Greyhound racing, NSW: Welfare, integrity and what happens to retired racers | Photos, pictures

NOBODY would argue that the past four years have been easy for the greyhound industry. There's been allegations of widespread cruelty, a statewide ban was announced and then quickly overturned and it's all left the industry reeling. We asked some of the players what it's like now.

THERE is still a lot of work to do to build trust within the greyhound racing industry almost four years after a ban was announced and then overturned, the industry's welfare body says.

A statewide ban was announced by the then NSW Premier Mike Baird on July 7, 2016, but it was scrapped just three months later.

The Bathurst-based Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC) has since been introduced and the industry's first independent code of conduct is looming.

Prior to the commission's introduction on July 1, 2018, the industry regulated itself, GWIC chief executive officer Judy Lind said.

She said GWIC's successes in the past 18 months have included fee reductions, online services, demuzzling requirements, an injury rebates scheme, race injury review panel and whole-of-life tracking for dogs.

But Ms Lind admits there is still a lot of work to do.

WELFARE FIRST: Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission chief executive officer Judy Lind with retired racer Roy. Photo: SUPPLIED

WELFARE FIRST: Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission chief executive officer Judy Lind with retired racer Roy. Photo: SUPPLIED

"It's very much still in a trust-building phase. Many people in the industry felt aggrieved by their treatment," she said.

Ms Lind is aware of accusations that the GWIC is hoping to "shut the industry down by stealth", but said that was incorrect.

She acknowledged that the public's perception of the industry has been strained by news reports and footage during the time of the ban, but said animal welfare was core to the GWIC.

"The vast majority of participants are with the program and they get the reforms and many of them have always practised good welfare," she said.

In the past, Ms Lind said the industry's culture was that racing participants would not report concerns relating to live baiting, integrity, conduct, and animal welfare or cruelty.

However, the GWIC's new complaint register allows people to report issues "anonymously and confidentially" and it had already received 540 complaints during the past 18 months.

It's very much still in a trust-building phase. Many people in the industry felt aggrieved by their treatment.

Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission chief executive officer Judy Lind

Ms Lind said the industry is now more transparent with reports on matters including race injuries, breeding trends and disciplinary action available to the public.

"I get a strong sense that the vast majority of the industry wants to work with us," she said.

"We like to play an education role with the industry."

Once the code of conduct is finalised, it will become legislation and penalties will vary from letters to fines. Serious disciplinary actions could result in a ban from the industry.

Just what happens to retired racers?

WINTER READY: Elle Radford's previous foster dog Yandell, with retired greyhounds Marnie and Ben that she adopted, all wearing their jumpers in winter. Photo: SUPPLIED

WINTER READY: Elle Radford's previous foster dog Yandell, with retired greyhounds Marnie and Ben that she adopted, all wearing their jumpers in winter. Photo: SUPPLIED

LOUNGE lizards and couch potatoes are two terms often thrown around when it comes to describing a greyhound as a pet.

Rehoming greyhounds may have always happened for some retired race dogs, but since the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC) was created in July 2018, the initiative has taken centre stage.

So far this financial year, 2085 greyhounds have been rehomed, data from GWIC reveals.

Of those, 816 were rehomed through their owners, which Greyhound Racing NSW chief executive officer Tony Mestrov said was thanks to improvements in the Owners' Incentive Scheme.

The remaining 1269 dogs were rehomed to a third party outside the industry, either via their owners, or through Greyhounds as Pets (GAP) and similar rehoming organisations.

CARING: Greyhounds as Pets foster carer Elle Radford with retired dog Marnie. Photo: SUPPLIED

CARING: Greyhounds as Pets foster carer Elle Radford with retired dog Marnie. Photo: SUPPLIED

Orange woman Elle Radford is a GAP foster carer who helps prepare retired greyhounds for life as a pet.

In the two years she has been involved she has fostered five dogs which have since been successfully rehomed.

"I hear regularly how the rehomed greys are going; one [owner] recently messaged to tell me they had a personalised collar and a yellow rain jacket made for their grey," Ms Radford said.

Ms Radford said retired greyhounds do need some training and adjustment before they can become a pet, including becoming familiar with children.

A lot of them only live in kennels [during their racing careers]. They can live for up to six years in one, and they're often not around a lot of people.

Greyhounds as Pets foster carer Elle Radford

"A lot of them only live in kennels [during their racing careers]. They can live for up to six years in one, and they're often not around a lot of people," she said.

"There's a whole lot of things they need to learn before they can be adopted out."

Ms Radford said some greyhounds she had fostered were not familiar with walking up and down stairs, while another was unsure about a glass sliding door in her home.

For anyone considering adopting a retired greyhound, she said "once you go grey you won't ever go back".

"They look like a big dog, but they don't eat a lot and don't need a lot of exercise," she said.

