How the NSW Joint Working Group can help the Industry

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” – Mother Theresa.

Those words echoed through my mind as I took my first step into a meeting which had the potential to change the future of the greyhound industry – a sport I have loved since I was a little girl.

Last year, I was selected to be a part of the NSW Joint Working Group (JWG), an advisory panel established to provide recommendations to Paul Newson, the CEO of Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW), as to what changes need to be implemented to ensure the survival of the sport within the state.

Many months, business meetings, phone calls and email conversations later, here we are. The final JWG report has  been handed down, just in time to be considered as a part of the Special Commission of Inquiry, and now more than ever is the time for participants to rally together as the industry prepares for colossal change.

While I wont detail every single point of the report, I feel one of the most significant recommendations to come out of the JWG is for participants and GRNSW to take more responsibility of their dogs from birth and throughout their entire lives. This includes registration of greyhounds throughout their whole lifecycle and periodic assessment of each dog by qualified officers.

I know many people have baulked at this idea, but I am all for it. Throughout my experience pre-training greyhounds, I see all too often young greyhounds which have never been handled — arriving on my door step without so much as a nail trim or a brush — and people expect them to be ready to race within a few months.

Time and time again my job is made difficult when dealing with poorly reared pups, most of the time I have to start right back from square one with them, whereas in contrast I have found the dogs which have been well looked after and socialised are generally easier to handle and are much quicker to come to hand when put into work.

I feel this recommendation is a win-win for participants and animals. Rearers, who, along with breakers, pre-trainers, spellers etc, may all soon need to be licensed, will have to demonstrate the greyhounds in their care are handled and socialised. I believe in turn this will make it easier to break-in dogs if they have been taught essential skills such as chasing a squeaker at a young age, and it will in turn seek to prevent owners from disappointment when the dogs are older.

I do not believe this recommendation, if adopted, will negatively affect the majority of participants who do the right thing — it will, however, bring everyone else up to the same minimum standard to ensure every greyhound is given the best chance from the start.

This recommendation will also ensure greyhounds are properly socialised, making them more suitable for re-homing once their careers are over – another key issue the JWG flagged for improvement.

The JWG identified several overseas models for greyhound rehoming, such as the one used in the USA, where our observations were that the adoption system work very well, with many private adoption agencies working hand in hand with the greyhound racing industry.

Ultimately, the JWG would like to ensure that every greyhound in NSW is given the opportunity to live out the remainder of its life as a companion animal once its time on the track has come to an end.

Another point which I was passionate about was the potential development of a new grading system and racing schedule to allow dogs with a lower ability level the chance to race, which I don’t think is an option at the present time.

The JWG discussed various grading policies implemented across the globe to simplify the present system. The end result would be to get more dogs onto the track and seek to ensure older and slower dogs are catered for as well as younger and inexperienced dogs. Possible solutions to improving the current grading system were noted and require further research.

Hand in hand with grading is race programming to ensure clubs are running races to cater for all types of greyhounds.

One of the points to cause much debate amongst participants was the recommendation that GRNSW investigate the ‘Centre of Excellence’ concept. With 34 registered greyhound tracks in the state, 33 of which are funded by GRNSW, the JWG questioned the long term financial sustainability of the sport with this number of tracks in operation.

The JWG therefore suggested GRNSW identify the optimum amount of tracks, race meetings and the type of meetings which should be conducted at each venue. The JWG also discussed specific features which each track should possess such as facilities to support education programs, greyhound education facilities, an onsite veterinary clinic, hospitality and Greyhounds As Pets facility.

It is important to note the specific locations of the Centres of Excellence were not included as a part of the recommendations, however the JWG highlighted the regions within NSW which it identified as requiring TAB racing/ a Centre of Excellence.

Following on from discussions regarding the Centre of Excellence concept, another recommendation put forward by the JWG was to increase the base level prize money to $1,000 for a TAB race, ensuring trainers and owners have an incentive to stay within the industry.

