post below should have read Australian Vet Association not the AMA. The AVA has also got a special interest greyhound committee  which is responsible to the AVA and advises Greyhounds Australasia amongst other things, on animal welfare. The Submission from the AVA is the AVA as a whole and not the political special interest greyhound group.

    vetinary

  14. Sorry my post below should have read Australian Vet Association not the AMA. The AVA has also got a special interest greyhound committee  which is responsible to the AVA and advises Greyhounds Australasia amongst other things, on animal welfare. The Submission from the AVA is the AVA as a whole and not the political special interest greyhound group.

    vetinary 

  15. Dezzey Government might take back functions from control boards that are in the broad public interest which would mean that costs would be out of the general purse rather than the greyhounds wagering tax commissions. NSW has the most delegated public interest functions being administered and paid out of its distribution compared to the other States and also the lowest commission paid on wagering receipts.

  16. Dezzey Government might take back functions from control boards that are in the broad public interest which would mean that costs would be out of the general purse rather than the greyhounds wagering tax commissions. NSW has the most delegated public interest functions being administered and paid out of its distribution compared to the other States and also the lowest commission paid on wagering receipts. 

  17. Agree Well written and further education and training is a must. Public trainers should have to get personal development credits each year to hold a licence dealing with the public and owner trainers need information.
    The best read is Care and Training of the Australian Greyhound written by June White and updated up till 1978.
    ISBN 0 7270 0315 1
    The whirly gig was introduced in the 1980’s and was originally intended in the USA to show young pups after whelping things to familiarise pups to the artificial racing. The National Greyhound Association USA  banned blooding in 1978. The whirly gig took the place of the common practice to educate pups with fishing rods producing fishing lines with rags or skins attached.

  18. Agree Well written and further education and training is a must. Public trainers should have to get personal development credits each year to hold a licence dealing with the public and owner trainers need information.

    The best read is Care and Training of the Australian Greyhound written by June White and updated up till 1978.

    ISBN 0 7270 0315 1

    The whirly gig was introduced in the 1980’s and was originally intended in the USA to show young pups after whelping things to familiarise pups to the artificial racing. The National Greyhound Association USA  banned blooding in 1978. The whirly gig took the place of the common practice to educate pups with fishing rods producing fishing lines with rags or skins attached.