Irwin determined to fight water rule despite suspension

Industry Update

RESPECTED New South Wales conditioner Dave Irwin says he will not comply with Greyhound Racing NSW’s race day hydration policy, despite being handed down a 16-week suspension on Tuesday.

Irwin, who trains at Warragai Creek, between Casino and Grafton, has been a staunch opponent of the new policy which was made mandatory on February 20, 2017.

Under the new rules, GRNSW supply sealed water bottles at all NSW tracks, with trainers required to provide their greyhounds with water in their kennels during kennelling on race day.

However, after failing to provide water to his greyhounds in their race kennels on nine occasions, Irwin was forced to face a GRNSW stewards’ inquiry earlier this week charged with five breaches of LR 86(ag).

He was suspended for 16 weeks, eight of which have been suspended pending no further breaches of the same rule within the next 12 months.

Irwin, who has applied for a stay of proceedings and appealed the decision, says the whole situation has been a debacle.

“There was no consultation with the industry [regarding the water rule] in the first place,” Irwin told Australian Racing Greyhound.

“It is very restrictive – the data they have got has used qualified vets, but their qualifications are limited to canines – but canine athletes, greyhounds, are a world apart from ordinary canines.

“They have used this data from people with no experience in greyhound racing over vets like Peter Yore and Brian Daniels, who have specialised in treating greyhounds for more than 30 years – it’s an insult to their professionalism.”

Irwin says GRNSW have failed to identify problems the new water rule is causing to welfare and the integrity of the sport.

“They haven’t kept records regarding poor performances, the amount of dogs bringing up water in the catching pen after the race or the dogs spewing up water in their kennels.

“A lot of dogs are getting to the home turn and dying [on their runs because they have a gut full of water] – this could result in fail to chase certificates.

“It could lead to defrauding of the public because there are a heap of dogs which are more than six lengths slower than what they normally run.

“The stewards aren’t doing their job properly – they don’t want to cause any bad publicity by exposing what this rule is doing to the industry.

“We want all these injuries and incidents reported, we want the bad runs reported.

“On top of that – putting a stainless steel bucket into a small race day kennel is dangerous in itself – we have evidence of a heap of injuries from it.”

The prominent conditioner said there should be no reason for greyhounds to need water in their kennels if they are properly hydrated prior to kennelling and pass a veterinary examination.

“Trainers in the industry hydrate their dogs on race day – there is no way in the world that a dog going into an air conditioned kennel that is passed fit by a vet can de-hydrate in a maximum of three and a half hours.

“It normally stays in the gut because they are already hydrated – so when the dog runs and exerts itself this results in them spewing it up or slowing down during the run when he starts to feel the pain from drinking the excess water.”

Irwin says despite being handed down a suspension, he has not been scared into playing by the rules when he believes those rules jeopardise the health and wellbeing of his dogs.

“Our leaders are on the wrong foot – they think we are criminals, that we blood our greyhounds, gear them up with drugs – they have the opinion that we are the lowest people on Earth when we all know we look after our dogs and that their welfare is paramount.

“There is no way in the world I am going to go back [and play by their rules].

“I am not going to have these people stand over me and make me commit what I believe is welfare fraud over my dogs because they think I should give them water.

“Of the nine times I have been penalised [for not giving my dogs water] I have had six winners, two placings and one unplaced – they have continued to race well, which proves my dogs don’t have a hydration problem.

“I hydrate my dogs before [I kennel them] so there is no way in the world they are going to get dehydrated and I look after them after the race – the proof is in the pudding.

“If this hydration is such a problem in greyhound racing where is the evidence? All we have had is theories by vets who have no experience in the industry.

“Victoria had a look at this rule two years ago and didn’t want any part of it, yet here we are being martyrs and following this rule which has caused more problems than it has fixed.”

Irwin is now calling on all trainers who have had problems regarding the water rule to submit their experiences to him in order to get the policy overturned.

“I hope to establish at the appeal that the rule is wrong and my final aim will be to get the rule thrown out or changed to at the very least allow it to be at the trainer’s discretion whether or not water is put in the kennel.

