It is understood pups aged only six to nine months and broodbitches with litters aged under four months were taken away on Tuesday, with owners who are under no suspicion of being involved in any wrongdoing not informed of their seizure.
Racing Queensland swooped on several properties to impound dogs from properties at Churchable, west of Brisbane. This was in response to disturbing footage of alleged live-baiting practices screened on Four Corners on Monday night.
Thirteen industry participants have so far been named by RQ, with seven of those handed show-cause notices and given seven days to show cause why they should not be warned off racetracks for life.
But after the swoop on dogs on Tuesday, when RQ officials said they would be “taken to a safe and secure and undisclosed location”, some owners were not officially notified their dogs had been taken until Thursday night.
Prominent Sunshine Coast-based breeder Anthony Jeffress has had 40-45 dogs he either owns, part-owns or has assumed responsibility for confiscated from the Churchable property “Dessa Downs”, run by Debra and Steven Arnold.
Jeffress, a real estate agent, pedigree analyst and part-time race caller, is concerned about the welfare of his dogs, particularly four pregnant broodbitches and several pups. Broodbitches Autumn Waltz and Cool And Fancy were also taken and reportedly separated from their respective litters aged 12-14 weeks.
“There are a lot of greyhound trainers who believe mothers should be left with their pups for as long as six months,” Jeffress said.
“Those two were weaned off but it’s not just about the feed, it’s about the socialisation.”
Their litters and a third litter were left at Dessa Downs as they hadn’t had their second vaccinations and could not be deemed fully immunised and could not go into a general canine population.
Jeffress also had pet and retired race greyhounds and a stud dog of almost 10 years old taken away from Dessa Downs.
“We love our dogs, whether they’re valuable in monetary form or emotional form, they’re valuable to us,” he said. “They’re entities, they’re individuals, they’re valuable to us, we love them.”
On Friday Jeffress was awaiting a written response from RQ, which put out a release saying “greyhounds were seized on the basis these dogs may have been exposed to a practice which could compromise their welfare. Veterinarians have inspected each greyhound to ensure the animals’ health and wellbeing”.
“Racing Queensland will continue to have oversight of the welfare of any greyhounds seized. The owners of 40 of those greyhounds, who are not one of the suspended trainers, were contacted yesterday and 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.
“The remaining greyhounds will stay in the care of Racing Queensland as our investigation progresses. Some of these greyhounds may be re-homed through the GAP program.”
Jeffress was bemused by the fact that even though dogs had been seized on welfare grounds, pups were allowed to remain at the property.
“My fear is out of being so hasty to act and potentially in an effort to appease public pressure, I fear they are certainly acting on a dubious basis,” he said.
“My concern as a person who owns dogs and has been involved in the industry for 25 years is that it’s not too far a stretch to suggest that if they are not careful by their haste, guilty people may actually slip the net.
“And I like most people want to see the full extent of the law, and the act, utilised against those that are found and proven, after an appropriate hearing, to be guilty.
“My concern, at all times, is for the animals involved. Secondarily, there are human relationships involved but at the moment I am saying categorically, hand on heart, my interest is in the welfare of those dogs.”
Jeffress said greyhounds were pack animals. “Every time you move one pup in or out of a yard or move a group of pups from one yard to another, it can affect the socialisation, it can affect the pecking order,” he said, adding there was often fighting after they were moved.
“These dogs have been moved, I don’t know to who, I don’t know to where, I don’t what facilities they have,” he said. “I don’t know if the groupings they were in are the groups that they are in now. I don’t know if they are in with other dogs. I don’t know what ages the other dogs are if they are in with other dogs, and they are refusing to tell me any of the above.
“I am not under investigation or suspicion. There is no suggestion that myself … or any other true owners, in other words people who own animals but don’t physically care for them … none of us are under any suspicion or action.
“But I can guarantee you that the decisions being made are affecting us.
“I’ve got racing greyhounds that are embargoed, I’ve got dogs that are in pre-training embargoed, I’ve got pups that their socialisation is being affected. I’ve got broodbitches that are being taken away from their pups at an inappropriate age.”
Up to 200 dogs may have been seized in raids, with upwards of $1 million in dogs taken from long-time trainer Reg Kay’s property alone.