Around 40% of the 11,000 greyhounds bred in Australia each year are
surplus to requirements.
The average lifespan of a racing greyhound is 1.5 years, the average lifespan of a non-racing greyhound is 10-12 years.
An estimated 750 greyhounds are injured on Australian greyhound racing tracks each month.
State governments invest millions of dollars to prop up the greyhound racing industry due to the revenue generated by gambling.
Greyhounds are drugged with a range of banned substances including EPO, amphetamines, methamphetamines, caffeine, anabolic steroids, Viagra and cocaine. These can have serious psychological and physical effects.
Greyhounds are exported to countries that have poor or no animal welfare protections and are also vulnerable to entering the dog meat trade.
Australia is one of only eight countries in the world with a commercial greyhound racing industry — but it’s by far the biggest.
While there are greyhound racing tracks in every part of Australia, most racing is concentrated in the eastern states. The total number of active greyhound tracks in NSW is 34 and there are 14 in Victoria. By comparison, the UK has 22 tracks, Ireland has 16 and the US has eight.
The greyhound racing industry is financially supported by:
- a gambling industry that is the largest per capita in the world,
- Australia’s main political parties.
Each year in Australia, AUD$4B is gambled on the results of greyhound racing, with state governments reaping million of dollars in tax revenue. For example in NSW, the greyhound racing industry generates AUD$90M per year for the NSW State Government in tax.
Tabcorp is the market leader in Australian wagering, operating under the TAB brand. TAB takes 1.1 billion bets annually and has 57% revenue market share. In 2017, Tabcorp announced that NSW greyhound racing represented around five per cent of Tabcorp’s total wagering turnover.
Greyhound racing is broadcast on Tabcorp’s subsidiary Sky Racing which transmits to more than 5,000 outlets across Australia and into 51 countries around the world via satellite, cable, mobile and the Internet. Sky Racing has a reach of more than two million Australian homes, but racing fans can also watch racing in hotels, clubs or TABs.
RSPCA Australia considers that there are significant and entrenched animal welfare problems inherent in the greyhound racing industry. These include problems with over-supply, injuries, physical overexertion, inadequate housing, lack of socialisation and environmental enrichment, training, illegal live baiting, administration of banned or unregistered substances, export and the fate of unwanted greyhounds (high wastage and high euthanasia rates). Read more
Evidence clearly demonstrates that animal cruelty and poor animal welfare outcomes are heavily entrenched and inherent to greyhound racing and that these problems have passed a threshold making it highly unlikely cultural attitudes or practices can be changed. Therefore animal welfare problems are unlikely to be resolved. Read more
Australian Veterinary Association
The primary concern of the Australian Veterinary Association is the health and welfare of the dogs involved in the Greyhound racing industry. At the present time, the veterinary profession is not being utilised to its maximum potential in the development and governance of the industry. Many greyhounds with health concerns are not getting access to adequate veterinary care, which is a trend that needs to be addressed. Read more
Greyhound racing begins as a gamble and for most dogs ends in tragedy. Every year in Australia, around 10,000 greyhound pups are bred in the hope of finding a quick runner. But not every dog is suited to racing. And like a lottery ticket that has failed to pay out, many dogs and pups who don’t make the grade are discarded. Read more
In 2015, Four Corners broadcast shocking footage of live rabbits and possums being tortured and ripped to pieces in order to “live bait” greyhounds – a practice that was banned in 1967.
Following the broadcast and many reports of industry cruelty, the board of Greyhound Racing NSW was stood down. In addition, the Honourable Michael McHugh was appointed to lead a Special Commission of Inquiry into greyhound racing in NSW. The findings of this Inquiry raised serious questions about whether the industry should be allowed to continue.
The McHugh Report as it was known described the overwhelming evidence of “systemic animal cruelty”, including the mass killing of greyhounds, the widespread practice of live baiting, racing deaths and injuries, and mistreatment of the dogs.
