The Greyhound's Lament

Greyhounds-Lament

Greyhound racing in Aotearoa may soon be a thing of the past — but for those advocating for the welfare of the dogs forced to race, the finish line can’t come soon enough.

Torn tendons, broken bones, amputated limbs. Injuries so great as to require euthanasia. Rough treatment, inadequate living conditions. Doped with illegal drugs to perform. These are the conditions that prop up the “entertainment” of greyhound racing in New Zealand.      

In December last year, a report from the Racing Integrity Board (RIB) indicated that breaches of animal welfare and safety were so prevalent in the greyhound racing industry that it was “no longer viable”. It caused the Minister for Racing, Kieran McAnulty, to question whether the industry still had “a social licence in this country”. Anyone with a heart reading the details of this latest in a long line of troubling looks into the industry would surely answer “no”. 

But the government has announced it will not make a decision on the future of greyhound racing in this country until after the upcoming election. Meanwhile the races continue, as do the hundreds of injuries to dogs forced to race, with deaths continuing to climb.

Something isn’t Right

Tyra Basilicata adopted her first greyhound in 2016, while she was still living in Australia. She soon became involved with the rescue group that had fostered the adoption, which brought her into direct contact with the racing industry.

“During the course of helping out there, I visited some racing kennels and it started to dawn on me that something just wasn’t right. That is what started me on my journey to fight for the greyhound racing industry to be shut down.”

Now living in New Zealand and working as a criminologist, Tyra volunteers her time with the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand, a group dedicated to informing the public of the realities behind greyhound racing. The group liaises with other animal welfare agencies, like Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) and the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), as well as the industry’s official bodies, the RIB and Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ).

Through correspondence with the racing minister and official information act requests, Greyhound Protection League publishes facts and statistics about the industry on its website, www.gplnz.org. Violence, drugs, neglect — It’s not a pretty picture. 

Love to Race?

One of the persistent arguments put forward by defenders is that greyhounds naturally love to race and the racing industry simply gives them an outlet. It’s an assertion that Tyra rejects completely.

“Greyhounds love to run, in short bursts, for fun. Running does not equate to racing and that should never be confused. Greyhounds are forced to race.”

She points to the process of “boxing” greyhounds at the start of races as clear evidence. Dogs need to be physically forced into starting boxes, sometimes requiring multiple people to get the job done. The dogs also need to be led around the track by a lure. Enough dogs fail to be enticed that the industry has had to create a rule suspending greyhounds for not pursuing the lure. Despite being bred and trained from early life to race, many dogs still bulk at being forced to do so.

“So, let’s be clear,” says Tyra. “Greyhounds love to run. Greyhounds do not love to race.”   

Racing’s Toll

Even the most ardent defender of the industry can’t deny that racing causes greyhounds to suffer many injuries. SAFE reports there have been 1762 recorded injuries, including 179 broken bones and 13 deaths, since the government declared the industry “formally on notice” in September 2021, following a damning review of animal welfare and safety. 

In the time since the Minister for Racing announced that he would delay his decision on the future of the industry (20 April, 2023) until the most recent racing season ended (31 July 2023), there have been a further 240 injuries. The Greyhound Protection League reports that these include 36 muscle and tendon tear injuries and 21 fractures (one of which ended with a tail amputation and another requiring a toe amputation). There were six race day euthanasia last season. 

“Injuries are caused purely because you have a bunch of greyhounds running at more than 60km/h, in close quarters,” Tyra explains. “It’s not a matter of if greyhounds will be injured, it’s a matter of when.”

While organisations like the Greyhound Protection League are tackling the problem on a national level, grassroots activists have also been agitating for greyhounds locally. One such group is Freedom for the Animals, who recently held a disruptive protest at the Auckland’s Manukau Sports Dome’s weekly greyhound races. Deno Stock, one of the protest organisers, saw a number of injuries occur. 

“We saw three injuries during a nine-race meeting, and apparently there were eight injuries on that day,” says Deno. “All the accidents seem to happen on the last bend, as they make them run too fast by spending up the dummy rabbit. 

“Not many people are actually watching the races as they are all in the bar drinking and betting.”

Tyra stresses that serious injuries, like those requiring amputations, will continue to affect the dogs for the rest of their lives, often requiring ongoing drugs and veterinary care. She says while it’s the trainers and owners who are causing the injuries, the cost for care is passed on initially to Greyhound Racing New Zealand and then to members of the public who are expected to adopt the dogs.

“Personally, my greyhound girl takes tablets morning and evening due to an old injury. She requires monthly prescriptions and regular check ups to ensure that her dosages are correct. And she will require that for the rest of her life. 

“I don’t see the trainer who damaged her fronting up to assist me with those costs.”

System of Care?

Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ) is the governing body for the New Zealand industry, and responsible for the safety and welfare of racing greyhounds throughout the country, enforcing their Greyhound Welfare Standards. 

