GWIC suspend Howards, remind participants of synthetic lure rules

The NSW Greyhound Welfare & Integrity Commission (GWIC) has today issued interim suspensions to Keinbah Trial Track operators Robert and Natina Howard over alleged possession of a non synthetic lure.

The Howards were issued with “show cause” notices a day after the Cop A Chevy dramas at Goulburn greyhound track last week, and given 48 hours to respond.

Having received submissions from both Robert and Natina Howard, GWIC today placed both under interim suspension until such time as the inquiry can be heard.

Under Rule 92(5)(c) of the GWIC Greyhound Racing Rules, the GWIC can impose an interim suspension upon participants registrations pending the completion of the Commission’s inquiry, in which the particular person is subject.

The charges stem from a routine kennel and trial track inspection at the Keinbah Trial Track on 26th June 2019. GWIC inspectors took possession of a lure to test the material for non synthetic material. That forensic testing is alleged to have contained natural hair fibres, and was not of synthetic origin. No determination on the species of origin of the fibres was made. No other lures on the trial track were considered to be at risk of non synthetic origin.

The forensic testing of the material was completed on 1st October 2019. The show cause notices were not issued until the day after the Cop A Chevy racing incident at Goulburn (22nd October 2019); where the Robert Howard trained greyhound fell, was injured, and was subsequently transferred to a local vet clinic.

Controversy has reigned on social media as to the circumstances around the chronology of events that saw the greyhound effectively removed from the trainer’s direct control, with the owner disputing the official GWIC version of events.

GWIC issued the show cause notices to Robert and Natina Howard the day following the Cop A Chevy incident, and a day before releasing a statement on the same incident.

Today, GWIC issued both participant’s interim suspensions, after “considering the evidence currently before the Commission” and the submissions of the Howards. The interim suspensions will remain in place until the formal inquiry, pending any appeal from the Howards. During the suspensions neither participant will be allowed to have any greyhounds owned or trained by them race. Greyhounds will not be allowed to be transferred to new trainers or owners. No hearing date has been set for the formal inquiry.

The suspensions are likely to have significant impact on the operations and registration of the Keinbah Trial Track.

Following the announcement of the suspensions, GWIC has reminded participants of the Greyhound Racing Rules when it comes to using lures for training greyhounds in NSW.

Chief Executive Officer, Judy Lind, said that Local Rule 86A clearly states that lures must be made of synthetic materials only.

“The use of furs, skins, meat or other animal matter as training lures is absolutely not acceptable under the rules,” Ms Lind said.

“Local rule 86A, that specifies the use of synthetic lures only, was introduced on 20 April 2015, and the industry has had ample time to adjust training practices in line with standards that prioritise animal welfare.”

“The Commission’s approach to investigating and penalising rule breaches for possession and/or use of animal derived lures is necessary and in line with regulatory action taken in other jurisdictions, with a Tasmanian trainer recently disqualified for life for the possession of a wallaby skin at his kennel address’ said Ms Lind.

“The Tasmanian case is a timely reminder for all participants to ensure their training practices are compliant with current rules and standards.”

“Whilst the majority of participants have been willing and cooperative in their compliance with new policies, rules and reforms across the industry, the Commission will continue to target those who are doing the wrong thing and in doing so, putting the reputation of the industry at risk.”

GWIC have declined to comment specifically on the Howard’s suspensions citing their policy of not commenting on open inquiries.

Robert Howard has declined to comment on the matter to other media organisations, but the Howards have been advised of their rights of appeal and are understood to have briefed leading NSW lawyer Vince Murphy.