Better days for dogs that make it out alive

Anne Boxhall column, The Sunday Tasmanian, Jan 7 2018

Sunday Tasmanian – Pet Column

For January 7th

For greyhounds who survive the race track and go on to be adopted as pets, the news gets even better. Adopted greyhounds will have the opportunity to go muzzle-free, in line with recent changes to the Dog Control Act. For adopters of greyhounds, it’s a step towards greater understanding and respect for this misunderstood breed. Adopted greyhounds will need to pass an assessment program to be granted muzzle-free status. Details on the assessment are yet to be provided, including whether the process will operate independently of the racing industry itself.

Racing Minister Jeremy Rockliff applauds his government’s improvements to the industry, however greyhounds are continuing to be injured and euthanased at an unacceptable rate.

The toll from just one race meeting at the Elwick Track on November 30 last year, according to a DPIPWE steward’s report, was two greyhounds put down due to injury and 3 others badly injured. Greyhound Tah Sophie suffered severe head trauma and was euthanased at the track. Wynburn Boxer suffered hind leg paralysis and suspected spinal injuries and was euthanased at an after-hours vet. Miss Claude suffered possible fracture of the right scapula. She was stood down from racing for only 21 days. Iona Fire suffered an injured shoulder, and El Grand Amigo a thigh injury.

A summary of stewards reports statewide for 2017 shows 336 dogs as injured during a race and 12 killed due to injury. A further 688 are listed as scratched prior to racing due to injury, illness or death.

To voice your concerns, contact Racing Minister Jeremy Rockliff and Shadow Racing Minister Scott Bacon. It is heartening to see greyhound racing will be banned in the Australian Capital Territory from April this year.



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Greyhound racing banned in Canberra after reports of ‘egregious’ cruelty

Christopher Knaus, The Guardian wed 29 November 2017

Greyhounds have been starved to death, shot, killed with hammers, and subjected to shocking neglect and cruelty in the past year, despite intense scrutiny on the industry.

One of the worst cases prompted a Victorian state regulator to warn continued cruelty in the industry was serving to only “advance the case of those who would seek to have greyhound racing banned”.

This week the Australian Capital Territory became the first jurisdiction to ban greyhound racing, pushing ahead despite the NSW government’s backflip last October.

In doing so, it cited a disturbing case in NSW in which a trainer killed a sick puppy by hitting it twice in the head with a hammer.

Another puppy in the litter had already died and, instead of calling or visiting a vet, the trainer had decided to to use the hammer to end its suffering. It was a public holiday, and he had incorrectly assumed a vet would not be open.

Expert evidence to an inquiry by the NSW regulator, Greyhound Racing NSW, found the pup was not likely to have died instantly after the first strike.

“As a result, the pup would have experienced unnecessary pain and suffering,” Greyhound Racing NSW found.

The inquiry panel deemed the method of killing had “no place in greyhound racing”, and barred the trainer from the industry for three years.

In April a NSW trainer was given a life ban for shooting a dog, despite an order from the RSPCA to seek veterinary care.

Another NSW trainer starved a greyhound to death last year and was disqualified for 15 years and convicted of criminal offences.

Earlier this month Victorian regulators ruled on what they described as an “egregious” case of animal cruelty and neglect. It was described as one of the worst seen in several years.

Inspectors with the Victorian regulator, Greyhound Racing Victoria, visited a property owned by a registered breeder and trainer in May last year.

The trainer had five greyhounds. The inspectors were so disturbed by their state that they immediately called the RSPCA for veterinary assistance.

The dogs were emaciated, had fly-bitten ears, open sores, and had been starved and subjected to unnecessary pain.

One was bleeding and would have died without intervention.

Another was in such a bad state the regulator said it was “hard to imagine” a worse case

“There were faeces in his mouth which suggested he had consumed them out of hunger,” the regulator said. “He was anemic and was suffering from Giardia. He had fly bite wounds and pressure sores.”

The trainer was handed a life ban and fined $25,000. The regulator was scathing.

“The neglect and cruelty exhibited … in the current case is the worst this board has seen in recent years,” it said in a judgment. “Behaviour like that seen in this matter can only advance the case of those who would seek to have greyhound racing banned.”

The ACT attorney general, Gordon Ramsay, said the territory’s decision to ban greyhound racing was based on the NSW special commission of inquiry, headed by Michael McHugh.

Ramsay said the ACT was inextricably linked to the NSW industry. Most animals who raced in the ACT came from NSW.

Ramsay cited the hammer euthanasia case as evidence of continued cruelty in NSW.

“The ongoing evidence is that the industry is still deeply, deeply flawed,” he told the ABC.

“It is clearly an ongoing matter, and it’s not something that the ACT government

was willing to countenance that the risks that are so clearly there in NSW would come into the ACT.”

Legal action has been launched against the ACT government’s ban, which will come into effect in May.