“Heaps of people have come up to me and said they support what I am doing and told me what has happened with their dogs, but when you ask them for it on paper so I can produce the evidence they go missing.

“They don’t want to get in trouble off the stewards…they are s*** frightened of the hierarchy thinking that they are going to be picked on and mistreated.

“I have got 50-60 cases and evidence – and I am now asking for more people to stand up and show a bit of backbone by reporting any cases of injuries, [sickness] and disappointing performances that are a result of this rule.”

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  1. NSW trainers won’t have to make any decisions soon GRNSW can train all the dogs. No point having a licence, everyone should move interstate to get some common sense.
    Every dog is different some run their race in the kennel block and others go to sleep. Only the trainers know. This is slow death by over regulation. AGAIN.

  2. The industry once again showing their true colours Dave Irwin has taken the fall for the Industry re this ridiculous race day hydration policy! The question i ask why aren’t some of these leading trainers backing him by no water in race kennels lets back him 100% and hold back the water lets all support him not just a few like always.

  3. I agree Bob. This post has been up for seven days with only one reply (at the time of writing). I think the piss ants must be afraid of losing their licence if they speak up. Either that or they agree with the policy…that’s a worry.

  4. Dave Irwin is a respected trainer and one who is far, far better than me. I actually have a dog who plays up badly in the kennel house and loses up to half a kilo in weight if she has a late race so I am actually happy to give her water- however in saying this I think Dave’s opinion that it should be voluntary and that he believes it is detrimental to some dogs is certainly worth investigating given the calibre of trainer he is.

  5. Deborah,
    If you draw another late race i suggest you hydrate your bitch in the week and days before the race. Present her at the track up to half a kilo over her best racing weight. (use food, NOT ON RACE DAY the water will take care of itself).

  6. Deb its a sad story when you have WA GBOTA supporting their Members by supporting a Strike, called by members about over regulations by the head body! The weak response by our GBOTA in regards to this stupid water policy is disgraceful.

  7. Deborah,
    A big effort by your girl on the weekend considering the late race, checked in running, and making up ground on the leader at the finish. She would not have been able to do that if she was dehydrated.
    What a fantastic hobby we have.

  8. Yes Burno - I was pleased with my little darling. When I saw she had box 5 in the last race- all I wanted was for her to try and most importantly not get acidosis again. I didn’t care if she won or not.
    The problem is she gets so excited that she gnaws the wire and produces masses of saliva which dehydrates her. Despite the fact I hated doing it I put an American muzzle on her because she had to spend so much time in the kennel house and I also bought her one of those little jumpsuits. When I got her out she was fine and she had drunk all the water and best of all the following morning she was jumping out of her skin happy and healthy.
    Thanks for your interest and advice I always appreciate it.
    Luv Deb

  9. PS Whilst I like the idea of water, in particular for my dog, being the type of dog she is - the dog next to her had knocked his water bucket off the wire and could have injured himself - so I think probably trainer discretion would be the best way to go.

Historical Comment Archive

Past Discussion

  1. Dave, I have raced dogs for 35 years and I agree with your stance on this matter, I raced many dogs and some could not be given water before a race as they would spew it up even after in the wash bay if I tried to give them a drink of water they would vomit it up. Cheers Bill McNally

  2. as usual mate people with no experience telling professionals how to do it. dosnt only happen in greyhound industry it is now the world we live in .good luck with your stand I feel for you however they would rather see you out of the industry then admit there wrong .from group one winning trainer now out of industry.

  3. Having been involved in the greyhound industry for over 45 years with part of this being a stipendiary steward for 13 years I feel I have a bit more experience than some to express a comment on this, what I consider to be a ridicilous policy / rule that has been forced upon NSW Greyhound Racing, both from the administrative side as well as the actual presentation for racing greyhound by owners and trainers.
    Why weren’t respected people from within the industry, like Trainers, Owners and Veterinary Surgeons who have dedicated their lives to all aspects of greyhound racing consulted, instead of people from outside the industry like the working dog alliance and fat cats sitting behind a desk that have never had or will ever have the better interests of greyhond racing at heart.