The inquiry found that of the 97,783 greyhounds bred in NSW in the previous 12 years, evidence suggested that somewhere between 48,891 and 68,448 dogs were killed because they were considered “unsuitable or too slow for racing”. An internal Greyhounds Australasia document revealed that greyhound racing was responsible for the deaths of up to 17,000 healthy greyhounds in Australia each year. This included 7,000 puppies and young dogs who never even make it to the track.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Stephen Rushton SC stated, “Examination of this issue will necessarily raise the question of whether a greyhound industry can be sustained without the mass slaughter of young animals.”
The evidence was so incriminating that Mike Baird, the NSW Premier at the time, announced a greyhound racing ban to take effect in NSW from 2017. However, within three months of this announcement, Premier Baird succumbed to political pressure and reversed the ban.
Official inquiries in Victoria and Queensland at around the same time also concluded that the greyhound racing industry in those states deserved another chance to reform.
- ABC, Four Corners, 16 February 2015: “Making a Killing” broadcast
- Special Commission of Inquiry into Greyhound Racing in New South Wales, Michael McHugh AC QC, 16 June 2016 – Volume 1 – Volume 2 – Volume 3
- ABC News, 21 September 2015: Greyhound industry kills up to 17,000 young dogs, warned about being shut down, inquiry hears
- Vet Practice Magazine, 27 September 2016: Dr Greg Bryant’s experience of NSW greyhound racing tracks
On 11 October 2016, Premier Baird appointed a Greyhound Industry Reform Panel to provide recommendations on potential new animal welfare and governance arrangements to reform the industry.
The Greyhound Industry Reform Panel made 122 recommendations, all of which, with one exception, were accepted by the Government. These recommendations led to a new Greyhound Racing Act, new Greyhound Racing Regulations, new Greyhound Racing Policy and the establishment of the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC).
Recommendation 73 of the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel report which was accepted by the NSW Government states: A new greyhound racing register should be established and managed by the integrity commission to capture the identity and whereabouts of all greyhounds throughout their lifecycle.
This mechanism is central to reforming the industry as it prevents the killing of thousands of greyhounds each year. As of March 2020, GWIC admits that it is not always happening. This is due to a legislative restriction which prevents GWIC from keeping tabs on retired dogs.
This situation is not GWIC’s fault. Regulators can only do what they are empowered to do. It is the responsibility of the relevant NSW Minister, currently Kevin Anderson, and the NSW state government.
- NSW Government Media Release, 28 March 2017: Response to Greyhound Reform Panel
- NSW Government response to the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel recommendations
- CPG Response to GWIC comments on NSW Government’s failure to protect greyhounds
In April 2015, following the live baiting expose, the Queensland Government announced a Commission of Inquiry into the Queensland greyhound racing industry. The Commission returned its final report on 1 June 2015. The next day Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk abolished all Queensland Racing Boards responsible for greyhound and horse racing. Additionally, Queensland Racing CEO Condon was ordered to demonstrate why he should keep his job after the Commission found live baiting and other animal cruelty issues were most likely widespread in the greyhound racing industry.
The Commission’s report known as the MacSporran Report after Commissioner Alan MacSporran QC, made 15 recommendations including that the industry should be separated into two parts: Racing Queensland and the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC).
As at 31 January 2020, eight of the 15 recommendations had not been implemented. Recommendation 7 is one of the most critical recommendations as it concerns whole of life tracking. It stipulates the development of a single standardised form that reports all aspects of a greyhound’s whereabouts and status. The recommendation states that the form “should make it plain that sufficient information is required to enable the dog and/or person responsible for it to be located.” This recommendation was initially due to be implemented by December 2015. The tracking system is currently scheduled to be in production by the end of May 2020.
The original implementation dates for the recommendations yet to be implemented range from late 2015 to mid 2016. A number of the recommendations were granted a three year government deferral in September 2017.
According to the QRIC Animal Welfare Strategy 2016-2020, QRIC has a mandate to safeguard the welfare of racing animals. One of the key activities still to be implemented is: “Improve whole of life tracking for racing animals”.