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Greyhound deaths occurring at rate seen before NSW repealed ban

Christoper Knaus, The Guardian 

Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi says 707 greyhounds have died unnecessarily in eight months since repeal

Unnecessary greyhound deaths are still occurring at levels seen before New South Wales repealed its industry ban, internal figures reveal.

Details of greyhound deaths in NSW, obtained through freedom of information laws, suggest the industry is making little progress on its August 2016 guarantee that “no greyhound will be unnecessarily euthanised”.

The promise was one of a series of industry pledges designed to save NSW greyhound racing, following a damning inquiry and explosive revelations of live baiting and misconduct on ABC’s Four Corners.

Two months later, the then premier, Mike Baird, announced his backflip and the ban was formally repealed in April last year.

But data obtained by the Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi suggests unnecessary euthanasia has continued largely unabated.

 About 330 greyhounds were euthanised because they were “unsuitable for rehoming” between April last year, when the ban was formally repealed, and 31 December.

That’s a rate of about 1.3 deaths per day, which is slightly higher than the 1.1 per day in the 12 months prior.

Another 296 greyhounds were euthanised due to injury, a rate that was again similar to the previous 12 months.

In total, Faruqi said, 707 greyhounds have died unnecessarily in the eight months since the repeal, a rate of 2.68 dogs a day. The rate for the 12 months before the ban’s repeal was three dogs per day.

Just last week, NSW stewards launched an investigation into the circumstances of a euthanisation at a regional racetrack earlier in January.

A greyhound had collided with several other dogs during a race and was found to have breached racing rules by “failing to pursue”. It was suspended from racing for 28 days. The greyhound was then euthanised by the officiating veterinarian.

But official stewards reports from the race suggest the dog was checked and “no apparent injury was detected”. The stewards reports also record the related euthanasias for the race as “nil”.

Faruqi said the industry could not exist without the future deaths of thousands of dogs.

“More than one greyhound is put down every day because they are considered ‘not suitable for rehoming’,” she said.

“It’s telling how a greyhound is wanted while it makes them money but, once they are retired and not profitable, they become unsuitable and are killed. The industry should care for and rehabilitate these dogs, not just kill them because they are inconvenient.”

She said the figures likely masked the true extent of the problem. There is little tracking of what happens to dogs that are transferred to third parties and Faruqi said there was nothing stopping an owner keeping the euthanasia from authorities by filling out adoption paperwork and having it put down a short time later.

Greyhound Racing NSW, the governing body, accepted the unlawful euthanasia of underperforming greyhounds had been a “scourge” on the industry for decades.

The problem, it said, was not one that could be fixed overnight and required a fundamental cultural shift within the industry.

The organisation had undergone a period of “significant organisational change” since the ban was announced and then overturned in 2016, the statement said.

A new board was elected in June last year and a new leadership team of chief executive officer Tony Mestrov and deputy CEO Dayle Brown was only appointed in October.

“All of these changes mean that while GRNSW is now in an organisation with strong leadership and in a position to implement real change, it has just come out of a significant period of transformation and these senior appointments have only held their positions for a few short months,” its statement said.

Greyhound Racing NSW said it took the issue of greyhound wastage seriously. It acknowledged it had “historically failed to take adequate measures to safeguard greyhound welfare and promote responsible breeding and ownership practices”.

“GRNSW recognises the magnitude of the problem and submits whatever its past failings, it is committed to strategic reform and is leading fundamental transformation of the industry,” the organisation said.

“GRNSW recognises the magnitude of the problem and submits whatever its past failings, it is committed to strategic reform and is leading fundamental transformation of the industry,” the organisation said.

“Over the past few years GRNSW has been investigating, developing and implementing a range of measures to substantially reduce the level of greyhounds unnecessarily euthanased to translate into meaningful change in the long term and at every stage of the greyhound lifecycle.”

It said it would achieve reductions in euthanasia rates through education, better funding for the greyhound adoption program and more effective regulation.

“The unlawful euthanasia of underperforming greyhounds has been a scourge on the industry for decades and it won’t change overnight,” the organisation said.

“GRNSW’s immediate objective is to reduce all unnecessary euthanasia to the lowest possible levels and to ensure that once all other avenues are exhausted, and when it is necessary to euthanase a greyhound that is unsuitable for rehoming, it is done so in a humane manner.”

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Project Hope

Sunday Tasmanian – Pet Column; Anne Boxhall, Oct 9 2016


Young Sydney vet Dr Sam Kovac is only 27 years of age.

Like many compassionate vets before him, Dr Kovac will treat wildlife emergencies and the pets of homeless people free of charge. Going a step further, this vet has created Project Hope to help a range of other pets or people in crisis. Distressed by situations where pet owners genuinely could not afford treatment, Kovac was caught up in a bleak life and death dilemma.

To not provide treatment would mean the suffering or death of an animal. Witnessing the owners’ wretched emotions too, financially unable to pursue treatment options for their pet but not wanting to let their pet down was intense and painful for all concerned.

