A ban on greyhound racing will come into effect in the ACT from May after controversial legislation passed.
It comes amid new animal welfare concerns raised by the ACT Government.
New data analysed by the Government shows more than one third of dogs injured while racing in Canberra over a 12-month period disappeared from competitive sport.
Just five of those 28 greyhounds are listed as retired, leaving 23 dogs with an uncertain fate.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay presented the data to the Legislative Assembly as part of the debate on the legislation to ban greyhound racing.
“These statistics illustrate a very real concern that the [Canberra Greyhound Racing Club] is not living up to its public commitment to a 100 per cent rehoming rate,” he said.
The Government analysed public Steward Reports and internal Greyhound Racing New South Wales data from September 2016 to August 2017.
It insists the ACT industry cannot be separated from the problems of live baiting and animal cruelty uncovered in New South Wales by a Four Corners investigation.
“As recent as last week, Greyhound Racing NSW banned a trainer for killing a greyhound puppy by smashing it over the head with a hammer twice,” Mr Ramsay said.
“This particular trainer has had 15 race starts at the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club.”
The Durkin Report into the ACT industry, commissioned by the Government, said the two industries were “inextricably linked”.
It found 94 per cent of dogs that raced in Canberra in 2016 were from New South Wales.
The NSW Government backflipped on its ban last year, just days from the ACT election, and is undertaking reforms.
They include better tracking of greyhounds to improve data collection, stricter licences, establishment of a greyhound integrity commission, tougher euthanasia rules and penalties for live baiting and a ban on keeping certain small animals that could be used as bait near greyhounds.
Vets say ban lacks animal welfare protections
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has written to the ACT Government expressing concerns about its legislation.
President Paula Parker is concerned the bill does not have a clear link between a new code of practice for greyhound owners and the penalties for breaching it.
The AVA also wants a ban on keeping small animals near where greyhounds are kept or trained, as recommended by the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel.
“Our view is that there should be no exemptions for rabbits, piglets or possums which have been used for live or dead baiting and that those provisions are enforced,” she said.
“It’s incredibly important that that happens because that must be a thing of the past and that must be strictly enforced.”
There is no evidence that live baiting has been used in the ACT.
Ms Parker said it was important that animal welfare rules in the ACT are at least as strong as those in other states.
The Government says it is confident the new legislation contains sufficient protections for animal welfare and will continue to work with the AVA to develop the code of practice.
Industry says the fight is not over
About 100 members of the NSW and ACT greyhound racing industries marched on the Legislative Assembly yesterday to protest the ban.
They believe there is still time to reverse the decision.
Canberra Greyhound Racing Club chairman Alan Tutt claims ending racing is a “political stunt”.
“Shane Rattenbury … is holding a gun at Andrew Barr’s head and saying ‘we’ll play Russian roulette with people’s lives’,” he said.
“It’s just unfair.”
The industry has launched legal action against the decision.
Mr Tutt said the Canberra club has the support of the sport nationally.
“They believe we’re the thin edge of the wedge and this could be the start of greyhound racing being banned Australia-wide and in New Zealand, based on the Greens who are the balance of power in the ACT,” he said.
“They realise this could be the start of a domino effect.”
Industry members also fear it will be prohibitively expensive to own and register greyhounds in the ACT under the new licence fees.
Opposition MLA Mark Parton labelled the new laws reprehensible.
“The people of the local industry are absolutely devastated, they are gutted, they are almost crushed,” he said.
New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro has promised to investigate building a training facility just across the ACT border in Queanbeyan.
“How totally absurd it will seem if and when we get to the stage that a sparkling new greyhound track is being built in Queanbeyan, six kilometres east of the current facility,” Mr Parton said.
“When that occurs many will be saying ‘what was the point?'”