The scheme was introduced in November 2016 and involves GRSA committing a financial contribution towards the cost of surgery for eligible injuries which occur during a race meeting.
After the greyhound recovers, dogs are given priority entry into GAP if the owners do not wish to keep racing the greyhound or keep it as a pet.
Johnstone has successfully used the program, with her greyhound Aberlour (Kc And All x Sally Brown Jan ’15) making a winning return to the race track on July 11 after spending eight months on the sidelines after breaking the radius and ulna in his front leg late last year.
GRSA covered 80 per cent of the $1,200 vet bill, with Johnstone explaining the contribution makes it possible for all owners and trainers to seek veterinary care.
“It is a really easy process and once you have the form in, the money is in your account within two weeks,” she said.
“We are all battlers in the greyhound racing industry so if you suddenly have a $1,500 vet bill it can make things very difficult.
“The scheme is fantastic and I would go as far as to say that it is one of the best things GRSA have ever implemented.”
Under the scheme, owners and trainers must care for the recovering greyhound for a minimum of four weeks, subject to the nature of the injury, prior to the dog potentially entering GAP.
Johnstone said participants must ensure their dogs have a happy and healthy future by assisting with their recovery.
“There is a point where as trainers and owners we have to step up and take some responsibility too.
“I have done some public speaking on the rebate scheme where some people have asked me if I think the wait after the last bandage change before entering the GAP program is too long?
“In my eyes absolutely not – they are our dogs at the end of the day and while some may find it inconvenient, they are our responsibility.”
Johnstone said with the financial pressure now alleviated, there are no excuses for owners and trainers choosing to euthanise greyhounds on monetary grounds.
“Nan and pop trainers who work for low wage and have one dog in their backyard for a bit of fun can’t afford a big vet bill.
“I work at a vet clinic too and you see it with pet dogs as well – sometimes people have to make a heart-breaking decision because they may not be able to afford five or six thousand dollars.
“Unfortunately, money makes the world go round and people don’t always have the funds sitting there waiting in case something like this happens.
“This scheme relieves that financial pressure and gives every owner and trainer and greyhound the opportunity to get the care that they need to make a full recovery and I think that’s a brilliant outcome.”
As for Aberlour, Johnstone is now hopeful her greyhound, a winner of four of his 18 starts, has a bright future on the track, but says there are no plans to rush him.
“We’ll just take it one race at a time. He’s no superstar, he is what I call a soldier – nothing to write home about, but he pays his way.
“The main thing is that he stays sound, but his leg seems as strong as ever and he seems to have come back just as good as prior to his injury.
“A massive thanks must go to Dr John Katakasi and his team at the Adelaide Plains Vet Clinic – John did the surgery and the girls there assisted him as he underwent hydrotherapy and laser therapy.
“It was a long recovery process – obviously there were no guarantees that he would ever race again – but they have done a fantastic job.”