A Bill introduced by Greens MLC Tammy Franks would require mandatory reporting of the number of registered and unregistered greyhounds euthanised each year – and the manner in which they died – as well as mandating that Greyhound Racing SA [GRSA] is subject to Freedom of Information laws, with the industry body currently exempt.
GRSA undertook in 2016 to “make its primary breeding and euthanasia data publicly available”, but critics have maintained there is still a lack of adequate regulation on the industry.
GRSA’s Risk and Compliance Manager Derek Kordick has told a parliamentary committee established to examine the proposed legislation that the industry had been in discussion with the RSPCA about their concerns over the level of public data, and “as a result, GRSA has accepted a proposal… to expand the datasets that are publicly available”.
“The current way it’s done, I can accept, is probably a little bit hard for some people,” he conceded.
A transcript of Kordick’s evidence, delivered on April 16, said he had hoped to have the new reporting regime established by last month, but “it will [now] be in May” – although it was at the time awaiting board approval.
“I assume it will get board approval—I am not concerned that I will not,” he said.
“We will phase it in from this financial year, 2021 – it is going to be… a quarterly release of monthly data.
“Obviously we are late for 2021, so we won’t meet that this year, but this year’s release I am hoping will be a monthly breakdown at the end of 2021 and then we will do it by quarter.”
Kordick said GRSA “will start with the number of dogs whelped or born and then progress through the racing career – so when they are an eligible age to race, and very specifically in the middle of that racing career, which is of interest to everybody, the deaths and injuries”.
“So, rather than just have a global euthanasia number… what GRSA can do is expand that detail out into subcategories [including] non-assisted deaths due to illness and injury… and then look at categories of euthanasia due to injury, illness and age and temperament… and then another category dealing with deaths at the track, which can include deaths due to accident, illness or acute medical issues or euthanasia,” he said.
“Although this is somewhat in a state of flux, I am also able to focus on injuries, which at the moment in the annual report really is only a percentage per thousand runners.
“This is subject to some discussion at a national level, but we can report on injuries in categories of minor, medium, major and catastrophic, and that relates to the number of what are called stand-down days or days that a dog is not allowed to race.”
Kordick said he hoped the data would be published on a website, saying: “I am hopeful that that will address some issues of the questions that have been raised in relation to transparency.”
“Obviously these are voluntary initiatives by GRSA and, as this committee is well aware, we are not subject to the requirements that some other states are,” he said.
He said other states with mandated reporting requirements “actually have a dedicated funded body that do this with their own funding, their own resources”.
“We do this with our own funding and our own resources [and] we are very proud of the fact that we can get through it without being too much of a burden on the government in relation to that,” he said.
GRSA maintained it should not be subject to FoI laws, arguing it is “a not-for-profit company that has the role to both regulate and facilitate greyhound racing” and is “not supported by a separate regulatory body that’s funded to deal with resources such as freedom of information issues”.
“A requirement like that would put considerable and punitive expense on the organisation to deal with those types of requests,” he said.
“We hope that this proposal goes some way to addressing that.”
He said the industry “accepts” that “just my coming here saying that we voluntarily are going to do it may not be enough”, suggesting a memorandum of understanding or other agreement “with another agency, perhaps the RSPCA, where we can explain to another agency where we get our data from”.
However, asked by Labor MP Susan Close whether the reform proposal was presented as an alternative to mandated reporting requirements or as a way to meet them if they’re introduced, Kordick replied: “I would opt for the first answer, but I would plan for the second, if that makes sense.”
GRSA did not respond to inquiries thus morning.
Franks told InDaily the proposal represented a “big shift”, but added: “It’s not the first time GRSA, in response to public pressure, has promised to be more transparent.”
“They [previously] said self-regulation was the solution [but] they can’t be trusted to be transparent, and they should be accountable to the public.”
She said GRSA was “the least transparent greyhound racing association in the country, and the one without any appropriate or independent integrity oversight either”.
Franks has previously sought to establish a standalone select committee inquiry into the industry – following an influential ABC Four Corners report in 2015 – but the motion was not supported after GRSA pledged a more robust regime of self-reporting.
In a 2016 GRSA media release, CEO Matt Corby said: “Our industry believes that it can only begin to meaningfully move forward by making its primary breeding and euthanasia data publicly available.”
“Further speculation and misinformation regarding GRSA’s performance in the area of animal welfare can only be counter-productive to the good work that we are doing to achieve our rehoming targets,” he said at the time.
National advocacy body CPG [Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds] said there needs to be a national greyhound racing register “to fully address data transparency, given dogs are transferred interstate”.
CPG national president Dennis Anderson said: “This must be a public document which covers all states.”
“Any privacy concerns could be readily handled by simply redacting owners’ and trainers’ addresses,” he said.
Anderson noted CPG’s analysis of SA’s data to date shows “more greyhounds are adopted than are born”, which suggests “the need for GRSA to improve its data”.
“Interstate transfers to SA could be the reason, but without a national register which tracks all Australian racing dogs this remains unclear,” he said.
“After dogs leave the racing industry, they are removed from state racing registers and tend to ‘disappear’ – we want to know where those dogs are [and] how many have been destroyed.”
CPG says 18 racing greyhounds died in SA while hundreds more were injured, “but there is insufficient data at the moment to calculate how many dogs are unaccounted for post-racing”.
RSPCA SA animal welfare advocate Rebekah Eyers told InDaily there was currently “not sufficient detail reported publicly” on deaths and injuries.
She said the RSPCA also wanted more data on the number of dogs entering and exiting the racing industry.
“We’ve seen some improvement with regard to [reporting] re-homing and euthanasia, but not as much detail as we’d like to see,” she said.
“Generally in our communications with GRSA they’ve agreed to publish more data publicly, but there’s still a lot of work to do there.”
She said the RSPCA couldn’t comment on the industry’s new commitments “until we see more information published”.
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