Live-baiting scandal: The darkest week in an industry’s history

JUST a week has elapsed since the nation was shocked by revelations of live baiting in the greyhound industry broadcast on the ABC’s investigative program Four Corners. The week has seemed more like a month as the hits kept coming in all three states affected by the raids. Here is how the scandal unfolded:

RSPCA and police raided five properties in Victoria, NSW and Queensland on February 10 and 11, after Four Corners, in conjunction with Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland, handed over details of its investigation into cruelty in the sport to state-based RSPCAs. The raids were driven by the RSPCA and targeted alleged use of live-baiting methods. Four Corners screened an episode entitled “Making A Killing” last Monday night (February 16) at 8.30pm, including hidden-camera footage of industry participants engaging in live baiting.

NSW

Breaking-in establishments in the Londonderry area were raided and the registration of the Box Hill Trial Track was suspended. Five participants were immediately stood down for alleged live-baiting activities. Another person, Congewai trainer John O’Brien, was stood down after a property inspection allegedly discovered eight live European rabbits. After Four Corners screened, northern NSW trainer John Thompson was also stood down. Greyhound Racing NSW announced a taskforce with wide-ranging powers to investigate the extent of live baiting in NSW, headed by former High Court justice Michael McHugh. The board of GRNSW was later stood down, as was chief executive Brent Hogan. Paul Newson, head of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, was installed as interim CEO. The NSW Greyhound of the Year awards night last Friday was postponed. GRNSW stood down three further registered participants for alleged live-baiting offences.

Licensed persons stood down:

John Cauchi: Box Hill Trial Track in the Hills District.

Tony Cauchi: Box Hill Trial Track

Donna Grech

Zeke Kadir: Wilshire Park, popular breaking-in facility near Richmond. Has broken in notable dogs such as Keybow.

Ian Morgan: Sydney trainer with the notable “Quoted” greyhounds. It is a successful line including Best Quoted, which was part-owned by Morgan and won five group races, including the Sandown Cup, SA Distance Championship and Easter Chase.

John O’Brien: Trainer from Congewai in the Hunter district.

John Thompson: Trainer from Shannon Brook near Casino in northern NSW.

Majella Ferguson: Popular Sydney conditioner who won the 2008 NSW Trainer of the Year Award.

David Sundstrom: Trainer.

Bruce Carr: Trainer from Londonderry stood down after stewards allegedly found four live rabbits on his property.

Victoria

After raids by RSPCA and police, the Tooradin trial track near Cranbourne had its registration suspended and 10 industry participants were quickly stood down. Their names were finally released by Greyhound Racing Victoria last last week. It also moved to suspend any greyhounds owned and/or trained by the 10 stood-down participants until after investigations were complete. GRV later stood down five additional persons for alleged live-baiting offences at the Tooradin track. Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner, Sal Perna, announced an Own Motion Inquiry into live-baiting practices, while the Victorian government also announced it will allocate up to $3 million from the Victorian Racing Infrastructure Fund towards bolstering GRV’s animal welfare and integrity measures. On Monday, February 23, Peter Caillard resigned as chairman of the board of GRV.

Licensed persons stood down:

Darren McDonald: Arguably Australia’s No.1 trainer. McDonald has prepared champions headed by the outstanding Brett Lee, which won 31 of 39 starts with eight placings and was inducted into the AGRA hall of fame.

Chris Connolly: Assists McDonald preparing his champion team of dogs at Devon Meadows.

Stuart Mills: Part of the Mills family, which is greyhound racing royalty in Victoria, and runs the Tooradin trial track. Trains greyhounds in his own right. Brother Andrew is head grader for GRV and a former deputy chief steward.

Tony Mills: Father of Stuart and veteran trainer who won the Ken Carr medal in 2013. The medal recognises outstanding contribution to a greyhound club or clubs. Mills has had a long association with the Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club and the National Coursing Association.

Kerry Chalker: Veteran trainer from Pearcedale.

Paul Anderton: Well-known Devon Meadows trainer and lifelong participant in the industry. Anderson has formerly driven the lure at Cranbourne and was a former GRV Steward. Shifty Sticka is his most recent star, though the dog suffered a career-ending injury before it could reach its full potential. Anderson has also been the “slipper” at coursing events.

Dennis Dean: Well known for having the “Hand” dogs. One of the best-known was Henry Hand, which won $113,000 in prizemoney in the mid to late 90s, with 17 wins from 31 starts.

Neville King: The Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club president. Has prepared such stars as Return The King and Boomeroo.

Bob Smith: Former GRV integrity and racing operations manager.

Laurie Cunningham: Long-time trainer.

Kenneth Hodges

Brett Mackie

James Reynolds

Jon Roberts: Trainer who owned and prepared the 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Lord Ducal.

Eric Sykes

Queensland

The raids in Queensland centred around an unregistered greyhound training track at Churchable, 65km west of Brisbane. Seven trainers were immediately stood down for allegedly engaging in live-baiting offences. They have been given seven days to show cause why they should not be warned off Queensland tracks for life. Six others were later stood down and their greyhounds suspended from racing. Racing Queensland on Tuesday seized more than 100 greyhounds. On Sunday RQ announced it had stood down chief steward Wade Birch.

Licensed persons given show-cause notices:

Tom Noble: Owner and operator of the training track at Churchable.

Reg Kay: Champion trainer based at Lowood. Racing Queensland has said Kay will be removed from its hall of fame.

Debra Arnold: Trainer based near Tom Noble’s track at Churchable.

Tony McCabe: Coominya trainer.

James Harding: Coominya trainer.

Michael Chapman: Trainer.

Greg Stella: Trainer.

Licensed persons stood down:

Stephen Sherwell

Gerri Crisci

Anthony Hess

Stephen Arnold

Mick Emery

Samantha Roberts

Past Discussion

  1. One part of the Four Corners program that disturbed me was one of the maggots had taken his young daughter along to watch a rabbit on a leash getting destroyed. That’s probably pretty traumatising for a young kid. Just because this guy is a monster, doesn’t need to get the kids involved. Unfortunately I feel this is only the tip of the iceberg, people will be too scared to engage in this activity for a while at least, but they will eventually return to their murderous ways. If big name trainers are partaking then there must have been a belief that there is an advantage to be gained. Therefore is it just an assumption that a large percentage of trainers will also be guilty but haven’t been caught out. Perhaps the investigation should have continued further? Or had they seen enough killing of innocent animals?

  2. One part of the Four Corners program that disturbed me was one of the maggots had taken his young daughter along to watch a rabbit on a leash getting destroyed. That’s probably pretty traumatising for a young kid. Just because this guy is a monster, doesn’t need to get the kids involved. Unfortunately I feel this is only the tip of the iceberg, people will be too scared to engage in this activity for a while at least, but they will eventually return to their murderous ways. If big name trainers are partaking then there must have been a belief that there is an advantage to be gained. Therefore is it just an assumption that a large percentage of trainers will also be guilty but haven’t been caught out. Perhaps the investigation should have continued further? Or had they seen enough killing of innocent animals?