- ABC Radio, transcript of interview with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, 2 June 2015: Qld Racing Boards dumped, CEO stood down, in wake of greyhound inquiry
- Queensland Greyhound Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry Final Report
- Queensland Government response to the Queensland Greyhound COI Final Report
- Implementation status of COI recommendations, 31 January 2020
- Queensland Racing Integrity Commission Animal Welfare Strategy 2016-2020
In 2015, following the live baiting scandal, the Victorian government launched two separate enquiries into this exposure of ongoing animal cruelty. One was led by Victoria’s chief vet Dr Charles Milne and one was an own motion inquiry by Sal Perna, Victoria’s Racing Integrity Commissioner.
Following the release of an interim report, the entire board of Greyhound Racing Victoria resigned despite the report finding there was no evidence that the GRV board knew about live baiting or covered up the scandal. However, Perna said it would be “naïve” to believe that live baiting has been eradicated. He went on to say, “The weight of information from industry participants indicates that the practice continues to occur as a clandestine method of educating, breaking in and training of greyhounds for racing.”
The review by Dr Charles Milne made 50 recommendations in relation to the industry’s approach to animal welfare. As with the NSW and Queensland State Government reports, a key recommendation was related to whole of life tracking: “5.2 That Greyhounds Australasia coordinate the collection and dissemination of greyhound lifecycle information.” Currently, there is no centralised whole of life tracking maintained by the Victorian racing industry.
- 2015 Own Motion Inquiry into Live Baiting in Greyhound Racing in Victoria, Sal Perna, Racing Integrity Commissioner
- Investigation into animal welfare and cruelty in the Victorian greyhound industry, Final Report 30 April 2015, Dr Charles Milne, Chief Veterinary Officer
- The Guardian, 11 March 2015: Entire Greyhound Racing Victoria Board Resigns in Wake of Live Baiting Scandal
Injuries are very common in greyhound racing causing intense pain, suffering and distress. Serious bone fractures of the leg are the most common injury. Some fractures are communited which is a high velocity injury more commonly associated with car accidents or being shot. Muscle injuries are also very common.
Greyhounds are put under intense pressure when racing and this physical over-exertion causes seizures due to a lack of oxygen, heat-related stress and the collapse of greyhounds post-race. Serious injuries can lead to greyhounds dying on the track or being put to death at the end of the race.
Between 1 January 2020 and 31 March 2020, 63 greyhounds had been killed on Australian tracks. The majority of these greyhounds fractured a leg during the race which is often a highly treatable injury. Despite the state Rebate Schemes, none of these greyhounds were considered worth the estimated $4,000 to repair their injury.
Based on racing industry Stewards Reports, CPG estimates that 2300 greyhounds suffered injuries between 1 January 2020 and 31 March 2020. Additionally, the RSPCA reports that “additional injuries will occur during pre-training, training, trialling and non-TAB races, however these statistics are generally not published. It is important to note that injuries may be detected post-race day and these injuries may not be formally recorded.”
On-track injuries and deaths have not changed significantly over the past five years and in some cases there has been an increase. For example, the NSW Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission reported that Q4 2019 had the highest racing injury rate of any quarter since injury reporting began in 2016. It eclipsed the previous record set in Q1 2019.
- NSW Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission: Analysis of Greyhound Racing Injuries, 1 October 2019 – 31 December 2019
- RSPCA Knowledge Base: What are the animal welfare issues with greyhound racing
The most catastrophic injuries occur when greyhounds collide at speed of up to 68km per hour, particularly at track bends where they are attempting to turn and follow a lure position that is too close to the inside rail. This is compounded by too many greyhounds starting each race. To reduce injuries, greyhounds can run on straight tracks; the number of greyhounds can be reduced per race; and a lure can be attached to an extended arm. For more information, see the Optimal track design identified by UTS section below.
By far the most common injury suffered by racing greyhounds is a broken leg. These are often treatable injuries at an estimated cost of $4,000 depending on the severity, but most dogs are put down. Greyhounds also suffer compound fractures and occasionally communited fractures which is where the bone is shattered and more often associated with being hit by a car or shot.