Cudal greyhound breeder and trainer Amanda Ginn, who also adopts out her retired greyhounds, said she ensures each one goes to a good home.

STILL RACING: Greyhound breeder and trainer Amanda Ginn with her dog Red Azalea. Photo: SUPPLIED

STILL RACING: Greyhound breeder and trainer Amanda Ginn with her dog Red Azalea. Photo: SUPPLIED

She has been involved in the industry since she was five years old and is passionate about animal welfare.

"It's my life," she said.

"There's no dog that's the same as a greyhound. They're the funniest breeds; they're the closest thing you get to a human."

Ms Ginn is so passionate about this dog breed that she currently shares her home with 10 retired greyhounds, a chihuahua and a poodle.

One of her other retired racing dogs, Nancy, was adopted out to Kandos woman Colleen Tito nearly two years ago.

"She's changed my life. I love Nancy," Ms Tito said.

NEW LIFE: Colleen Tito adopted retired racing dog Nancy. Photo: SUPPLIED

NEW LIFE: Colleen Tito adopted retired racing dog Nancy. Photo: SUPPLIED

"They're placid dogs and they don't need a lot of exercise. They're very friendly.

"I've got three chihuahuas and a cat and she's fantastic with them."

Ms Tito, who owns the Kandos Fairways Motel, brings Nancy to work with her every day and said the guests love her.

"A lady who stayed at the hotel, who loved Nancy, ended up adopting a greyhound herself," she said.

Still traumatised by the greyhound racing ban

IN July 2016, the then NSW Premier Mike Baird announced a statewide ban on greyhound racing after a Special Commission report found "widespread cruelty" in the industry.

Memories from that day are still extremely vivid for Ms Ginn, who said it was traumatic for her and the industry.

"I actually needed medication for that. That was very hard to cope with," she said of the ban which has since been overturned.

"You'd see grown men cry at the track."

Ms Ginn said the industry was "never as bad as everyone said it was" and she blames the turmoil and ban on a few bad operators.

"The people who bag us are never the ones who take an invitation to come to our property or the track," she said.

You'd see grown men cry at the track.

Cudal greyhound breeder and trainer Amanda Ginn said of the racing ban announcement

Looking towards the future, Ms Ginn said she feels confident and that some changes that have been brought in have been good for the industry.

"You have to have faith in the powers above you," she said of the GWIC.

Greyhounds as Pets coming to Western NSW

GOOD LIFE: Retired greyhound Nancy, otherwise known as the couch potato or lounge lizard. Photo: SUPPLIED

GOOD LIFE: Retired greyhound Nancy, otherwise known as the couch potato or lounge lizard. Photo: SUPPLIED

GAP has announced plans to expand its adoption program into Western NSW, including in Bathurst, Dubbo and Orange, however, it declined to provide details on when and how this will occur.

Australian Community Media understands that GAP will use a digital platform with regional co-ordinators to match inquiries from the public with trainers and owners who have suitable greyhounds for adoption.

It is also understood that there will be a new GAP facility somewhere in the region.

The industry's future is 'death by stealth'

NOBODY would argue that the past four years have been easy for the greyhound industry, least of all Dubbo Greyhound Racing Club president Shayne Stiff.

DEDICATED: Dubbo Greyhound Racing Club president Shayne Stiff. Photo: BEN WALKER

DEDICATED: Dubbo Greyhound Racing Club president Shayne Stiff. Photo: BEN WALKER

On July 7, 2016, the then NSW Premier Mike Baird announced a statewide ban on greyhound racing after a Special Commission report found "widespread cruelty" in the industry.

Mr Stiff remembers that day like it was yesterday.

"It was disgraceful. I felt sick and numb," he said.

"I remember saying to [then NSW Deputy Premier and Dubbo MP] Troy Grant 'are you the real quid, do you know what you're doing?'."

At the time, he told the Daily Liberal the ban was "ludicrous".

Mr Stiff said this week that there was only "a small minority of welfare and integrity issues" prior to the ban.

There are some things in there that are not needed and are over-regulated. It's death by stealth.

Dubbo Greyhound Racing Club president Shayne Stiff

"It's cruel what happened, but you can't tar everyone with the same brush," he said.

Mr Stiff said it was still tough for breeders and trainers like himself these days and those across the state.

"The racing part is absolutely sensational, it's never been better, but the regulation side is still tough," he said.

Mr Stiff said the industry was complaining about over-regulation and, as an example, said new rules mean two - rather than one - stewards have to attend every greyhound meeting in NSW.

The industry is also concerned about the draft Code of Practice that is open for public consultation until March 31.

"There are some things in there that are not needed and are over-regulated," Mr Stiff said.

"It's death by stealth."

This story Greyhound industry's welfare priorities, but what happens to retired racers? first appeared on Western Advocate.