This is double the current winning prize money for TAB C events and I feel that it will make a massive difference to participants who pour their blood, sweat and tears into the sport every day of the year.

Still on the matter of tracks, the JWG also urged GRNSW to complete an analysis of track related interference and ways to reduce it to ensure the optimum level of greyhound welfare and to potentially prolong the racing careers of greyhounds. Some suggestions were to look into the feasibility of six dog races in certain circumstances and straight track racing with up to 10 potential starters in each event.

One of the more controversial recommendations of the JWG is the introduction of a breeding quota which would be in line with a proposed National Breeding Target put in place by Greyhounds Australasia. Many participants have made it clear they do not support this move, however I believe it would seek to ensure the long term sustainability of the sport both from a racing and welfare perspective.

At the present time, there are currently too many dogs which do not make the track and another large amount which are unable to gain a start due to various reasons. The JWG felt this was unacceptable, with a quota aimed at ensuring the pool of greyhounds is at a level which the industry can sustain in terms of racing opportunities and managing each greyhounds full life cycle i.e. rehoming.

An analogy which can be used to explain this model would be cotton farmers who wish to plant more of their crops when the prices are high. However,  if everyone tripled their crops the Murray Darling would soon run dry and there would be no future for anyone, so the farmers signed up for licenses that restrict usage to ensure sustainability of the river to ensure the river system can cope.

While it is not exactly the same as the greyhound industry, if the sport’s problems were to be miraculously rectified tomorrow what would stop every participant from breeding? Soon you would have dog numbers getting exponentially out of control and we would be faced with the same problem – too many dogs and not enough races or retired homes.

It is all about sustainability, with welfare being front and centre.

Finally, another recommendation I was all for was a restructure of GRNSW which includes greater separation of the regulatory and commercial aspects of the business.

I feel that the current structure of GRNSW has proven to be ineffective, as evidenced by the last 12 months.

With these new recommendations, GRNSW would require a new board structure, while it was also put forward that a Greyhound Racing Integrity Commissioner be appointed as well as a newly established advisory committee which would potentially replace the current Greyhound Racing Industry Consultation Group (GRICG).

To go with the alterations to the structure of the authority body, the JWG also indicated that more transparency and accountability is needed from GRNSW to ensure it is meeting the requirements of the rapidly changing industry.

Throughout my time on the JWG, it is fair to say I had my share of knockers, however I have emerged from the experience full of gratitude for being given the chance to make a potential difference to the industry.

Not once did I bite my tongue throughout the process, I made my opinions known and I did my utmost to stay true to myself and all the participants which I was there to represent.

After reading the final report, I wholeheartedly believe that the recommendations put forward can only have a positive impact on the future of the sport.

Overall, it is important to note that none of the recommendations are set in stone and, depending on what the CEO decides, they may or may not be implemented.

For as long as I can remember people have complained about how the sport is being run by GRNSW, but now we have some real changes on the way so I believe it is the time for everyone to band together.

If we want the industry to improve and move on from the struggles we are currently faced with, we must embrace the new vision rather than fight it.

While it may take time to get used to the new changes which are put in place, I believe they will ensure the industry is run more professionally, transparently and fairer for all participants, all while ensuring the welfare of our number one priority, greyhounds.

Past Discussion

  1. Good on you Katherine, great work.

    Watch out for Bruce in the corridor though. He’ll take you to task on breeding. He’s only interested in how many dogs per race.

  2. Good on you Katherine, great work.

    Watch out for Bruce in the corridor though. He’ll take you to task on breeding. He’s only interested in how many dogs per race.

  3. Hi Kate, did the JWG come up with these points and recommendations or where they already drafted as a proposal before the JWT was formed by Newson

  4. Hi Kate, did the JWG come up with these points and recommendations or where they already drafted as a proposal before the JWT was formed by Newson

  5. Governments (particularly NSW) have been known to “offload” troublesome areas, eg  Prisons, Ferries.
    and they still keep some control & get some $$, all with a lot less headaches.

