GREYHOUND racing in Victoria has a problem it has barely acknowledged. A big problem.
The announcement by Premier Mike Baird that greyhound racing in NSW would be shut down from July 1, 2017, casts serious doubt on the status quo continuing in Victoria with many of the dogs racing in this state being bred and reared in NSW.
Consider this, a small sample yes, but on Wednesday’s mid-week meeting at The Meadows, the heart of Victorian greyhound racing, in race 11, five of the seven dogs nominated are from New South Wales.
In last Thursday’s Group 2 McKenna Memorial heats at Sandown Park, 15 dogs out of 50 drawn, were from New South Wales. It’s a similar story across the entire landscape under GRV reign, with more interstate numbers flooding in, particularly for the group races or features.
Leading Victorian trainer Robert Britton, who has 30 dogs in work, is one to have acknowledged just how big a blow the closure of NSW greyhound racing will be on the Victorian industry. He estimates at least 50 per cent of dogs he has trained in the last 10 years have come from from NSW.
“Up until this year I probably would have had around 30 NSW dogs in my kennel – NSW is a major breeding ground for the rest of Australia, New Zealand and for up until about a year ago Macau,” he said.
The Special Commission of Inquiry put forward figures that between 48,891 and 68,448 greyhounds have been killed over the past 12 years in NSW, because they simply cannot compete on the track. These deaths have become coined as “wastage” and played a huge role in the Baird government’s decision to ban greyhound racing. But Britton says the figures are simply a fabrication.
“They say there is up to 68,000 dogs being killed in NSW over the past 12 years,” he said.
“They don’t take into account the normal attrition rate of pups due to illness or misadventure on the way through, they don’t take into consideration the amount of dogs who have gone to New Zealand or Macau which is massive – and the amount of dogs which go interstate is even bigger.
“Once you start getting the real figures, their wastage numbers just don’t add up.
“They said that ‘some’ dogs went interstate and ‘some’ went overseas – but it’s a hell of a lot more than ‘some’.”
Britton says he has fielded a lot of calls from concerned owners, unsure of their future within the sport for themselves and their greyhounds. Many of these calls have come from the 13,000 people employed directly in the industry in NSW. Many more are people who are indirectly employed because of the greyhound industry such as farmers and vets, will suffer a huge hit if the industry is shut down.
“I have had phone call after phone call from people from NSW that I have dealt with for many years,” Britton, who has won most features across the country, said.
“They are not only upset but they are also concerned that they don’t know what they are allowed to do.
“There has been no roadmap put out there as to what they can do. Should they get rid of their dogs immediately? There is one rumour going around that all dogs have to be registered within the next three weeks.
“They just don’t know what is happening, it’s unsatisfactory.”
This feeling of abandonment has been echoed to this website. Many industry figures have spoken out saying the lack of communication and consultation has left them feeling empty and unsure, not just in their position in the industry, but unsure of their lives. Many have commented on the fact the government included numbers for depression support groups Lifeline and Beyond Blue but have offered no real support. “There will be suicides,” long-time greyhound journalist Jeff Collerson told a media program.
A beacon of hope has been lit for NSW participants with the opposition Labor Party in NSW steadfastly opposing the Liberal government’s motion to close down greyhound racing. Greyhound participants have also received support from Nationals members of the NSW senate, who are closely aligned with the Liberal party. Australian Racing Greyhound has also received several unofficial indications that Liberal senate members would cross the floor and support the Labor government on the next sitting of the assembly on August 2.
“I’ll stand by the overwhelming majority of people in the industry who’ve only ever done the right thing,” NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley declared.
“I want to throw the book at those who have done the wrong thing, life bans from the industry, prison terms for those who have engaged in live baiting.”
Britton is urging Victorian participants to support the NSW fight and expressed serious doubts on whether other states can fill fields without the breeding power and influence of the biggest greyhound state in the country. On Monday night, 49 NSW greyhounds were drawn to compete at the three meetings (Ballarat, Shepparton, Traralgon) in Victoria alone, representing close to 20 per cent. Other race days, like outlined above, have an even higher number competing.
“It changes the whole dynamics of the sport for the future if NSW isn’t there,” he said.
“How many more dogs will need to be bred around Australia just to keep the industry afloat?
“While Victoria does have a viable breeding industry, I would say that South Australia and Western Australia don’t – they rely heavily on dogs from interstate, particularly NSW.
“They have completely underestimated what they have done.”
* AustralianRacingGreyhound.com is urging all fans of the sport, people who acknowledge the wrong the NSW Government has inflicted on the industry, and people who understand common-sense to sign a petition urging an immediate re-think of the ban on greyhound racing in NSW.