WORRIED owners of seized greyhounds are still desperately trying to find out the location and wellbeing of their dogs after Racing Queensland removed more than 100 greyhounds from properties of suspended trainers last Tuesday.
Speculation continues to suggest the actual number of greyhounds seized may be higher than the figure mentioned above, however, Racing Queensland failed to provide an accurate number before time of publishing.
The dogs were seized after their trainers were stood down because of evidence gathered by Animal Liberation Queensland and Animals Australia. They worked in conjunction with the RSPCA and the ABC’s Four Corners program to expose the practice of live baiting allegedly used by some trainers.
Sunshine Coast-based owner Anthony Jeffress spoke with Australian Racing Greyhound last Friday, explaining he had not been notified his greyhounds had to be moved before they were taken from the property ‘Dessa Downs’ run by stood-down persons Debra and Steven Arnold.
“We received no notice whatsoever, the first I was aware of it the Racing Queensland officials had already been on the property for 20 minutes or half an hour,” he said.
“Deb, who is the trainer in question and the owner of the property at Dessa Downs, pleaded with them not to take all the greyhounds but when that failed she immediately contacted me as I have an interest in over half the dogs on her property.
“Debra sighted the identification details of all people, I believe there was 13, and every one was carrying Racing Queensland identification. I wanted to confirm that none of them were from the RSPCA and that was certainly my understanding that none of them were.”
Jeffress either owns, part-owns or manages approximately 40 of the 71 greyhounds seized from Dessa Downs. A statement released by RQ last week said owners “can apply to have their dogs returned provided they sign a statutory declaration, together with the proposed trainer, that they have not been involved in animal cruelty practices and will not be involved in such activities in the future”.
However, five days after receiving the original notice Jeffress is still no closer to getting any of his greyhounds back.
“Written notices were written to myself and the entities that I am involved with, some were issued on the 19th and some were issued on the 20th,” he explained. “They stipulated that we had five days to respond – I don’t know whether that is just five days or working days, or whether it is from the date of the notice.
“It didn’t tell us what our appeal rights were and it directed us to provide information to Racing Queensland before they would release the dogs to specify where the dogs were going and it indicated that they would be doing a suitability assessment on everyone that was named.”
Jeffress said RQ should not be dictating where he could and could not send his greyhounds so long as they were not with a disqualified person.
“My contention is show me where there is any precedence whatsoever that we are obliged to tell Racing Queensland before we make a decision and what rights they have to say where I can and can’t have my dogs? The only stipulation they can place is that the dogs can’t go to a disqualified person.
“I respect what they are trying to do – to ensure that the people that we are sending the dogs to are appropriate, but I don’t understand why they think they have the powers to grant or refuse to release the dogs based on who I want to send them to.”
There are also growing fears for the welfare of the dogs seized with Jeffress still unaware of where they are, who is looking after them and if all of them are safe and cared for.
“Racing Queensland have consistently refused to provide information as to where the dogs are located or with whom they have been placed, we don’t even know if it is someone inside or outside of the greyhound industry.
“What’s the harm in letting the owners and trainers know? At the end of the day if we can be satisfied that the dogs are receiving appropriate care by someone within the industry then some of our fears can be allayed. But, in our case, not only has that information not been offered to us, it has been refused.”
Jeffress sent an email to RQ on Monday demanding to know further information and for his dogs to be returned.
“They failed to give any response until I gave them until 4.30 today (Monday) to agree to release those dogs or else we would consider taking matters further.
“At exactly 4.30 I received a two-sentence email from Declan Martschinke acknowledging for the first time that he had received my correspondence on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and indicating that they have a lot on their plate at the moment and that they will reply in due course.”
Jeffress responded to the email to express his dissatisfaction. He has since been informed that one of his broodbitches, which was mated the week before being seized, has begun spotting.
“The dog is experiencing spotting which our vet has determined may be due to a uterine infection or she is losing her service,” the email stated.
“Our vet is closely monitoring this development and I will keep you updated on this as information comes to hand.”
He has also been informed one of the pups seized from Debra Arnold’s property has run into a fence and cut its leg.
Jeffress said the news was exactly what he feared would happen when the greyhounds were originally removed from the property.
“Our belief that far from acting in the welfare of our animals, we believe that they have acted contrary to their wellbeing and welfare,” Jeffress said.
“I have pointed out continuously that moving pups has the potential to cause a major upheaval, fights are commonplace and clearly being a pack animal that is a no-go zone.
“They have also displaced old dogs that are purely pets and have been for several years and that is unconscionable. We had major storm activity in the south-east of Queensland over the weekend and there are at least three dogs that I am aware of that tend to fret in storms, but there is no one I can contact to inquire as to the wellbeing of those dogs.
“There are two bitches in particular that fret every time they are moved off Debra’s property and go for five to seven days without eating – I have been given no information as to their wellbeing and I fear that those animals in particular are being caused undue stress.”
For now, Jeffress is being left guessing, like many other owners, as to the wellbeing of his dogs. Not knowing when and if they will be returned is growing increasingly frustrating as Jeffress does not believe they had the right to seize his pups and retired greyhounds the first place.
“Based on the legal opinion I have obtained, there are several concerns. One of the primary concerns is that the piece of legislation that has been used clearly doesn’t appear to be applicable to pups or older, long-retired dogs – yet they have still been caught up in the seizure action.
“I have asked for pups under the age of 16 months to be returned, for dogs over five years to be returned and four pregnant broodbitches, one or two of whom are under five. I specifically listed those four pregnant broodbitches as ones I wanted returned.
“I can accept for the time being that it may not be acceptable to ask that pre-trainers and race dogs be released. There was a rumour going around that dogs suspected of being trained through live baiting, that they may receive a racing ban, and therefore we were advised not to request any dogs in that category be moved.”
The one question that remains on everyone’s mind is why were the owners not given the opportunity to arrange for their greyhounds to be moved on their own terms?
“I was communicating with the now stood down [stewards boss] Wade Birch while the removal of the greyhounds was taking place,” Jeffress said.
“The first thing I asked was why as owners were we not given the opportunity to move the dogs? We were neither suspected or implied to be caught up in this action, so why are our dogs being penalised and why are we being penalised as owners?
“I feel disappointed and I feel let down, we are not implicated, we are not under inquiry, there is no suggestion of any impropriety on my behalf or any of the other owners I am associated with, yet we are being treated and our dogs are being treated like they are guilty of something.”
Jeffress remains determined to get all of his greyhounds back and to find out that they are all safe and well.
“Under the piece of legislation used, to the best of my knowledge they can only hold the dogs for 14 days, but frankly that is too long to be embargoing them and not returning them to their rightful owners or someone that can care for them.
“We just want to know that our dogs’ welfare is being put first and I refuse to accept that taking all these puppies, broodbitches from their litters and removing nine- and 10-year-old dogs can be in their best interests.”
Australian Racing Greyhound attempted to seek comment from Racing Queensland addressing the issues surrounding the seizure of the greyhounds, however, it failed to provide statements before time of publishing.