  6. Governments (particularly NSW) have been known to “offload” troublesome areas, eg  Prisons, Ferries.

    and they still keep some control & get some 18236, all with a lot less headaches.

  7. The breeding component is the most contentious a 7 year old would realise that the new system will kill the industry in 2 years no pups, 6 races and 5 starters per race, jmho

  8. The breeding component is the most contentious a 7 year old would realise that the new system will kill the industry in 2 years no pups, 6 races and 5 starters per race, jmho

  9. Piranaha Nothing was drafted before the Group was formed. When we met we were given key focus areas – such as breeding, welfare, governance, club operations etc – as well as the option to bring up any major issues we thought needed to be addressed –  and all the recommendations were formed from the group discussions regarding each topic.

  10. Piranaha Nothing was drafted before the Group was formed. When we met we were given key focus areas – such as breeding, welfare, governance, club operations etc – as well as the option to bring up any major issues we thought needed to be addressed –  and all the recommendations were formed from the group discussions regarding each topic. 

  11. The problem with any moral crusade is that the solution is always more regulation and bureaucracy, and thats the problem with the JWG report, it has the same perspective and solution for every problem, better people than us, know better.

    It also assumes that people cannot see through some of the proposals, including the breeding quota. The only real purpose of the quota is to limit the size of the sport, to stop it growing into the market share of gallops and harness. The former head of GRNSW has already seen through and commented on limiting the breeding of greyhounds, whilst ignoring the outcome for animals from the other 2 codes, and labelled this a form of class warfare, with rich people able to do as they please with their animals, but a FALSE moral code applied to greyhounds.

    The entire TONE of the report is to talk down to the participants, to highlight a perceived problem, suggest a solution, but not give  evidence of the size or scope of the problem compared to the other codes. Not once does the report suggest doing what happens usually in human society, using competition to drive outcomes, or even the normal carrot and stick, instead it resorts to dictating a required outcome, and then dictating a rule or regulation, despite some of these proposed rules or regulations being either unworkable or un-affordable.

    So badly constructed is the report that one former GRNSW board member has jokingly suggested that the Govt aplogise to the former board.

    But happily for the sport, the Special Commission provides a process for fairer outcomes to be sought for both people and dogs, for evidence and context to be presented and considered, and it is the Special Commission which will be used by those with knowledge and experience to gain for both people and dogs a fairer outcome in the context of society as a whole,  with greyhounds and greyhound people not judged and governed in isolation.

    This was the great failure of the JWG, it accepted from the start that greyhound people be judged in isolation, that we deserved to be separated from society and treated as second class citizens.

  12. The problem with any moral crusade is that the solution is always more regulation and bureaucracy, and thats the problem with the JWG report, it has the same perspective and solution for every problem, better people than us, know better.

    It also assumes that people cannot see through some of the proposals, including the breeding quota. The only real purpose of the quota is to limit the size of the sport, to stop it growing into the market share of gallops and harness. The former head of GRNSW has already seen through and commented on limiting the breeding of greyhounds, whilst ignoring the outcome for animals from the other 2 codes, and labelled this a form of class warfare, with rich people able to do as they please with their animals, but a FALSE moral code applied to greyhounds.

    The entire TONE of the report is to talk down to the participants, to highlight a perceived problem, suggest a solution, but not give  evidence of the size or scope of the problem compared to the other codes. Not once does the report suggest doing what happens usually in human society, using competition to drive outcomes, or even the normal carrot and stick, instead it resorts to dictating a required outcome, and then dictating a rule or regulation, despite some of these proposed rules or regulations being either unworkable or un-affordable.

    So badly constructed is the report that one former GRNSW board member has jokingly suggested that the Govt aplogise to the former board.