Injury footage: see 18 seconds in, one year old greyhound Entanglement (black and white and wearing no 8 rug) dies as a result of a collision with another dog.
In 2017, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) released a report titled “Identifying Optimal Greyhound Track Design for Greyhound Safety and Welfare”. The report was commissioned by Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW). UTS analysed injury data for NSW greyhound racing tracks and used computer simulation and modelling to identify improved track design.
It found that “Approximately 80% of all catastrophic and major injuries were caused by congestion and incidents such as checking, collision and galloping.” As a result, the primary recommendation of the UTS Report states, “Clearly the best option is to use only straight tracks.“
Other key recommendations were that the number of greyhounds in each race be reduced from eight to six and that an extended lure be installed at all tracks.
These recommendations have been ignored. Straight track racing is conducted on only three Australian tracks and the proposed $39m track at Ipswich will have two curved tracks and only one straight track.
There has also been a marked lack of action by GRNSW, Greyhound Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing SA to adopt six dog racing as a standard race field size.
Not every dog is suited to racing. Around 40% of the 11,000 greyhounds bred in Australia each year are surplus to requirements. The industry calls them ‘initial wastage’ and they are discarded much like a losing lottery ticket. This is compounded by ongoing ‘wastage’ as greyhounds are retired from racing or discarded because they are injured or do not perform as well as expected. Wastage refers to animals bred for only one purpose and that are discarded and often subsequently killed.
Public pressure and state government inquiries have caused breeding figures to fall. however, the figures still do not add up and many young greyhounds are killed when they prove ‘unprofitable’.
Not only are participants lured by prize money inflated by state governments but also by breeding incentive schemes. This is despite the industry knowing there is a huge over supply of greyhounds.
A greyhound’s racing career is relatively short. They usually begin racing at around 18 months and will be retired by two to five years. This might be earlier if they are injured or do not perform as required. A large number of unwanted greyhounds will be killed despite being relatively young, healthy and rehomable.
Another animal welfare issue is the use of surgical artificial insemination which involves highly invasive and painful surgery performed on female greyhounds. This surgery is banned in some EU countries as it is considered unethical.
- RSPCA Knowledge Base: What are the animal welfare issues with greyhound racing
There is a constant oversupply of greyhounds in Australia as the industry breeds far too many dogs in the hope of finding the one that will run fast enough to earn money.
While state governments have committed to whole of life tracking for each greyhound, this has not been implemented in any state. This means there is no mechanism to match the number of greyhounds bred to those greyhounds who either do not race or are retired after racing.
This lack of tracking and transparency means that thousands of young and healthy greyhounds are liable to be killed each year.
Example – NSW
- About 3500 greyhounds were whelped last financial year but there aren’t 3500 people in NSW able to adopt a greyhound.
- Of the 4415 greyhounds born in 2015/16, and 3056 in 2016/17, more than 1000 dogs each year should have been adopted.
- Added to this should be the greyhounds that were retired. Assuming they were retired after four years, CPG believes about 4000 dogs should have been retired, bringing the total number of greyhounds available for adoption in 2017/18 to 5810 dogs, and 5605 in 2018/19.
- Yet only 1810 were re-homed in 2017/18 by Greyhound Adoption Program NSW and other private re-homers, according to the GRNSW 2018 Annual Report.
This leaves 4000 unaccounted for in 2017/18 alone. Where are they?
- ABC Online, 22 February 2020: Greyhounds still disappearing in NSW as Integrity Commission tries to seal cracks
- Attachment 1 to CPG submission to NSW Upper House Inquiry on Animal Cruelty Laws: The Disappeared Greyhounds
In 2018 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that greyhounds test positive for drugs 10 times more than horses at races. While the greyhound industry runs drug testing programs, doping continues with 10 guilty verdicts handed down by Greyhound Racing Victoria in December 2019. The financial penalties ranged from nothing to $2,500 for a repeat offender.
