Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, has announced an Own Motion Inquiry into live baiting practices exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners report on Monday night.
The aim of the inquiry is to investigate the integrity of the greyhound racing industry and the failures of the industry’s governing bodies to identify such widespread cruelty and criminal activity.
The Victorian Government also announced it would allocate up to $3 million from the Victorian Racing Infrastructure Fund towards bolstering GRV’s animal welfare and integrity measures, including:
Commissioner Perna said the report into live baiting had come as a shock to him and his department.
“I’ve been in this role for five years and I’ve certainly not seen anything like this before,” Perna said.
“Like anyone else who has seen the footage, I was sickened and angry at what I saw.”
Perna said he had spoken with the Victorian Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, and both had agreed the Own Motion Inquiry was the best course of action.
“I hold the racing industry in high regard and questions over the integrity of racing must not be left unanswered,” he said.
While Perna could not put a timeline on the results of the inquiry, he did admit he had concerns that it took an animal welfare group and a television program to unearth the criminal activity before his office.
“It is a worry. In my own view, the culture of the industry is good. I have been involved for five years now and we have had just one anonymous call and complaint on live baiting in that time.
“There have been a lot of improvements made across the three racing codes over the past give years, but if there are things that need to be fixed, we will fix them.
“The questions I ask are, how widespread is this? Should they have known? Did they know?”
Perna also flagged reform for greyhound sanctions after it was revealed that Darren McDonald and Paul Anderton had transferred greyhounds into their wives’ names before investigations into their actions had even begun.
“There is reform needed for sure. When you look at sanctions, the thing you need to look at is proportion and effect.
“What effect does it have on the person receiving it?
“If the sanctions have no effect because they can move a dog to somewhere else and continue to be doing what they did, then the sanctions are not working and need to be addressed. The legislation needs to be addressed and the rules need to be addressed.”
Perna pleaded with anyone with information on live baiting or other illegal practices in the racing industry to contact his office. You can phone (03) 8684 7776, fax (03) 8684 7778 or email: [email protected]
Elsewhere on Tuesday, the fall-out from the live-baiting expose on Four Corners included:
GRNSW boss Brent Hogan told Fairfax Radio: “We only became aware of John Thompson’s involvement through the broadcast last night. He’s registered in NSW, he’s been suspended and we’re now working with Racing Queensland in relation to that matter.”
NSW GBOTA boss Brenton Scott said in a statement: “Live baiting is an illegal practice and represents animal cruelty at its worst. Despite considerable funds being expended by controlling bodies across Australia on animal welfare, integrity and rule compliance grounds, the Four Corners program has shown extreme weaknesses exist in current regulation processes.
“Given this, the independent taskforce, which will assess training methods and arrangements and controls that need to be in place at trial tracks, is welcomed and supported.”