Head of NZ Racing 'uncomfortable' with inactivity on animal welfare

The head of the New Zealand Racing Board says he's uncomfortable with the time it's taking for the greyhound industry to address serious welfare issues.

A critical report in 2017 by former High Court Judge Rodney Hansen QC, found high rates of dogs being euthanised and injured. It was the second damning assessment of the sport since 2013, which NZ Racing Board CEO John Allen says he's not happy about.

"I'm uncomfortable that it's taking as long as it is to make progress," he told Newshub.

More than 1000 dogs were euthanised in the past four years. Mr Allen says they're working with Greyhound NZ to address the recommendations that Mr Hansen has made.

There were 20 recommendations. The report found that 1271 dogs had gone missing in the past four years with no record.

"It is true that Mr Hansen has said there some dogs are unaccounted for," Mr Allen said, though he promised there would be a "significant reduction" in the number of dogs being needlessly killed.

One of the aspects the industry has singled out for improvement is its database of dogs. They want to track with certainty and know what happens to dogs from birth, to when they begin racing, to when they leave the industry. Currently that information is not known.

Amid poor welfare reports, Newshub revealed last year that top trainer Brendon Cole was at the centre of allegations he's been live baiting his dogs.

Photos were given to the industry almost eight months ago, but investigative body the Racing Integrity Unit is yet to formally investigate. They've chosen to wait for the SPCA instead.

"It's a very complex situation," says Greyhound Racing NZ CEO Mauro Barsi.

"You've got a potential criminal matter and a potential civil matter at the same time, and I'm honestly not going to get in the middle of that."

Mr Allen said the industry hasn't investigated because it would come under the Animal Welfare Act, adding that random kennel inspections are helping prevent bad behaviour.

However, a trainer Newshub spoke to on Thursday said the inspections are a "joke", and owners are usually given a heads up before they take place.

If you have further information, contact Michael Morrah in confidence by emailing him at michaemorrah@mediaworks.co.nz.