THE New South Wales greyhound racing industry has been dealt another blow, with announcement that non-TAB racing has been suspended.
On Tuesday night, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) issued a statement that the 18 non-TAB tracks within the state have had all meetings suspended until a review into track safety, integrity and animal welfare was conducted.
This followed the release of the Special Commission of Inquiry report which outlined 79 points which could alleviate concerns surrounding the sport’s integrity and animal welfare.
The boss of one of the greyhound clubs affected, Cowra president Peter McDonald said it was a devastating shock, with the track priding itself on providing safe racing for all greyhounds.
“We were due to race this weekend, so to get the notice on Tuesday night that your not racing makes it very hard to stomach and comprehend what’s happening and why its happening,” he said.
“I honestly believe the Cowra track is one of the safest you could have. We trial Tuesdays, Saturdays and we also race on Saturdays and in my time being associated with the club we have never had any major injuries.
“We might have the odd bump or a fall, but there is nothing major – perhaps a pulled muscle here or there – nothing serious.”
McDonald says while he understands why the safety checks have to be undertaken, it is still incredibly disappointing for the many local trainers which rely on the track to race their dogs.
“I think it’s a knee jerk reaction by GRNSW, but they are acting in the best interests of the clubs in making sure the non-TAB tracks are up to scratch.
“The Cowra club holds no fears about our track or facilities being safe – the sooner the men get out here and do their checks the sooner we can get back to racing – that’s all we want.
“It’s very disheartening. For people who do not know a great deal about the industry to be making decisions like this.”
Tuesday’s news comes less than a week after NSW Premier Mike Baird declared greyhound racing will be illegal in the state as of July 1, 2017.
With greyhounds in the country areas of NSW, such as Cowra, having limited racing options, the decision to suspend racing gives bush trainers little incentive to continue an involvement in the sport.
“There is no incentive to have greyhounds at the present time,” McDonald said.
“Out here it is country racing – these dogs aren’t up to city standard.
“The people here are down to earth and all they want to do is race – they don’t care whether they win or lose, they just want to see the dogs go around.
“They give them a pat, give them a feed and then take them home and they are happy for the week.
“But for that to be taken away from them is something which really needs to be looked at.”
McDonald holds fears for many of the mainly elderly participants in the country areas if the proposed ban on the sport goes ahead, while he also noted it would have an impact on the wider community.
“Country people are the heart and soul of greyhound racing,” he said.
“A lot of them being elderly people you don’t know what they are going to do – we could be talking about people’s welfare here – it just might tip some of them over the edge.
“Being a small community… with the number of trainers in the area the local abattoir is probably going to miss out on around $3000 worth of meat per week just to the Cowra district.
“Then you think about the shops, the petrol stations, the pet shops, the volunteers who work at the canteen – it’s going to be one hell of a loss to the Cowra community.”