Racing regulator issued up to 300 warnings to greyhound trainers over health and welfare failures in under a year

Newshub can reveal up to 300 warnings have been issued to greyhound trainers for health and welfare failures in less than a year.

The head of the Racing Integrity Board says "almost all" kennels visited since its inception last year have been issued with improvement notices.

And now a resignation at the top echelons of the sport is also imminent.  

Mike Clement, chief executive of the Racing Integrity Board, said the organisation has issued between 200 and 300 improvement notices against the kennels it's been auditing.

Problems identified include: 

  • Unvaccinated dogs

  • Unapproved medications being used

  • Treatment records not being kept

  • An increase in dental issues

  • More dogs found at some kennels than official records show

And improvement notices were not handed out to just a couple of trainers.

"A large number of those have been issued and I would be reasonably confident that that applies to almost all kennels," said Clement.

He said it's become clear many don't understand what the rules are.

"I think everybody's expectation is they should, [but] the reality is that they don't - they don't universally know what the standard is."

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Asked if it was good enough though they don't know what's expected in 2022, Clement said it's fair that it's called out.

"I think if you were to reflect on what's gone on in previous years, you would say your point is well made. It's not good enough."

Will Appelbe, investigations and rapid response manager for animal rights group SAFE, said given previous damning reviews, such widespread non-compliance is inexcusable. 

"At this point, I don't think the minister has any other choice but to ban greyhound racing."

And that's still on the cards. 

"There are still very disturbing and concerning things occurring," Racing Minister Grant Robertson said.

"That's why the Racing Integrity Board is doing its job. We have said this industry is on notice. 

"If they don't improve, they run the risk of closure."

Greyhound Racing NZ chief executive Glenda Hughes told Newshub greyhound racing is an industry like any other.

"It's a family of people and what we do have is we do have some problem children."

On Wednesday night, Newshub revealed one of the country's most successful trainers John McInerney has been charged by the Racing Integrity Board over racing a dog while it was injured. 

Newshub also obtained photos of injured dogs he was in charge of. 

Asked if McInerney was one of the problem children she was referring to, Hughes remained coy.

"From my perspective, I would not be willing to actually identify anybody as to who's the problem children and who isn't."

She said the images are distressing. 

"Our staff get really upset about any images of that type, so yes it is disappointing. But what I can say is that the majority of our people that run racing dogs, they are not doing that."

As for the audits, Hughes acknowledges there's work to do, saying attention by trainers had "slipped". 

However, she said all registered racing dogs are now up to date with their vaccinations after the audits showed there were problems. 

Hughes announced her resignation as chief executive of Greyhound Racing NZ on Wednesday afternoon. A statement from chairman Sean Hannan said Hughes had only intended to be acting chief for six months when appointed in 2019. 

The statement said a new CEO will be appointed in the next two months but Hughes would stay on to help the new boss until the end of the year.

Hughes told Newshub that the biggest challenge has been trying to portray greyhound racing in a positive light to the public.

"The majority of people involved in greyhound racing really care about their dogs, they love their dogs and they do their absolute best for them," she said.