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We don't trust greyhound death figures: RSPCA

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Greyhound Racing SA has bowed to pressure by revealing nearly 500 healthy dogs were killed in South Australia over the past year, but the RSPCA says it doesn’t trust the figures and wants parliament to press ahead with an inquiry into the industry.

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This morning, Greyhound Racing South Australia (GRSA) revealed 482 dogs had been euthanized “unnecessarily” in South Australia in 2015-16.

The revelation came just hours before parliamentary vote on whether to launch an inquiry into the industry, and 18 months after the RSPCA first asked the industry to reveal its greyhound euthanasia rates.

According to the figures, 639 dogs were re-homed in South Australia in 2015-16 and 418 dogs were bred.

The industry claims it can reduce the unnecessary death rate to 140, and increase the number of re-homed dogs to 850, by 2017-18.

But the head of the RSPCA in South Australia, Tim Vasudeva, told InDaily the numbers needed to be independently verified, and the projections had no apparent basis in evidence.

“We can’t just trust them on their word,” said Vasudeva.

“The fact that it’s taken 18 months to get this tiny amount of data speaks volumes.

“You can’t project a trend from one year’s worth of data.”

He said the RSPCA had been asking GRSA for the past five years of euthanasia data since early last year.

But GRSA boss Matt Corby told FIVEaa radio this morning that his industry would eliminate unnecessary euthanasia in SA within two years, and claimed it had been the victim of a “witch hunt”.

“What we’re putting forward is actually best practise in racing,” he said.

“We need to make sure that all avoidable euthanasia is eliminated in two years.”

He said a parliamentary inquiry into the industry would be a waste of taxpayer funds and was: “a process that can only potentially bring more reputational damage to an industry that’s been subjected it a great deal of rigour and scrutiny over the last 18 months”.

“The biggest problem we face here is the campaign that has been waged against us and has been for the last 18 months … essentially a witch hunt.

“None of the issues that plagued New South Wales … exist in SA.”

He said Greyhound Racing SA would invest $1 million in its greyhound re-homing program.

But Vasudeva said a parliamentary inquiry was necessary to independently establish how many dogs die in the industry each year, and said he was “appalled” by Corby’s comments.

“For them to pretend that calls for transparency are a witch hunt is just disgraceful,” he said.

“The victim is not Greyhound Racing SA. The victims are the dogs.”

Greens MLC Tammy Franks, who is leading the push for a select committee inquiry in the Legislative Council, told InDaily the industry had to reduce the number of dogs it breeds each year in order to tackle the euthanasia rate.

She said the release of the figures was a “step in the right direction”, but that much more information was needed.

Racing Minister Leon Bignell said the Government supported the industry, and welcomed its decision to reveal the euthanasia, breeding, racing and re-homing figures.

He said the Government was “satisfied with the leadership shown by GRSA”.

“I welcome today’s decision by Greyhound Racing South Australia to publish the figures of greyhounds bred, raced, rehomed and euthanized,” Bignell said in a statement this morning.

 “Since racing was corporatised in 2000 by the former Liberal Government, the State Government has not been privy to this data.

“We have however encouraged GRSA to release the information.”

He said the Government had been working with GRSA on a “nation-leading” greyhound adoption program.

“Greyhound racing is a much loved sport in South Australia,” he said.

“The industry is worth about $50 million each year to the state and it employs hundreds of people.

“The State Government has been satisfied with the leadership shown by GRSA in terms of our state providing the very best conditions and highest standards anywhere in Australia.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign coordinator Claire Fryer said: “Four hundred eighty-two unnecessary greyhound deaths in 365 days is certainly nothing to be proud of” and that “industry figures are usually woefully understated”.

“While some greyhounds previously used for racing are being re-homed, many other dogs are languishing in shelters across the state, she said in a statement.

“Continuing to breed greyhounds takes away loving homes from the thousands of dogs who are euthanised in shelters across the country every year.

“The only way dogs win is if we shut down the tracks.”

This afternoon, Corby told InDaily the euthanasia figures were reliable because participants in the industry must report dog deaths as part of their licencing.

“This is supported by data collected from inspections of premises which occur up to twice annually,” said Corby.

“False or misleading reporting and/or failure to report are subject to penalty under the Rules of Racing.”

He said the projections for growth in the number of dogs re-homed was “based on growth of internal resourcing, the commencement of a new prison program at Mobilong, and the response to recent marketing strategies which has seen applications for foster and adoption growing at a significant rate”.

Corby said GRSA would not be releasing euthanasia rates from the past five years, adding: “We are focused on a solution and do not want to continue to get drawn into sidebar debate on historical performance or other context that bears no relevance to the target we are moving towards”.

“This is a voluntary disclosure and should not detract from the good work that we have done and are continuing to do,” he said.

Late last year, a spokesperson for the organisation said it would not be disclosing the number of greyhounds killed in South Australia because it would distract from the industry’s “broader dialogue” about programs it sponsors to re-home greyhounds considered unfit for racing.

Corby said any parliamentary enquiry would “only demonstrate GRSA’s strong performance in the areas that have been problematic elsewhere”.

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