The Sunday Afternoon "Finish On"

IT'S but a few weeks away from the fifth anniversary of the Baird Government’s decision to legislate for the cessation of greyhound racing in NSW.

Peter Davis

9 May 2021

IT’S but a few weeks away from the fifth anniversary of the Baird Government’s decision to legislate for the cessation of greyhound racing in NSW.

The outcome would have had dire and the downturn in breeding certainly be impacted nationally.

Before that anniversary, the new Grafton track will be handed over and trialling for the brilliant new facility will get underway on May 21.

“Our finish date was April 30 but the vast amount of rain we had in early April put everything behind schedule,” Grafton President John Corrigan said.

“Some extra excavation was needed too but we’re nearly there and we’re excited about what the future holds up here.”

Richmond’s straight track is up and running, Grafton is all-but complete, Goulburn is getting into gear and then there’s the Tamworth, Muswellbrook, Tweed Heads projects to work through.

Added into the mix is the future of Wentworth Park. It’s a busy time for GRNSW yet, from such a terrible place in July 2016, everything is, seemingly, looking rosy.

One hurdle to get over, however, is the upcoming state-wide NSW Upper House Select Committee’s tour which was referred last September.

The committee was established to report on the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission as the independent regulator of the greyhound industry in New South Wales and hearings will be held in Newcastle (May 27), Bathurst (May 28), Goulburn (June 2), Temora (June 3) and Wentworth Park (June 15).

It’s important NSW participants attend and have input.

Since September, a lot has changed but the ‘scab’ has again been taken off a wound which was close to being healed and very little good can come out of what lies ahead.

Batten down the hatches, anti-racing activists will be lying in wait!

UNDER REVIEW

Kudos to the NSW GBOTA for their submission to Greyhounds Australasia’s review of racing rules.

The vast response, expertly attended to and compiled by Kristy Harper, runs 46 pages and addresses a range of issues which, you’d like to think, will cut through.

Page 42 of the document provides a quasi-executive summary and, in lay English, provides perspective on the issues at hand and they are:

  1. Prohibited Substances – review of prohibited substances to ensure that those listed are deemed performance enhancing;
  2. Prohibited Substances–introduction of screening limits;
  3. Prohibited Substances – A review be undertaken of the performance enhancing effect of cobalt and arsenic, with a view to removal of these naturally occurring minerals from the prohibited substances list;
  4. Prohibited Substances – introduction of better reporting to participants of their outcomes when being tested, including actual levels;
  5. Non-Synesthetic Lures – amendment to allow for commercially prepared and purchased tanned skins, hides, furs and scents which can be used for training to provide trainers with adequate reward-based chasing stimuli;
  6. Barking Muzzles – these should be able to be used for positive animal welfare reasons for short periods of time;
  7. Wagering – amendment to the wording of the rules to capture the intent and spirit of the rule.

Make no mistake, this GA process is convoluted and change will be glacial.

As a body, GA’s functionality is flawed. Delegates from member states have different capacity (available funding, outlook, data capture, historic, functionality of technology, agility, appetite to address to address change and or risk etc) and away from the table, those struggling maintain progress can get ‘detached from the herd’.

Consultation is ongoing yet submissions closed in April. Consideration of submissions and further follows but what happens thereafter … and who will be putting the final touches to national rules?

As good as the new rules can be, member states will still have capacity to override with ‘local rules’ which offer a different interpretation and that’s the crux of the problem.

The national racing rules review was overdue and has good intent but, in the end, it going to be a waste of time and money unless something changes with GA’s structure and leadership.

Even the most reasoned voice or brilliant mind, if representing a ‘minor state’, would be never be heard at GA in the same volume as NSW or Victoria (for example) in its present structure.

Greyhound racing, with GA steering, is in quicksand and needs a tow-rope pronto.

The GBOTA contribution is available here

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?

A conversation this week with a breeder (who had an elite matron fail to conceive to an in-demand sire) led onto a chat about service costs, veterinary expenses, Greyhound Australasia’s fees and regulatory oversight which evolved into a little detective work.

By intent, the stud dog’s name – which triggered my curiosity regarding won’t be disclosed – as it’s not relevant to the issue – but the numbers are real and disturbing.

Since September ’20, on GRV’s FastTrack site, services have totalled 125 with 25 ‘misses’ or 20 per cent of total the registered.

In that time, he’s averaged 4.48 pups per litter which is well short of the national average of 2016/17 which was 6.68 (1160 litters for 7760 pups born).

Every alarm bell at Greyhounds Australasia should have been ringing and the numbers have diminished into 2021.

From December, 48 litters have produced only 161 pups (a litter average of 3.35) and there 15 misses as well. The fail-to conceive metric for the three months is 31.25 per cent or a 68.75 per cent conception rate.

It’s understood, with the advances of modern-day veterinary care, any dog striking below 90 per cent warrants a degree of regulatory oversight.

At what point goes GA step in and ask a few questions?

I’d expect that GA are working on conception rates at a time when natural matings were de rigueur – way before frozen semen implants and transcervical procedures were on the radar.

Sadly, not one person at GA has thought to review that.

Breeders need to be informed and protected. If GA can’t or won’t do so, state bodies must step up.

GWIC, GRSA, RWWA, GVR, QRIC and TASRACING have the power to register litters, accept fees and maintain integrity. Surely each can (and should) provide clarity on how a stud dog is performing litter-wise. Such information can’t be a state secret.

Breeders represent the heartbeat of greyhound racing and they’re being disrespected by the very people who should have a steely focus.

Take the money, accept no responsibility seems to be GA’s charter.

What all breeders need is a reporting process which is based on fact, not bush telegraph or urban myth. So much needs to change at GA.

They’re rooted in a bygone era and offer no advocacy or hope for a better outcome but is anybody listening?

DOWN SOUTH

Such was the flow on effect of the NSW greyhound racing ban, South Australia had 73 litters annually over the past 5 years, ranging from a lot of 61 in FY17 to 81 in FY19.

Based on the number of litters bred up until the end of the March in 2021 (84), South Australia will exceed 100 litters in the current year. It’s a significant tick for the job GRSA is doing.

The clarity GRSA provides regarding distribution of income is industry best and throws out a challenge to other states to be as transparent and efficiently run.

More on that next week.

NOT FORGOTTEN

Saddest news of the week was the passing of former GRNSW vet Dr Paul Rowland after a long battle with cancer.

The South Coast-based Paul was much loved by participants and his caring attention was second to none.

He stepped up to attend meetings and a moment’s notice and his oversight went beyond race-day. Paul’s engagement in greyhound racing was pure, he loved the people and adored the canine athletes.

He will be sorely missed.