DO you know the RSPCA balance sheet shows a total equity of $100 million, which includes cash, term deposits, a share portfolio and investment property. Last year it booked a surplus of $5.9 million after expenses of $46 million. A Fairfax report by Michael West suggests “as far as liquidity goes, this is the Sultan of Brunei of Australian charities”.
Elsewhere, it reports a NSW kill rate for dogs of 24%, considerably higher than in other states, and due mostly to what it called “behavioural” reasons.
No doubt the RSPCA does much fine work but figures like that indicate the big problem the community has in dealing with its animals – whether greyhounds or any other animal.
It does offer a little perspective for the many comments made by Special Commission lawyers about community “expectations”. These are always no more that assertions or personal opinions, not carefully researched findings, and should be treated as such.
Still on the RSPCA, its representative went to some trouble at the Commission to list what he thought were racing injury figures. However, he drew no conclusions nor did he call for any particular action. The speech served no other purpose than to show that some greyhounds suffer injuries when racing. This is hardly news as greyhounds are the athletes of the dog world, although undoubtedly in much better physical condition than the rest. Also undoubtedly, they would receive much better medical attention than other common breeds.
At no stage, either currently or during the course of the earlier Parliamentary Inquiry, has the RSPCA been able to come up with definitive, across-the-board data so all it is doing is moaning and groaning, while offering very few constructive suggestions. This is a waste of its latent power and influence. Far better for it to develop more comprehensive objectives, in conjunction with racing authorities, to further the cause of both the greyhound and the racing it enjoys. At face value, it purports to do this, yet all we hear are negative criticisms and put-downs, often poorly based. As a consequence, RSPCA sets itself up as the enemy rather than as a partner in greyhound racing – a fight which it will not win.
Too often we hear the view from the top that the RSPCA simply does not like greyhound racing. That is counter-productive for all parties and it is time it got over it. Certainly, greyhound racing has done the wrong thing in the past and will probably make mistakes in the future. But the critical thing is not so much the errors but what you do about them.
To digress a little, the RSPCA also opposes jumps races at the gallops, yet it is hard to recall a word it has ever said about cross country horse racing which is both an amateur and a professional sport with a large following here and around the world and a prime position at the Olympics. Arguably, the demanding cross country circuits are far riskier than a carefully supervised hurdle race. How inconsistent is that?
Breeding – over or under?
The story continues on a daily basis. On Sunday at Sale the two maiden events boasted only five and six starters. Two other Sale races and three at Sandown were also short of a full field. The night before, Wentworth Park had one short field but got away with it when five of the 10 races were drawn without reserves.
The Meadows topped its program (which had two short fields) with a Country (Shepparton) to City final over 725m which offered possibly the worst standard field ever seen in town. The winner ran 43.61, which was 24 lengths outside the record, and at its previous four starts had run 6th, 8th, 6th and 5th. Calling it a final was pretty ambitious as they ran only one heat at Shepparton and all eight starters got a go in town. Wentworth Park did little better as its two distance heat winners recorded only 42.85 and 42.94 (record 41.52).
Oh, for a sire of stayers!
Nevertheless, the longstanding shortage of starters and the opportunities offered to lower standard dogs makes a mockery of ill-considered claims about over-breeding. While there should be support for programs aimed at reducing breeding from low quality or aged animals the big picture shows that there is some equilibrium between the number of dogs and the number of races.
Absolutely, attention should be devoted to looking after unrequired dogs but to pin down so-called “wastage” problems to overbreeding is to miss the mark completely.
Sadly, promising youngster Allen Phanto came to grief on the first turn at The Meadows last Saturday. A broken tibia and fibula caused it to be euthanased at the track.
More worryingly, it immediately went into the FastTrack-GRV records as “Retired”, thereby distorting future data summaries. So quickly did this happen that it seems GRV computers are pre-programmed to change the classifications. This equates to the instructions to NSW stewards to omit trackside deaths from their meeting reports – something which was heavily criticised by all and sundry at the Special Commission, include the GRNSW CEO.
We noted a similar incident some weeks back after a death at a Sandown meeting.
The cause of the accident at The Meadows was a squeeze towards the inside as the field went past the judge the first time. Allen Phanto was the meat in the sandwich. Luck played a part, of course, but that symptom is typical of The Meadows track where runners have to perform brilliantly to get across from outside boxes as the bunny disappears around the tight turn. (Which is why outside boxes provide fewer winners than other circle tracks. Richmond has a similar problem but for a different reason. These are design problems).
All of which is one of the reasons why greyhounds statistics are so unreliable.
The global gambling market
Tabcorp is going international after signing up with Rupert Murdochs's UK tabloid The Sun to create an online betting firm dedicated to sports and racing betting. The venture is called Sun Bets and will start up in 2016. The Sun will promote the venture as well as its existing bingo competitions.
Curiously, its opposition will be firms which now also operate in Australia but which have headquarters off shore in places like Gibraltar and Malta in order to avoid high British taxes.
Murdoch papers in Australia are already beneficiaries of big pay cheques from Tabcorp and Ubet for the provision of formguides.