Top trainer fined after five greyhounds die during Cook Strait ferry crossing

A top trainer has been fined after five greyhounds, aged three to four years-old, died from heat and a lack of oxygen during a Cook Strait ferry crossing in January.

Greyhound trainer John McInerney was fined $5000 and ordered to pay costs of $6500, while his part-time employee Ray Armstrong was fined an additional $1000.

During the crossing from Wellington to Picton, six greyhounds were left in the back of a van for nearly four hours near the ferry's centre casing, which funnels hot air upwards from the engine room.

The only source of ventilation for the dogs was the driver and passenger windows, which were half down, and driver Mr Armstrong had not advised crew that he had animals in his van.

After the ferry crossing, Mr Armstrong made a "cursory check" in the dark at Picton and thought the dogs were sleeping.

He then travelled for 12 hours to Darfield and did not remove the dogs from the van or provide any water during this time.

On arrival, only one dog had survived the journey.

The Racing Investigation Unit concluded that the dogs died from a combined lack of oxygen and heat during the ferry passage.

The Judicial Control Authority for Racing (JCAR) found that Mr Armstrong made a number of negligent acts, including failing to ensure the greyhounds had adequate ventilation and were not at risk of overheating, leaving the dogs unaccompanied for four hours during the crossing, and failing to check them properly after the crossing.

JCAR found Mr McInerney had failed to adhere to the Code of Welfare and provide proper care, and said he is ultimately responsible for the greyhounds' welfare as their trainer.

"Mr Armstrong was employed and instructed by Mr McInerney. Mr McInerney failed to provide proper care for his greyhounds, by failing to provide sufficient instructions to Mr Armstrong to enable him to provide proper care for the greyhounds during the period the greyhounds were in his care," the Authority said.

The authority noted that Mr McInerney transported some 6000 dogs a year to race meetings in New Zealand over 30 years, and this was the first issue he'd had.

It also noted that he had alerted the authorities as soon as the deaths were made known to him.

Mr Armstrong said he regretted the loss of the five dogs, but thought they could have simply gone to sleep and not woken up.

Mr McInerney was fined $5000 and ordered to pay costs of $6500, while Mr Armstrong was fined $1000.