SMH Dec 8 2013 Natalie O’Brien
Thousands of healthy greyhound puppies are disappearing, presumed killed, every year, but their deaths are not reported or investigated by the $144 million greyhound racing industry.
Shocking details about puppy farming and the mass killing of the pups have emerged as a record number of people and organisations told a NSW parliamentary inquiry about the dark practices of the greyhound industry.
In one submission, a former industry participant, who did not want to be identified because he said he feared for his safety, said: “I actually found a brown sack one day, when washing my hands in the river that ran through the property, full of dead newborn pups.”
In 2011, up to 3440 puppies were born in registered litters but disappeared before they were named. Naming is a prerequisite for the dogs to race.
Other submissions told of abuse of dogs kept in bare paddocks with little care and no socialisation. Some were kennelled in darkness to control barking and had Velcro attached to their paws to stop them making noise.
Janet Flann of Greyhound Rescue, a volunteer organisation that finds homes for discarded dogs, said she recently received a litter of two-week-old pups that would have been drowned if the organisation had not taken them.
Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the figures showed that more than 28 per cent of dogs born in NSW disappeared before they were given names and access to racetracks.
”Greyhound Racing NSW’s self-regulatory processes have created a smokescreen for the deliberate killing of healthy dogs,” he said.
But Dr Kaye, the deputy chairman of the committee running the inquiry, said it was not just these puppies that were disappearing. There were possibly thousands of others from litters that had never been registered and discarded if they were injured or too slow. He said only a tiny fraction of these ”surplus dogs” were found homes.
”Greyhound Racing NSW is refusing to take responsibility for the others, even though it is their failure as regulators that allow the death toll to continue,” he said.
”It is hardly surprising that an industry regulator that tolerates the killing of thousands of healthy dogs each year has almost no regard for the welfare of the greyhounds that go on to race and retire,” Dr Kaye said.
More than 2000 submissions had been made to the inquiry, established to examine the operations of the industry in NSW, and most had raised issues about animal welfare.
The inquiry was initiated after allegations last year of race-fixing, drug use, money laundering and alleged criminal activity within the industry, despite reforms that had been introduced to clean up the sport.
Last month, The Sun-Herald also reported that the industry was using live animals, including possums, kittens, guinea pigs and ”anything that squealed”, as bait to train greyhounds to race.
Greyhound Racing NSW has said about 3000 named dogs were killed each year. The industry’s Greyhound Adoption Program found new homes for just 52 dogs in last year.
A GRNSW spokesman said that since September 2011 there had been 29 investigations into animal welfare or cruelty.
Of the 20 completed investigations, eight resulted in GRNSW either disqualifying a licensed participant or refusing to register a member of the public. It issued five improvement notices that resulted in compliance.
The cost of greyhound racing: Unloved, dumped, lucky to be alive
Pixie stands quietly, barely moving, while Janet Flann cleans her many bite-like wounds. The gentle three-year-old greyhound is lucky to be alive after being found abandoned on a road near Newcastle.
How she came to be there in such a state is a mystery. There is a lot of talk about greyhounds being dumped when they are no longer good enough or fast enough to race. There is also talk that many dogs are given to pig hunters and used as bait to train their dogs.
Pixie was registered through Greyhound Racing NSW and still has the tattoo in her ear that reveals her previous owner. That was a surprise to some industry sources who said dogs were usually found with their ears cut off ”so you can’t tell who owned them previously”.
Owners are supposed to document any change of dog ownership.
Pixie was brought to Greyhound Rescue, a voluntary group run by Janet and her husband, Peter, and other volunteers who pick up the byproduct of the greyhound racing industry – unwanted, dumped and injured dogs.
It has about 60 dogs that need new homes.
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