Animal welfare

$6 million grant for Goulburn Greyhound Track revives animal welfare debate

Goulburn’s greyhound racing industry has received a $6 million boost from the NSW government to upgrade facilities. But according to an animal welfare group, no one will win. Photo: File.

The greyhound racing debate has resumed with the announcement this week that more than $6 million will be spent to upgrade Goulburn’s greyhound racing track to ‘state of the art’ standards.

Greyhound racing in the neighboring nation’s capital was banned in 2018 with then ACT Attorney General Gordon Ramsay claiming at the time that more than 94 per cent of greyhounds raced in Canberra were from NSW where “live bait” and “waste” had tarnished the reputation of the industry.

Since then, many greyhound rescue groups have sprung up, including some operating out of greyhound racing clubs, designed to find the animals in new safe homes after their careers, which can last as little as three years, finished.

This includes Greyhound Racing NSW, which runs a non-profit group, Greyhounds As Pets, which started in Illawarra in 2019. The brainchild of Shoalhaven Greyhound Racing Club, the program was designed to introduce animals to the general public by as calm and affectionate animals as they can be, after the race. This repatriation program was later used as a model for other greyhound adoption groups, including the ACT. The Canberra Greyhound Racing Club is still active, but races at Goulburn.

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Announcing plans to upgrade the Goulburn facility this week, NSW Hospitality and Racing Minister Kevin Anderson said the NSW Government was working with Greyhound Racing NSW on upgrading the track to “transform Goulburn into a state-of-the-art facility and provide a huge boost to industry in southern New South Wales”.

“Now that the concept plans have been finalized, Greyhound Racing NSW will continue to push the project forward and get the shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” said Mr Anderson.

“The Goulburn upgrade would also see the installation of floodlighting, allowing the facility to host night racing for the first time and an upgrade to the existing round track with bends and a improved running surfaces for racing and testing.”

Straight racetracks, considered safer for dogs than curved or round tracks, will be installed at Goulburn.

MP for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman said: “The improvements to our track will bring people into town and provide better facilities for our local coaches. I welcome this announcement which will allow Goulburn to organize better races in conditions focused on animal welfare.

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But Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) director Kylie Field said Region Goulburn’s proposal was a bit “disgusting”.

“What they’re doing is using $6 million of taxpayers’ money for a dog kill trail,” she said. “This is government-sanctioned animal abuse.”

Ms Field said trainers were still raising greyhounds at a fast pace, but there were little to no checks on what happened to them after racing.

She said those rescue groups were doing their best, but it would be impossible for anyone to bring all the greyhounds back there now.

“It’s like the Wild West,” she said. “Thousands of dogs die every year in Australia, hundreds in New South Wales alone.”

CPG uses figures from race stewards to track the number of greyhound racing deaths. Its latest data indicates that three greyhounds die every week in Australia while racing, with 28 injured. NSW is the deadliest state with 31 greyhound deaths already reported so far this year.

Ms Field questioned the value of such a facility to the people of Goulburn, saying whether the dogs ran on a straight or curved track, it was always a ‘killer track’.

“I would have thought that $6 million in taxpayers’ money would have been much more welcome in a place like Goulburn if they had gone to the hospital,” she said.

“Imagine what the hospital could have done with that kind of money.”