And so Project Hope was born to prevent vets and disadvantaged owners ever having to bargain over life and death. Project Hope raises funds to alleviate the burden on struggling owners so that no animal suffers through economic disadvantage. As well as running the occasional fundraiser, public donations and contributing his own dollars to cover costs at his clinic, Dr Kovac and his vet clinic colleagues have now launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable other vets around the country to provide free treatment where there is genuine need.

This came about following contact from interstate vets and welfare agencies wanting to refer financially disadvantaged pet owners to Kovac’s clinic. The crowdfunding target of $50,000 would foot the bills for local vet treatment wherever the owner is located. Dr Sam Kovac understands that losing your home or income would be one of the worst situations to find oneself in, let alone losing your pet as well.

For more on Project Hope visit or Go Fund Me.

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The Sunday Tasmanian Oct 23 2016 Anne Boxhall column

Eight weeks ago, NSW Premier Mike Baird wrote this: “When it comes to the greyhound ban, I am more concerned with doing the right thing than chasing votes. If there was any way we could have rehabilitated the industry we would have…this is an industry with no chance of rehabilitation.”

A Special Commission of Inquiry delivered a damning report after 13 months of investigation, 151,000 pages of evidence, 115 hours of video evidence, 804 submissions and 69 individual testimonies. The decision to ban greyhound racing was made on the evidence. The sheer scale of animal suffering and death put greyhound racing into a league of its own. The industry has repeatedly said it is committed improving animal welfare but has consistently failed to deliver.

A recent RSPCA poll found that 64 per cent of the public in NSW and ACT supported the ban on greyhound racing. With a ban being the only thing guaranteeing animals protection from cruelty, the recent repeal of the ban is one in a regrettably long line of flaky capitulations.

Disappointingly, this time it was Baird giving in to media and party pressure and saving his own skin. Instead, huge amounts of public money will now be needed to enforce new rules upon an industry that no longer has a social licence.

Tainted by the use of drugs, live baiting, the amount of animal suffering and wastage involved in generating huge profits for a select few, the majority are turning away from this industry. Interest in greyhound racing is in decline worldwide.

Eventually compassion will prevail and greyhound racing will end in this country too. One day these dogs will no longer be sporting commodities. For more on the repeal of the greyhound racing ban visit

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Pet Insurance

Sunday Tasmanian – Pet Column; Anne Boxhall; January 31st 2016

Insurance is one of those things for filing in the ‘lottery of life’ folder.

Not everyone will need it but it’s good to have. Just like other forms of insurance, pet insurance helps cover the cost of the unexpected and indications are that one in every three pets require emergency treatment each year.

More than 63 per cent of the Australian population owns a pet with 53 per cent owning a dog or a cat. The estimated annual spend on veterinary services is estimated to be over $1.1 billion annually in Australia. (Source: TNS, ABS, and BIS Sharpnel estimates 2007).

Pet insurance can be a good investment, helping to cover costs that would otherwise be unaffordable. An overview of common pet insurance claims has the average claim for snake bite at $ 1,619 with the largest claim running out at $9,071 and it’s a similar story for claims on conditions like ear infections, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and others.

It’s worth noting that routine care such as vaccinations and health checks are an additional option and premiums are risk-rated. The older your pet the more premium you’ll pay.

It is near impossible to secure cover for pets over nine years of age. Pre-existing conditions are not covered and some breeds may incur higher premiums. You can lower your premium by increasing your excess.

Most policies offer a cooling off period and cancellation rights. Policies may require owners to pay out the remaining premium for the year if cancelling the policy.

Check the fine print to ensure this is waived if cancellation is due to the death of your pet. Web sites like provide useful pet insurance comparison tables for those doing their homework.

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The Age of Empathy

Sunday Tasmanian – Pet Column – Anne Boxhall; January 3rd 2016

Looking for a novel resolution this new year? How about resolving to listen to our inner ape.

According to a growing band of biologists and pyschologists, nature is full of examples of empathy and cooperation from which we humans could learn.

Many non-human animals survive not by eliminating each other or keeping everything for themselves, but by cooperating, sharing and looking out for each other. Greed is out and empathy is in, says eminent academic Frans De Waal, selected by Time magazine as one of the world’s most influential people.

In his book The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, De Waal suggests empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans. By studying social behaviours in animals such as bonding, the herd instinct, the forming of trusting alliances and conflict resolution, de Waal demonstrates that animals, (human and non-human) are “pre-programmed to reach out.”

From day one, humans have innate sensitivities to faces, bodies, and voices; we’ve been designed to feel for one another. Animal nature is characterised as much by kindness and collaboration as it is by competition and aggression.

Drawing from his own research with non-human primates, de Waal found that acting with empathy is as automatic as aggression. For humans and other advanced animals, sharing, compromise and justice matters, a theory which runs counter to the assumption that people are essentially selfish and competitive.

The fields of politics, law and finance often work to uphold this assumption but it’s not all about the darker forces. While competition has been a vital force in the evolution of life on Earth, it has not acted alone. Cooperation too, has played an essential part – just ask the animals.

The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans De Waal                                                  2009 Random House Inc, New York

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