LEADING Victorian harness trainer Lance Justice is urging all racing participants to band together after the NSW government announced plans to outlaw greyhound racing within the state as of July 1, 2017.
Justice is a highly respected figure in the harness world, having prepared champion pacer Smoken Up to 74 wins and 54 minor placings from 153 starts, with over $3.6 million in prize money earnings.
Despite his stature within another code, Justice says he was distressed to hear of the ban earlier this month.
“I was shocked,” Justice told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“I have a lot of close friends who are involved in the greyhound industry and I really feel for them because it was callously handled.
“It’s just so out of whack… to shut down an industry that so many people get so much enjoyment out of – I just don’t understand it.
“I don’t care what industry you are involved in whether its gallops, dogs or the trots, there is always going to be people who are doing the wrong thing, but you don’t punish the whole population because of a small minority.
“I just feel so sorry for the people who got up that morning and read ‘greyhounds banned’ – I cannot for the life of me see how Mike Baird thought it wasn’t going to upset people.
“A lot of trainers live and breath for their animals… and now they have got nothing.”
Justice said he could see parallels between the harness and greyhound racing codes and felt that there could have been alternatives to banning the sport altogether.
“Don’t ask me to reinvent the wheel for the greyhound industry… but it looks to me that it is the same sort of problem as we have in harness racing in that not all the dogs bred to race are making it to the track.
“In harness racing we have the problem that we don’t breed enough horses and we have some horses which are not quite fast enough.
“Just because they aren’t capable of going as fast as the other horses it shouldn’t mean they can’t race – so we are trying to grade them so that even the really slow ones can have a career.
“No-one cares if a greyhound runs 28.60 or 33.20 – as long as they are competitive in their own grade and they are looked after.
“At the end of the day we all have to be welfare orientated… it is of the upmost importance that the dogs and horses are well looked after.”
Justice said a problem to overcome for all codes was to enforce to the public that racing animals are well cared for and love what they do.
“It’s sad that a minority of people – the lefties and the greenies – can have such a loud voice and be so misinformed,” he said.
“They have such a single track mind, they want to believe the worst in everybody in everything.
“They don’t understand that horses and dogs which are kept in a racing environment are actually finely tuned athletes and they are incredibly well looked after.
“We love our animals… I sat up every night for a whole week after one of the horses got bitten by a snake and got real sick.
“The vet came and looked at him and said we should put him down, but he still had a brightness and sparkle in his eyes that told me that he wanted to live.
“We gave him a chance… we had to roll him over every two hours so fluid didn’t build up on his lungs and I went 10 days with only a couple of hours sleep, just trying to keep this horse alive.
“Thankfully he made a full recovery and he is coming along nicely… he might even be racing soon.
“If they were just a commodity like these people say then you wouldn’t go through all that…we all love our animals like our children.”
Justice refuted claims harness and thoroughbred racing would be better off without the dishlickers, saying all three codes should be working together through the tough times.
“It will have an affect on the other codes because if they shut the dogs down the greenies are going to go after the trots and the gallops and they wont stop there, after that they’ll target all the kids riding ponies,” he said.
“Some people are rubbing their hands together thinking that with dog racing gone it will be better for the horse racing industry, but they are looking at it wrong.
“At the end of the day we are all racing industries – we are either chasing, or pacing or galloping… so I think we should all be sticking together.”