Dogs test positive to a range of substances including amphetamines, methamphetamines, caffeine, anabolic steroids, Erythropoietin (EPO), Viagra and cocaine, among others. These have serious physical and psychological effects.
In 2019, the NSW Government provided $500,000 to artificially inflate the prize money for the world’s richest greyhound race, the Million Dollar Chase. Only for the Million Dollar Chase consolation winner Nangar Jack to test positive for doping with EPO. In addition, and according to Humane Society International, one of the race conditions was that the winning greyhound must not be killed by its owner.
- Castle Rock was found with benzoylecgonine in her system after leading the pack at Orange Park Kennel Club on July 19, 2018. This was the third time she tested cocaine-positive.
- A two-year-old black and white male named Scottish Rogue was also found to be coked up when he ran a race at the Jacksonville dog track just two months later.
Cocaine is a Class 1 drug, a substance that has the highest potential to influence races, and the last full year of drug data, 2017, showed a spike in Class 1 drug positives in the United States.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 2018: Greyhounds test positive for drugs 10 times more than horses at races
- Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 2019: Million dollar chase greyhound tests positive to EPO
- Guardian Australia, 27 Jan 2017: Greyhound doping – 51 NSW trainers charged
- Humane Society International, 24 October 2018: Million dollar disgrace as NSW government funds a dying, unreformed industry
Evidence demonstrates that most greyhounds are kept under inadequate conditions that fail to meet their physiological, behavioural and social needs. Additional welfare problems such as the routine use of inhumane anti-barking muzzles and the widespread use of painful surgical artificial insemination methods on female breeding greyhounds have also been identified.
Greyhounds, like all dogs, are social animals. The recognised critical socialisation period is 3-18 weeks which is when greyhound puppies should be safely exposed to as many new sensations as possible. Of the 60% of whelped puppies that enter a race kennel, a significant number have spent most of their time in a paddock with very limited contact with people. This lack of socialisation leads to fear, anxiety, phobias and anti-social behaviour.
Once greyhounds reach the racing kennel there is very little opportunity for mental stimulation, play or quality of life. Many greyhounds are kept in cramped, barren, single-dog kennels with no opportunity to socialise with people or other dogs. For example, the draft NSW Greyhound Welfare Code of Practice specifies that a greyhound can be kept in a kennel that is 1.2 x 1.8 metres and exercised for only 30 minutes a day.
Animal welfare groups see this as unacceptable and in contravention of one of the Five Freedoms as defined by the RSPCA: “Freedom to express normal behaviour: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.”
Mass graves – evidence
- Daily Telegraph: 100 greyhounds killed and dumped in Hunter Valley mass grave
- Sydney Morning Herald: RSPCA uncover mass grave in Western Sydney
- Courier Mail: Some of the 55 greyhounds in mass grave may have been beaten to death
Illegal exports – evidence
- Daily Mail UK – Exclusive: Injected with arsenic, Viagra and cocaine to make them go faster in win-or-die races, the bloodthirsty trade of unwanted Australian greyhounds to Asia and South America exposed
- ABC, 30 Report: Australian greyhounds deemed too slow exported to Macau, China against industry rules
- New Matilda: At least Barnaby Joyce is consistent when it comes to his cruelty to dogs
Bled out – evidence
- ABC, 7.30 Report: Bled dry – the fate of greyhound racing’s ‘wastage’
Handed over for scientific experiments – evidence
- The Age: Victoria lab experiments kill 100 dogs for drug and dental research
- Humane Research Report: Dogs killed twice deliberately
- Humane Research Case Study: Electrodes placed into healthy dog brains
Mistreated – evidence
IBISWorld is a company that provides independent and up to date research for over 500 industries including Australia’s top 2000 companies. In its 2017 annual report, IBISWorld described the Horse and Dog Racing industry as being in the declining stage of its economic lifecycle.
