Today Abigail introduced the Greens' Greyhound Whole-of-Life Tracking Bill, which will close the loophole in the law to account for all greyhounds from birth to death and ensure that no more greyhounds slip through the cracks of the racing industry.
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Introducing the Bill to Parliament, Abigail said:
Back in 2017 we were assured that the greyhound racing industry was ready for reform and that every side of politics was keen to see an end to the cruel and unnecessary killing of healthy greyhounds. The McHugh Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in New South Wales had found that around 5,500 healthy greyhounds were being killed every single year in the 12 years prior to the inquiry in New South Wales alone. Mass graves have been uncovered across the State that are filled with the bodies of greyhounds killed in secret by the racing industry. During the 2017 debate on the Greyhound Racing Bill, members from every party spoke about the importance of ensuring animal welfare compliance and almost every member of Parliament explicitly mentioned the necessity of whole‑of‑life tracking in ensuring that unnecessary wastage is ended. Indeed, on the day that the Government backflipped on the greyhound racing ban in October 2016 it committed to introducing whole‑of‑life dog cycle management. During the 2017 debate, the then Minister for Racing, the Hon. Paul Toole, stated that the bill would "enable the commission to implement whole-of-lifecycle tracking for every greyhound that enters and exits the industry".
However, the bill itself did not explicitly allow for whole‑of‑life tracking. In early 2020 the then CEO of the Greyhound Welfare & Integrity Commission [GWIC] established by the Greyhound Racing Act 2017 admitted that "when greyhounds are sold, retired, or given away to members of the public who are not industry participants, the Commission has no lawful right to intervene in any way in relation to those dogs". The unfortunate reality is that despite the Government's commitment to implement whole‑of‑life tracking for every greyhound, the legislation it proposed and which was then enacted does not allow for this. Since the greyhound racing industry's so‑called reform, concerns about the number of dogs at risk of needless death continue because of GWIC not having the necessary legislative oversight. The unfortunate reality is that once a greyhound is no longer owned by someone directly involved in the racing industry, GWIC can neither see the dog nor act in its welfare, so greyhounds can and do still simply disappear.
The Government has attempted to bandaid over this situation with the recent announcement of a technological fix which will ensure that a greyhound cannot be removed from the Greyhound Register until added to the Companion Animals Register. I thank the Government for engaging with this issue. But while this will ensure that greyhounds cannot be transferred to a non‑industry owner who fails to then register them as companion animals, it does not plug the very real gaps that are created by a system that transfers oversight from an independent body with a unique understanding of the risks to greyhounds to chronically under‑resourced charities and local councils already dealing with oversight of literally every other companion animal in the State. Under the current legislation, the only way that we would know if a greyhound no longer in the industry is mistreated, is abused or has been killed is if someone with evidence of probable abuse contacts the RSPCA to inform it. The RSPCA has no proactive investigative powers, no ability to routinely audit owners of companion animals and no way of knowing about abuse without a whistleblower tipping it off. For most companion animals, RSPCA's powers are appropriate. But for greyhounds, it is not sufficient.
The McHugh inquiry found that between one-half and two‑thirds of greyhounds bred by the industry are killed because they cannot or can no longer pay their way, and that over 80,000 greyhounds were just simply missing, presumably dead. While independent oversight has been introduced and rehoming efforts have improved since the 2016 inquiry, we cannot just simply trust that every single greyhound that leaves the industry on paper now moves into a happy new home. Currently, if a racing greyhound is injured during a race and subsequently retired from racing, but its owner, trainer or a bookie decides to keep it as a pet, GWIC is able to keep tabs on the dog and check on its welfare if it chooses. If, however, that same greyhound is given to the dog owner's brother, or next door neighbour, or adult daughter, the commission has no jurisdiction to check on the dog no matter what it suspects may have happened to it. Around 17 per cent of greyhounds that retired from racing in the 2019‑20 financial year were rehomed privately outside of industry or companion animal adoption processes, falling off the radar of the regulator. While, in theory, pet owners have an obligation to update the Companion Animals Register if their pet passes away, this cannot practicably be enforced.
The New South Wales greyhound racing industry is currently breeding just under 4,000 pups a year. Just over 700 industry greyhounds are reported as dying a year, and around 1,400 retire each year, including almost 250 dogs transferred privately to people not directly involved in the racing industry. In the last financial year, 239 dogs left GWIC's books in this way, and there is a very real possibility that some of those greyhounds were rehomed on paper and killed in reality, thanks to the loophole in the Greyhound Racing Act. I introduce this bill today to close this loophole.
The Greyhound Racing Amendment (Whole‑of‑life Tracking) Bill 2021 would amend the Greyhound Racing Act 2017 to expand the remit of the Greyhound Welfare & Integrity Commission to include oversight of all rehomed and euthanised greyhounds, not just greyhounds owned by or euthanised in the care of industry participants. Clause 3 (1) amends section 35 of the Greyhound Racing Act 2017 to insert a requirement for the NSW Greyhound Welfare Code of Practice to specifically address standards for rehoming and for euthanasia of greyhounds. Clause 3 (2) then amends section 35 of the Greyhound Racing Act 2017 to provide for an expanded definition of "greyhound" for the purposes of those rehoming and euthanasia standards.
A greyhound for the purposes of the Act as it currently stands is defined as "a greyhound that is owned or kept in connection with greyhound racing". This limits GWIC's remit to the oversight of only greyhounds linked to the racing industry at the present moment. The expanded definition provided for in this bill would give GWIC oversight of rehoming and euthanasia standards for greyhounds which are or have ever been connected to greyhound racing, allowing investigation into the welfare of greyhounds even after they have been rehomed or euthanised. I thank the tireless animal welfare advocates who have helped my office identify the legislative gap which needs closing, and in particular The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds Inc. The coalition's ongoing advocacy and expert analysis continues to hold this Government, the greyhound racing industry, the gambling industry and corporations who sponsor the racing industry to account. I also thank those involved in greyhound rehoming programs, and in particular the dedicated community rescue organisations who facilitate the rehoming of so many greyhounds every year without a cent of public funding.
Organisations like my local Rescued Greyhounds NSW Central Coast are run on the smell of an oily rag and a deep compassion for the plight of greyhounds often left behind by the racing industry. I also acknowledge every person across New South Wales who has welcomed a greyhound into their family, embracing the need to provide a home for so many greyhounds after they are no longer wanted by the racing industry. Finally, I acknowledge the work of my colleague Dr Mehreen Faruqi, former member of this place and current Greens senator for New South Wales, in fighting for oversight and transparency for greyhounds. Mehreen called out the Government on whole‑of‑life tracking when the Greyhound Racing Bill was debated in 2017, and she continues to advocate for greyhounds in the Senate.
When the greyhound industry was brought back from the brink in 2017 the Government said that it had every intention of implementing whole-of-life tracking for every greyhound that enters and exits the industry. It was surely the belief of most of those who supported the 2017 bill that this would be possible. This bill provides an neat fix to the original drafting error that has prevented whole-of-life tracking from happening. The greyhound racing industry claims that it has cleaned up its act. If that is the case then extending the oversight of the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission [GWIC], as provided for in this bill, will be a non-event. If it is not the case then we must act now to ensure the welfare of every greyhound in this State. I commend the bill to the House.
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