HARRY Sarkis has slammed Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) for failing to use common sense and victimising him after a planned property inspection at his residence uncovered a rabbit carcass on Wednesday.
The authority body swiftly moved to suspend Sarkis’ training licence pending the result of an inquiry, with the former top trainer already having been interviewed by GRNSW Stewards and the RSPCA NSW.
Sarkis, who is currently residing on a rural property in Agnes Banks, is outraged, claiming the carcass had been gathered amongst a pile of branches set to be burned off.
“I moved onto the property a couple of months ago and it is amongst very heavy bushland,” Sarkis told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“The people I am staying with are helping me because I am going through a divorce, so I decided to clean the property for them.
“The place hadn’t been cleared in nearly three years so I have spent the last two months cleaning because there are so many trees and a lot of debris from all the wind we’ve had.
“When [GRNSW] came here yesterday they found a dead rabbit amongst it all – the fur was spread everywhere all through the branches and rubbish – so it’s not just like it had been chucked there.”
Sarkis said he was unaware of the carcass which was headless and partially decomposed – with even GRNSW’s press release referring to the finding as “what appears to be a rabbit carcass”.
“I never saw the dead carcass amongst the stuff I had raked…a lot of the time I am raking at 7 O’clock at night while I let the dogs out,” he said.
“If I was doing anything wrong why would I leave a damn rabbit in full view for everyone to see? Especially when I know I have a kennel inspection.”
Sarkis said there were countless explanations for how the rabbit could have gotten there, but denied having live baited.
“Why would I do something so stupid in the middle of everything that’s been going on? We are trying to save the industry,” he said.
“There are wild rabbits all around here – the bloke next door shoots them.
“I don’t know whether the rabbit has died, if it’s been chased and hurt by a fox and then run into the pile of branches, or whether some of my dogs which are left out in the runs overnight got it.
“I simply don’t know what has happened to the rabbit, but it looks to have been there for four or five months and I have only been here two months.”
Sarkis said the Compliance Officers from the Animal Welfare team at GRNSW failed to use common sense in the situation. The 58-year-old added integrity and media manipulation are now being used as weapons to suit political agendas in an attempt to bring the industry to its knees.
“The Board turns up and finds a dead carcass in the paddock – all of a sudden I’ve been put under a microscope,” he said.
“They refuse to think outside the square and consider that it’s a bush property and that a rabbit can run into the paddocks where the dogs are.
“It’s nature. What am I supposed to do? Should I stay up all day and night with a stick to beat the rabbits away from the property?
“It’s gotten to the stage where we can’t even live our lives anymore, the greenies have taken over.
“This vigilante group concerned with animal welfare which were put in place by Paul Newson are an absolute mockery to our industry.
“Mike Baird, Paul Newson and Troy Grant should already have been dismissed for what they have done to us.
“They are trying every trick in the book to secure Wentworth Park…by getting the votes from the Greens – it’s as simple as that.”
Sarkis was mentioned by other participants throughout the public hearings of the Special Commission of Inquiry who said that they had live baited on his property.
Sarkis has always denied the claims, stating that other trainers were ‘very jealous because I win a lot of races’.
Sarkis also gave evidence at the inquiry that rabbits, found on his property during inspections in 2010 and 2014, were kept as pets and for his own consumption.
Due to his past, Sarkis feels he has now been targeted, with no conviction or proof of any wrongdoing in relation to live baiting.
“I am really upset about it. I am starting to get sick of the industry, I am sick of the game,” he said.
“People (throughout the Special Commission) have said that I live bait…I would never let anyone do that on my property, especially someone I don’t know.
“They have targeted me, Ben Fordham on 2GB targeted me – for no reason at all – I have done nothing wrong.
“It’s all bull…. I can honestly say I have done nothing wrong, the people I am living with have done nothing wrong.
“This has really gone out of hand, they are just going too far.”