AN ALMOST terminal blow.
That is how the final report from the Queensland Greyhound Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry has described the impact of the live baiting scandal on a decimated greyhound racing industry.
The report, handed down by Alan MacSporran QC on Monday, also said that although there was no evidence to confirm, it would be extremely naive to think that the practice of live baiting was not widespread within the greyhound racing industry, with many participants at least knowing about the practice.
“The practice of live baiting could not be engaged in without the acquiescence of many, who although not directly involved, chose to ignore the cruelty and turned a blind eye,” it said.
“This must have encouraged those directly involved that they could continue with impunity.
“This culture must change if public confidence is to be restored.”
The Commission of Inquiry was established on April 9, 2015, following on from the ABC’s Four Corners program titled ‘Making A Killing’ aired on February 16, 2015, which uncovered the horrific practice of live-baiting which was occurring within the sport.
The report went on to say that Racing Queensland has failed in its role in regards to ensuring integrity and animal welfare standards and that the Commission was satisfied that the industry’s self regulation under the current operational model had also proven to be inadequate.
Also featuring heavily within the report was the issue of animal welfare, including over-breeding. Figures gathered by the Commission indicate that between 2010 and 2013, the estimated wastage numbers within the greyhound industry range from 661 – 886 greyhounds per year that were eligible to be named, but weren’t.
Because of the uncertainty for the greyhounds reflected in these figures, another prime focus that the report addressed moving forward is the need to monitor greyhounds throughout each stage of their lives.
In all, 15 recommendations have been listed in the final report, sure to invoke some major changes to the structure, operation and attitude of the greyhound racing industry.
The recommendations put forward by the final report have been summarised below:
Recommendation One: The report’s first recommendation is that a new statutory authority is created as soon as possible to ensure the integrity of the Queensland Racing Industry.
It said that this should be done in conjunction with a review of the Racing Act 2002 (QLD) and that the new statutory authority should be the QRIC, headed by that statutory position of the Racing Integrity Commissioner (RIC), whom should be appointed full time.
The report outlined that the QRIC should represent the state, with the RIC to report directly to the minister who is responsible for administering the Racing Act.
It went on to state that the QRIC should be separate from the control body which should focus on the commercial operations of the industry.
It is recommended that the QRIC comprises of the following resources from the already existing entities:
- The OoR from the department
- The Stewarding & Integrity Operations Division from RQ
- The functions of Grading and Handicapping in the Racing Operations Division from RQ
- Rotating officers (a total of four) on secondment from the QPS on staggered 1 – 2 year terms
- A reasonable proportion of corporate support function personnel and funding from RQ
Recommendation Two: The Commission recommended that controlling body for the three racing codes within the state should be an all codes board, made up of seven members appointed by the Governor in Council.
It said that four of those members should be completely independent from the racing industry, including as an owner or a member of a race club or organisation, for at least two years prior to being appointed.
It recommended that one of those four should be elected as the Chair and one the Deputy Chair and that between the four of them they should have relevant qualifications or experience from the fields of accounting, law, business and commercial and marketing development.
It then went on the explain that the remaining three board positions should be people with industry experience, one from each code, before finishing by saying that the individual code boards which were established under section of 9BO of the Racing Act should now be abolished.
Recommendations Three: The third recommendation was that, in addition to a review of the Racing Act, a review should also be carried out on both the Animal Care and Protection Act 2002 (QLD)(ACPA) and the Criminal Code (QLD). It is hoped that by doing this it eliminates the duplication of offences from each legislation.
Also as a part of the third recommendation, the report called for inspectors, police officers, integrity officers and stewards to be given the power to enter premises in order to search for, seize and deal with evidence that could relate to rule breaches.
Thirdly, it has called for reports of rule breaches of the ACPA, Criminal Code, the Racing Act and the rules of racing to be shared between agencies under a rule established by Memoranda of Understanding, which would be entered into by the RSPCA, Biosecurity Queensland, the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the QRIC.
Recommendation four: The report has asked that a review be carried out to ascertain whether the rules of racing are adequate to be able to track each greyhound during its entire lifecycle. It recommends that each greyhound pup is registered when ear branded and micro chipped to ensure that they are traceable throughout their entire lives.