Continuing this trend, IBISWorld states in an excerpt from its Horse and Dog Racing industry outlook (2019-2024) that, “The Horse and Dog Racing industry is forecast to continue declining over the next five years. Race day attendances are projected to continue decreasing over the period. Increasing animal welfare concerns and growing competition from other events and media are projected to drive the industry’s decline. In addition, per capita gambling expenditure is anticipated to fall over the next five years, further limiting the industry’s performance.”
Another indication that the industry is failing economically is the government support required to keep the industry viable. In NSW, this extended to the Government artificially inflating the prize money for the “richest race in the world”, the Million Dollar Chase, with $500,000 of taxpayers’ money.
This financial lifeline is most in evidence in the three biggest industries in Australia – NSW, Victoria, and Queensland.
- In 2017, after the backflip on the greyhound racing ban, the NSW Government committed to spending $40 million on the industry.
- Since November 2014, the Victorian Labor Government has provided $11.5 million in grants to the greyhound racing industry through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund.
- As reported in the Queensland Budget 2019-2020, Budget Measures, “the Government is providing additional funding of $131.1 million over five years for Racing Queensland to increase prize money and support initiatives for the racing industries, including $119.1 million for the Queensland thoroughbred racing industry and $12 million for the greyhound and harness racing codes.”
The Queensland Government is also planning to build a new $39 million dollar greyhound racing track in Ipswich. There is widespread community resistance to the new track with a petition to the Queensland Government gathering 50,000 signatures. In 2017, after a five-year campaign led by Animal Liberation Queensland, plans for a greyhound track at Logan were scrapped.
In 2020, Toyota Australia, Volkswagen Australia and Optus along with other high profile Australian companies cancelled their sponsorship of greyhound racing.
Once they were alerted to the realities of greyhound racing, they were quick to disassociate themselves from the industry. For example, Toyota stated: “Toyota Australia does not and will never sponsor greyhound racing. It does not align with our brand at any level.”
The annual Australian gambling statistics report compiled by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office is considered the most comprehensive gambling snapshot in Australia.
According to the latest report, Australians are the biggest gamblers on earth, losing more than $24 billion in 2017/18. This was a 5% increase on 2016/17.
If this is averaged out across the 19.75 million Australians over 18 (based on ABS statistics), this is over $12,000 lost on gambling per person. Given how averages work, this means an enormous number of people will be losing thousands and thousands of dollars to the gambling industry each year.
One explanation put forward for Australia’s nationwide gambling addiction is that it is a cultural preference: having a punt is one of the mainstays of our national identify.
According to The Monthly “The other explanation for why Australians became the world’s biggest gamblers during the 1990s was that the expansion of gambling was a deliberate government policy choice.” While the reliance of state governments on gambling revenue is well known, The Monthly goes on to say, “A more important factor in sustaining the status quo has been the political power of the gambling industry.” The evidence of this can be seen in the greyhound racing industry where a financially failing industry is propped up with taxpayers’ money.
$3.5 billion was lost on race betting in 2017/18, a 7.1% increase from 2016/2017. A 2017 report by the Australian Gambling Research Centre found that gambling problems are concentrated in the racing sector. It was concluded in the report that nearly one million Australian adults gambled regularly on the races. These adults were twice as likely to experience gambling-related problems as the regular Australian gambler.
Following the release of the Australian gambling statistics report, Reverend Tim Costello, Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, said the impact of these disturbingly high losses could no longer be tolerated.
“Gambling harm encompasses everything from the loss of homes and relationships to the loss of lives through deaths by suicide associated with gambling harm. There are direct connections in some instances between gambling harm and family violence and mental ill-health.
“When you consider for every person directly experiencing gambling harm it is estimated at least six more people connected to those people experience some impact, we are talking about an issue that affects an extraordinary number of Australians.”
- Queensland Government Statisticians’ Office: Australian gambling statistics, 2017/18
- The Monthly, June 2019: The lie of responsible gambling
- Australian Institute of Family Services, Australian Gambling Research Centre: Race betting in Australia
- Probono Australia, The public health issue that’s staring us in the face but being ignored