Greyhound Racing Industry Wastage Rates

Greyhound Racing

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:18:05): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question about greyhound racing.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Earlier this year the Government took steps to address community concerns regarding the illegal practice of live baiting by passing the Animal Welfare (Live Baiting) Amendment Bill. This was in response to the airing of a story entitled 'Making a Killing', which aired on Four Cornersin early February and which showed the illegal practice of live baiting at trial tracks in New South Wales. Despite this, the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups continue to have concerns about this industry and they say that we have not yet gone far enough to protect the welfare of animals involved in the greyhound racing industry.

This concern is borne out by the shocking figures that were confirmed by the industry itself just last month in a joint report by Greyhounds Australasia and Greyhounds Racing SA, which was uncovered as part of the special commission of inquiry into greyhound racing in New South Wales. The industry has revealed that it is responsible for the unnecessary deaths of between 13,000 and 17,000 healthy greyhounds each year and, of this number, 7,000 greyhounds a year do not make it to the track and are never raced, highlighting the immediate wastage that occurs, and that the greyhound adoption program only re-homes about 6 per cent of all pre-raced and retired greyhounds. My question to the Minister is: what action is the Government taking in response to these wastage figures?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (15:19:42): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. As I have said in this place previously, we are quite committed as a government to protecting the welfare and safety of all animals, including those involved in the greyhound racing industry. This is why the government undertook swift action after allegations were made of live baiting occurring in other states in the nation.

Footage depicted on 16 February 2015 on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's episode of 4 Corners entitled 'Making a Killing' exposed the practice of live baiting in the greyhound racing industry in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The footage depicted greyhound trainers using live bait to lure greyhounds around trial tracks, and the revelations shocked the nation and spurred the South Australia government to action. Live baiting is already illegal in South Australia; however, the associated activities of supplying animals to be bait and providing the venue or being present at these training sessions are not. Honourable members would know this because we passed the legislation not very long ago.

As our response to these interstate allegations, the government undertook reforms to tighten the screws on this sort of behaviour. This included making amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 1972, which creates new offences for participation in live baiting to mirror current offences for organised animal fights, such as dog and cock fighting, and increased maximum penalties for breaches of the new laws, up to $50,000 or imprisonment for four years, up from $20,000 or imprisonment for two years.

The legislative amendments complement the steps of Greyhound Racing SA, with the support of the RSPCA, which they have initiated together. This is in addition to what we have done through legislation, and these include additional animal welfare and compliance staff; dramatically increasing the inspection rate of premises and new aerial drone surveillance; surveillance cameras at private racing facilities, trial tracks and registered tracks; new rules around the prohibition and compulsory reporting of live baiting; compulsion of registered participants to disclose all private racing facilities; and protocols to inspect greyhound facilities without notice. I am pleased to note that the two organisations, the RSPCA and Greyhound Racing South Australia, work productively together. Throughout the development, the government's response to live baiting allegations gave us some very considered and well thought through joint advice on that legislation.

I also understand that on 31 August the RSPCA issued a media release stating that negotiations with Greyhound Racing had broken down and had called for greater reforms to the greyhound racing industry. The RSPCA, as an aside, recommended four areas of reform: the implementation of an independent agency responsible for integrity and oversight, suggesting that this should be the responsibility of government, not the industry; that a formal system of traceability of greyhounds through their lifecycle be established and that data be made publicly available; that funding be set aside by the industry for the future welfare of greyhounds bred for racing, including comprehensive re-homing and retirement programs; that a formal referral mechanism be established mandating that all breaches of animal welfare legislation, regulations or codes be immediately reported to the appropriate enforcement agency for investigation and action.

In South Australia, I understand that the regulation of the racing industry is undertaken by the three controlling authorities, in accordance with the national local rules of racing, greyhound racing being one of those. I am also told that Greyhound Racing SA advises that they will contribute an additional $500,000 in expenses annually in support of integrity and welfare-related outcomes.

The establishment of an independent body is a racing issue and a matter for the Minister for Racing. I am advised that Greyhound Racing SA requires licensed persons to establish and maintain records of all births, sales and deaths of greyhounds. Greyhounds are also microchipped at the breeding establishment to ensure that tampering of these records does not occur.

I anticipate that the current suite of proposed changes to dog and cat management in South Australia will further assist in this matter. Dog and cat reforms include mandatory microchipping and a proposal for a centralised publicly-accessible database. This will assist in tracing greyhounds through their lifetime.

I understand that Greyhound Racing SA advised that the industry is also working towards national disclosure of key statistics and public release of data pertaining to the lifecycle of greyhounds will need to be industry-led. I had that information directly when I reconvened our consideration of these issues with the RSPCA and Greyhound Racing SA in my office.

It is important to note that Greyhound Racing SA has re-homed a number of greyhounds. I understand that the number of greyhounds re-homed in South Australia is similar to the total number of greyhounds re-homed across Queensland and New South Wales combined, despite the fact that South Australia only breeds about 10 per cent of the number of greyhounds at those jurisdictions. The figures the Hon. Tammy Franks used in her explanation relate to a national level. As I understand it, they do not relate to the state's figures, which are significantly different.

I also understand that RSPCA South Australia and Greyhound Racing SA have been working towards the development of a memorandum of understanding, which would outline when and how referrals are made to the RSPCA. I look forward to working with both agencies into the future to encourage further strengthening of animal welfare issues in the greyhound racing industry in this state.

Greyhound Racing

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:24:56): A supplementary, Mr President. Very simply, I think the Minister indicated that the dog and cat breeding legislation he intends to bring forward will apply to greyhounds. Can he just confirm that that will be the case?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (15:25:43): The Honourable Member will be able to read my answer in Hansard and decide that for herself.

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