In this week's committee hearing for Inquiry into the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC), Abigail grilled GWIC authorities on greyhound welfare, raising issues such as rates of greyhound euthanasia in the industry and gaps in the whole-of-life tracking system.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: This idea of the non-GAP rehoming agencies—we touched on the high rates of euthanasia for dogs that are deemed to be unacceptable to be rehomed in a previous hearing. There was an opinion put forward that if you have got a dog that has got a severe injury or you have got a dog who is too aggressive, it is very hard to get them rehomed through the official channels, whereas what my office hears a lot about is these smaller organisations who are not registered but who will take basically any dog. They bring them back to health and they spend years with them to socialise them and put them in a position where they can have them in a home. Do you have a view on the rates of euthanasia? Basically, what are you seeing from your perspective in terms of dogs?
Mr BECHINI (Greyhound breeder and former member of GWIC): Part of the code of practice was developing the euthanasia policy. As far as my recollection of that is, before a greyhound can be committed to be euthanised, it has to go through two tests—with GAP and then a second test with GAP or a foster agency. And if a dog is deemed unacceptable, then the owner is supposed to take it back and, I think within two or three weeks, try to socialise it as much as possible and try to overcome its problems. If it cannot, then it has to go to a vet for assessment and then be humanely euthanised.
Abigail went on to grill Mr Bechini on several other issues regarding greyhound welfare:
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: We heard evidence yesterday from a number of owners and trainers—and I apologise, I cannot remember exactly which witness was referring to this. They were referring to the difference between racing greyhounds as athletes versus dogs as pets. They were saying, and I do not have the quote, but it was along the lines of "I would give a toy to my pet, but I am not going to give a toy to an athlete." From your perspective, is that something that is a common view in the industry?
Mr BECHINI: When a dog is in racing mode, it needs to be focused on racing. Therefore, it needs to be trained and looked after and attune to the racing environment. Therefore, perhaps giving it a toy to play with may or may not—that is in the view of the trainer, and that is personal to the trainer himself. That may not be with every trainer or participant that is in the sport because I know of plenty of trainers who will give a toy to a dog to muck around with just to get it to de-stress a bit from its racetrack.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Do you think that the GWIC policy in relation to socialisation and enrichment is the right policy?
Mr BECHINI: I think it is a step in the right direction. That is what I think, yes. I am not saying it is correct or right because, while I had a hand in it, a lot of it was developed by people who do not really have any experience with greyhounds either.
Abigail drew attention to the gaps in the whole-of-life tracking system, which in 2020 alone allowed 239 healthy greyhounds to be transferred off the racing industry's books without going through any rehoming programs.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: You mentioned the gaps in the whole-of-life tracking system. Are you referring there to a dog that once it is transferred away from a registered participant there is no oversight by GWIC anymore? Can you explain to us what the gaps are?
Mr BECHINI: What I meant there is, many times, a litter of pups is born and they are sold to various owners. The owners do not register their ownership until well after the dog is broken in or tried out. Many times, the pup can remain in the breeder's name for up to 12 months. That breeder may have sold that dog nine months before then. So there is no accountability of where that pup has ended up. It could be in South Australia for all anyone knows, but as far as GWIC knows, that dog is still with the breeder. That is a lack of accountability to where that pup has ended up. Eventually, if it makes the grade, it will get registered and we will find out it is in South Australia with a trainer. But in that period, what has happened to it? That is not being policed hard enough, I feel, in their processes.
The full transcript of the hearing can be found in Hansard, here.