    But happily for the sport, the Special Commission provides a process for fairer outcomes to be sought for both people and dogs, for evidence and context to be presented and considered, and it is the Special Commission which will be used by those with knowledge and experience to gain for both people and dogs a fairer outcome in the context of society as a whole,  with greyhounds and greyhound people not judged and governed in isolation.

    This was the great failure of the JWG, it accepted from the start that greyhound people be judged in isolation, that we deserved to be separated from society and treated as second class citizens. 

  13. jeff holland The Special Commission of inquiry has further hearings on the 16th-18th Feb see prompt on home page http://www.greyhoundracinginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au/

  14. jeff holland Like a lot of what you are saying in your post. A post from a senior person in greyhound racing should pass two tests 1. It is fair comment and it is also helpful to the cause. My qualification would be that  there should be considerable credit given to the working group as well,after all it is only a draft report and not set in concrete. The most recent thread of Kathleen about the dropping of charges by the Authority over an issue where human rights prevail over and above those who believe otherwise backs your point. The NSW minister deserves medals for his judgement and leadership in this matter.  The most encouraging aspect to me is that the greyhound now is not regarded as a second class citizen in the canine world, as well. Also congratulations to Kath E who can put out a comprehensive clear report in a few hours when it takes others forever to even consider it.

  15. jeff holland Like a lot of what you are saying in your post. A post from a senior person in greyhound racing should pass two tests 1. It is fair comment and it is also helpful to the cause. My qualification would be that  there should be considerable credit given to the working group as well,after all it is only a draft report and not set in concrete. The most recent thread of Kathleen about the dropping of charges by the Authority over an issue where human rights prevail over and above those who believe otherwise backs your point. The NSW minister deserves medals for his judgement and leadership in this matter.  The most encouraging aspect to me is that the greyhound now is not regarded as a second class citizen in the canine world, as well. Also congratulations to Kath E who can put out a comprehensive clear report in a few hours when it takes others forever to even consider it.

  16. you aint telling me how to rear dogs….I don’t live in a communist country I live in Australia…..you obviously don’t know much about rearing greyhounds to be race dogs, which they are….they are not breed to be pets…they are breed to be race dogs….you talk about socialising the greyhound…does that mean you want us to have the greyhounds interact with other animals so they are ok when time to rehome….why??? they are race dogs first then pets….and on that note does it mean greyhound people are now allowed all animals on their properties, you know to help socialise them….so ok on your points we are all allowed kittens pigs and rabbits on our properties. this industry is becoming a joke because your all scared of nutcases with a cause.

  17. you aint telling me how to rear dogs….I don’t live in a communist country I live in Australia…..you obviously don’t know much about rearing greyhounds to be race dogs, which they are….they are not breed to be pets…they are breed to be race dogs….you talk about socialising the greyhound…does that mean you want us to have the greyhounds interact with other animals so they are ok when time to rehome….why??? they are race dogs first then pets….and on that note does it mean greyhound people are now allowed all animals on their properties, you know to help socialise them….so ok on your points we are all allowed kittens pigs and rabbits on our properties. this industry is becoming a joke because your all scared of nutcases with a cause.

  18. PhillipMarkou spot on, i’ve got at least 18 alive and well in the community as pets, and they were all greyhounds first, pets when the time come.

    i always point to this dog http://www.gapnsw.org.au/home/photo-gallery/recently-adopted-greyhounds/william-1-70, Denise was a bit worried about him, but as I said to her, William will be whatever you want him to be, and a lot of greyhounds are like that, they take their cues off what they think we want them to do.

  19. PhillipMarkou spot on, i’ve got at least 18 alive and well in the community as pets, and they were all greyhounds first, pets when the time come.

    i always point to this dog http://www.gapnsw.org.au/home/photo-gallery/recently-adopted-greyhounds/william-1-70, Denise was a bit worried about him, but as I said to her, William will be whatever you want him to be, and a lot of greyhounds are like that, they take their cues off what they think we want them to do.