During a recent discussion about contents insurance, I got talking with a friend about what the most valuable single items in my possession would be. It suddenly dawned that outside of the house, and possibly the car, next on the list was my greyhounds.
Currently I have a brood bitch and two pups, but when talking monetary value, they would be worth more than any one item of furniture, jewellery or sporting equipment.
It then came to realisation that such valuable assets are indeed uninsured and completely unprotected from any unforeseen event that could terminate their value, without any regard to ability whatsoever.
But then the real can of worms started to open. Without any sort of protection, the risks involved with greyhound ownership are astronomical, and quite honestly unjustifiable, especially if one relies on an interstate trainer for day to day duties.
My greyhound stock is small scale when thinking about the huge prices that pups are fetching, over $20,000 on some occasions, with racing dogs clearing six-figures in value with regularity.
Ask yourself, would you buy a $100,000 car, then give it to another person to drive unsupervised, uninsured and accept all responsibility should something go awry?
That is the stark comparison that greyhound owners must be willing to accept. For someone brand new to the sport, they must understand that their asset is going to be kept on a property they have never been to, with someone they have never met. Any monies spent on the greyhound is completed unprotected, and liability rests on the owner should something result on the greyhound being unable to garner any income.
This is not information designed to scare or inflate the actuality of things. I've been through it and seen how hard it is to be comfortable with the conditions attached to owning a dog.
When trying to find a home for a pup I purchased last year, I was given a myriad of excuses and conditions. For example, one trainer wouldn't take dogs owned locally, while another wouldn't allow owners onto the property. The clear majority of trainers didn't even bother to answer the phone or return my call. Here I am trying to dump my money into the greyhound game, only to be left rejected and isolated with little support.
It really should be the other way around. While it's the trainer doing the work, it's the owner taking the risk. With the owner having the most to lose, they should be the hardest to please.
Without delving into legal areas that I'm not qualified in, there are instances where trainers have been responsible for large losses on owners' behalf. Numerous examples of positive swabs, feature race scratchings and of course, the death of a Group 1 finalist in Big Black Mac from a car accident.
What about the uncountable number of hypotheticals that could arise from kennels such as Thompson or Bate, where racing stock would be valued in the millions?
The risk that owners place in their trainers is huge, almost to the point of being foolish. Now the obvious response is ‘if you don't like it, do it yourself', which is a valid point but not practicable to grow the sport. Not everyone wants to live on a property and deal with animals up close, doing it in any weather condition. But there are plenty of people willing to pay for the luxury of having it done for them if given the right circumstances.
One must remember that the vast majority of audience being exposed to our product is via Sky Racing, in homes and in venues. This also means that the biggest resource pool of future involvement is people from urban locations with steady and expendable income, and a willingness to participate. However, most people aren't fools and while the risk of failure comes from any investment, getting a ‘run for your money' is of paramount importance.
Our industry's biggest competitor, thoroughbred racing, shows the way in how to facilitate public involvement. There are an overwhelming number of syndication options, most with substantial transparency and excellent communication. Investors are protected through insurance and updated via emails, given photos and provided with race day privileges. Despite their product being slower, more expensive and with animals that are far more prone to injury, the number of ‘non-racing' people taking an interest in thoroughbreds puts the greyhound game to shame.
What does the greyhound industry do for owners? Very, very little.
They are not listed in many form guides, not interviewed during presentations, not given any benefits on-course. Their investment is not protected against negligence, fraud, mistreatment or any other pitfalls not relating to ability of the animal. As described above, sometimes they are also shunned for wanting to race a dog at the local track, not given access to the dogs living environment, not provided with any communication, nor allowed influence in the decision making process.
Does that sound like an attractive way to spend cash? How are we expecting our industry to thrive with such contempt for those funding it?
Right now, there are far too many potholes in the process to make greyhound racing an attractive investment for the general public. The lack of insurance options, the lack of transparency and communication from trainers, the non-recognition of owners during presentations, the lack of benefits given to owners on-course and the overwhelming amount of paperwork from governing bodies, will mean that our sport will remain stagnating in the hands of family run, owner-trainer operations with the public feeling isolated and unwelcome.
It sounds dramatic, but it's reality. From the evidence currently at hand, it also seems unlikely to change. Silly me for thinking it should.