As mentioned earlier, numerous independent reviews of these standards and the degree to which they are upheld have found the industry significantly lacking, to the point it now risks being shut down. 

In the face of these damaging reviews, GRNZ claims to be making “significant progress” in the area of track safety. Tyra points out that injuries are still rampant, even though the organisation claims in its latest quarterly report to have implemented 16 track safety measures.

“Despite this, as of 30 April 2023, six greyhounds had been euthanised on race day due to injury. That is one more than for the same period last season.”  

On 1 May 2023, GRNZ’s new Greyhound Welfare Standards came into effect, which include a minimum kennel size requirement of just 3m², with a minimum width of 1.2m.

“Go ahead and measure that out, it’s not much, especially considering how long greyhounds are,” says Tyra. “My small-ish female greyhound is more than 1.2m long from her nose to the end of her tail. A greyhound cannot even take a stretch in that size kennel.”

Trainers have also been given 10 years to come into compliance with the standard.

One shocking indictment of the system began in April 2022, when a greyhound tested positive for methamphetamine after a race. It took 10 months for the RIB to assign a penalty to the Licensed Person (owner, handler, or trainer) responsible: a suspension from greyhound racing for 15 months, which was reduced to 12 on appeal.

Between the time the dog tested positive and March 2023, when the suspension began, Tyra says that same person was charged with abusing two greyhounds at a race meeting.

“The Licensed Person threw one greyhound forcefully into a kennel causing the greyhound to hit his head and picked up another greyhound by the neck and threw him. The licensed person did not even bother to show up to the RIB hearing relating to these two incidents.”

While the RIB oversees compliance with standards, it does not have the power to prosecute under the Animal Welfare Act: only the Police, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and the SPCA can do that. No matter the level of abuse inflicted on greyhounds, the RIB can only issue racing suspensions and fines.  

What Can Be Done?

Found severely lacking in terms of health and safety for dogs time and time again, the greyhound racing industry has been steadily losing face with the public. A survey commissioned by the SPCA in 2022 showed that 74% of New Zealanders would vote to ban dog racing in a referendum, with only 9% believing racing greyhounds have a good life.

In August 2021, SAFE and the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand gathered 37,700 signatures in a petition calling for a ban on greyhound racing. Despite the government dragging its feet, both organisations are still pushing hard for a decision. SAFE is currently collecting signatures to demand immediate action for greyhounds, which can be accessed at www.safe.org.nz/take-action/stop-greyhound-racing.  

At a regional level, Deno and his colleagues in Freedom for the Animals, Michael Morris and Nick Hancock, have been visiting Auckland markets and shopping centres to educate the public on the issue. They collected over 600 signatures for a petition urging the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board to immediately discontinue the lease on its greyhound racing track. 

“We were well received, we have their support,” says Deno. “We are hopeful that it will become an athletic track and the greyhound racing track will be closed.”

One significant action individuals can take, where feasible, is to adopt retired greyhounds. Regardless of how long it takes our elected officials to take action, there will remain a great number of dogs in need of loving homes after stressful lives being forced to race. While they may appear a high-needs choice for companion animals, Tanya says in reality it’s quite the opposite.   

“An average greyhound will be more than happy with a stroll around the block most days and an opportunity to have a bit of a “zoomie” a couple of times a week. “Zoomies” are what the greyhound community call it when a greyhound lets loose and runs for a short, fast burst. It’s really something to see, they go so fast, and they take such joy in running for fun.”

As long as racing life hasn’t taken a major toll, greyhounds are generally very healthy, clean dogs. However, Tanya does warn that all sighthounds (the family greyhounds belong to) require more dental care than most dogs, including toothbrushing, dental chews, and an annual dental check-up.

Despite their height and length, greyhounds are gentle dogs that don’t use their size to intimidate. Tanya describes them as having a “calming” energy and a fun, silly temperament. Adopting a greyhound not only provides the company of a wonderful companion but is, for one life at least, a chance to heal the damage done by a brutal industry. 

If you’d like to learn more about advocating for greyhounds or look into adoption options, visit the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand website: www.gplnz.org.

 

Aotearoa Vegan and Plant Based Living Magazine
This article was sourced from the Winter 2023 edition of The Vegan Society magazine.
Order your own current copy in print or pdf or browse past editions.

Disclaimer
The articles we present in our magazine and blog have been written by many authors and are are not necessarily the views and policies of the Vegan Society.

Enjoyed reading this? We think you'll enjoy these articles:

What’s in a Trademark? 29 March 2024 The Vegan Society As more companies start to become more aware of the ingredients in …

2024 NZ Vegan Chocolate Awards 25th March 2024 The Vegan Society One of the most wonderful foods our planet has to offer …

Plum and Lime Cake

Liked this? We think you’ll enjoy these recipes: Katsu Tofu Katsu Tofu The Vegan BBQ The Vegan BBQ 1 2 3 … …