    I’ll bet someone from a cattle station that uses horses in their daily duties wouldn’t be consulted to pass judgement on how Gai Smith prepares and presents her horses at the track on race day.

    I can imagine the trotting authority approaching the trainers of the Carlton Brewery Clydesdale team on how to best prepare a pacer or trotter.

    Sure, a lot of good ideas could be hoaned from obtaining data outside the circle but it shouldn’t be accepted as being the solution to the answer.

    Working dogs and greyhounds are totally different, just ask any truly dedicated GREYHOUND vet. Working dogs, like Kelpies, Cattle dogs and Border Collies are totally different and have been bred specifically for stamina which enables them to perform their work over extended periods of time. I couldn’t imagine turning up to a cattle muster with a greyhound and expect it to last or perform anything like a cattle dog. 5 minutes and it would want to go and find a couch.

    I am of the opinion the current directors of Greyhound Racing New South Wales should hang their head in shame and revoke this rule immediately.

    To invoke a rule that even the stewards are hesitant to enforce because they know it is wrong is definitely at the lower end of the common sense scale.

    I spent 13 odd years as a steward invoking a rule that prevented trainers and handlers of greyhounds giving their dogs a drink before a race for the fear they may allow the animal to drink too much and thus prevent the animal from performing to the best of it’s ability because it had not had time to process the fluid. Greyhounds were permitted to water their greyhound at this time as long as they obtained permission and it was done under supervision by a track official. Not once in all that time did I encounter any adverse repercussions. On the other side of the coin I also directed trainers to soak their greyhounds down and put them into the airconditioned kennels or on more than one occasion, under direction from the attending vet, stand them in the cool room of the bar to lower their body temperature AFTER a race.

    The main thing that has been omitted in this whole deliberation is COMMON SENSE”. If only it had been applied I’m sure I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this.

    I know this idea has been kicked around since the start of greyhound racing but maybe, just maybe, it is the time for split kennelling to be implemented.

    A very knowledgeable and well liked man in the industry told me when I first started in greyhounds all those years ago, ” It’s easier to pull a dog up than it is to get them to go as fast as they can” . Two of the examples he gave me on how to “pull them up” was to give them a gut full of water or marshmellows and cream . Either of which would upset their stomach when they raced and by the end they wouldn’t be able to stretch out going to the line.

    I am of the opinion the Stewards in charge of each and every meeting where a trainer has declined putting water into their greyhound’s kennel on race day have failed in their duties also. One by not having the said greyhound inspected by the veterinary surgeon immediately before their event to evaluate the animals condition and secondly, by not doing this, they have failed to notify the betting public of the situation and the animals condition.

    I’m proud to say Dave Irwin is my friend, having known him and his father Jack for longer than I can remember and to say I value his and his dad’s opinion is an understatement.

    Them along with a good number of licensees would have been the ones I sought out for their opinion if I had been involved in the formulation of these so called policies regarding the welfare of greyhounds, not the people that appear to only be hell bent on destroying the industry, one way or another.

    I fear it’s a long and lonely road you have set out on Dave, I hope I will be proved wrong and everyone in the industry, not only in New South Wales, get behind you. I’m already on the bus mate, you’ve got my number.
    Bob Watkins

  4. We never had water in our 60years why start now somepeople don’t want us to race we are going down hill so how about they leave us alone they dare not change horses and I think we fight for our rights Melbourne are doing it right so ways going on nsw

  5. It should be totally up to the Trainers whether water should be given in the air conditioned kennels – they know their dogs better than any of the so called expert vets who deal with house pets and not athletes. Would you give water to a human athlete before his race? NO so why the greyhound??? In the winter it is totally unnecessary! Learn the facts before putting such a stupid rule into place!

  6. Dave Irwin is absolutely right on this.
    I currently have one dog that goes to sleep in the kennels at the track and another that refuses to settle and runs her race in the kennel block. One needs to be hydrated and the other is ok.
    It should be absolutely a trainers decision….or no point in being licensed.

  7. Again Dave Irwin is right on this, water should be offered before kennelling on hot days not during kennelling. This policy could be abused as a means of nobbling a dog. Not worth it In the name of welfare but where’s the integrity?