Recommendation five: The fifth recommendation details that a database of information, such as Ozchase, should be available to the public, upon request and paying a fee, so that greyhounds can be identified from when they are registered, as per recommendation four, through to when they leave the industry.
Recommendation six: The commission said that the database described above should also document the injuries sustained by each greyhound throughout their racing career. It also should note whether the dog was euthanised, even if this was after racing, with all of this information also available to the public upon request.
Recommendation seven: The seventh recommendation was that all information regarding a particular greyhound (e.g. whelping, ear branding, micro chipping, registration, transfer of ownership, relocation, retirement, re homing and death) should all be reported on one standardised form.
Recommendation eight: In what is sure to be controversial among participants, the Commission has recommended that QGreys, the Queensland breeding incentive program, be scrapped, with the money currently used to fund it to be instead given to the Greyhound Adoption Program, or used for other similar welfare initiatives.
Recommendation nine: Also to do with animal welfare, recommendation nine has asked that the rules of racing and/or the Racing Act be amended to ensure the welfare of greyhounds who are in the care of an owner/trainer who has been disqualified because of misconduct.
Currently, it is acceptable for these greyhounds to be transferred to another person once approved by the racing body, however there is nothing preventing the disqualified person from disposing of the animal as long it is done in a humane way.
The Commission has said that the owner should be the one responsible to provide the costs required for the care of the greyhound, but when they default on their obligation the cost should then be the responsiblity of the industry, extracting the cash from a fund established for this purpose.
Recommendation 10: The commission has said that it is unacceptable for the industry to continue breeding greyhounds and to not take responsibility for each of their welfare irregardless of the ability they possess.
So, when a greyhound pup is registered as outlined in recommendation four, the registration fee should include a certain amount to ensure the future welfare of the greyhound. The cost of this fee should be enough to reinforce the importance of animal welfare, with it set to be attached to each greyhound during their involvement in the industry. For this, there would need to be administrative arrangements set in place to enable the transfer of the fee whenever ownership changes.
The Commission said that the fee would be partly reimbursed once the QRIC were satisfied that acceptable arrangements had been set in place to ensure the welfare of the dog.
All of this information should be reflected in the official database mentioned above.
Recommendation 11: The 11th recommendation has stipulated that the materials on Racing Queensland’s website, which includes information on breeding practises, be expanded to include information on the socialisation of puppies.
In addition to this, the Commission also recommends that those wishing to apply for a breeder’s license or when they seek a renewal be asked to complete a written assessment demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of these practises based on the aforementioned materials which should be provided.
Recommendation 12: Calling for a lower class of racing to be introduced to cater for the greyhounds not competitive at the current levels which would have been otherwise forced into retirement. It is hoped that this recommendation would extend the career’s of many racing greyhounds, therefore decreasing the demand for rehoming.
Recommendation 13: The rules of racing should be amended so that licensed participants landing to break-in, pre-train, train or trial greyhounds submit a statutory declaration detailing the location, date and time the activities occurred and outlining what methods were used.
It is also suggested that the owner of the greyhounds should countersign the declaration to verify the information and that the rules should make it an offence to provide false or misleading information or none at all.
Recommendation 14: A key recommendation is that the rules of racing are further altered to include a requirement that all licenses keep an official log book which contains all notifiable activities which they are engaged in.
Included in this is a notice of when a bitch is served, when she whelps her litter, vet treatment provided, ear branding, micro chipping, registration, ownership transfer, breaking in, pre-training, training, trialling, nominating for an event, rehoming, disposal and death.
It recommended that the details include information on all people involved in the activities, with the log books required to be maintained for five years and available whenever they are requested.
It was also mentioned that it should be an offence to not maintain or produce the log book, with a regular check to be carried out at the same time as the inspection of the licensee’s property.
Recommendation 15: The final recommendation is one concerning trial tracks, urging that the rules are reviewed to ensure that any trialling, breaking-in, pre-training or training is only performed at a registered track. Further to this, a person registered as the operator, or someone they have authorised, must be present to supervise the activity.