Top greyhound trainer faces disqualification from industry after dog tests positive for meth

One of the country's highest-earning greyhound trainers is set to be kicked out of the industry after one of his racing dogs tested positive for methamphetamine and another was mistreated.

John McInerney, who trains hundreds of dogs in Darfield near Christchurch, will be disqualified for a period of up to 18 months.

But animal welfare groups say the penalty is "weak" as he'll continue to make money despite the disqualification.

John McInerney is a greyhound track kingpin. He made more than $1.5 million on the track in the past season.

But today, at a Racing Integrity Board penalty hearing, he was facing disqualification of between 12 to 18 months.

"The thought of a dog testing positive for methamphetamine is abhorrent. The fact he's been disqualified likely for a year, maybe 18 months at most, doesn't go far enough," said SAFE head of investigations Will Appelbe.

McInerney's dog Alpha Riley had something else in its veins in April this year - methamphetamine was detected after routine drug testing.

And in October last year, another of his dogs, Impressive Isla, was according to investigators in "clear and visible pain and distress" but advice from a vet was not sought immediately.

Impressive Isla had an osteosarcoma - a type of bone cancer.

McInerney, who's been racing for more than 30 years, told the hearing he didn't know it was so serious and did give the dog pain relief.

Tyra Basilicata from the Greyhound Protection League does not buy that.

"I don't accept that anybody, especially someone who had been dealing with greyhounds for as long as Mr McInerney, I do not accept that he would not have known that something more sinister was at play," she told Newshub.

Greyhound Racing NZ CEO Edward Rennell told Newshub: "There is no place in our industry for those who breach animal welfare standards, or for those who use drugs like methamphetamine in the vicinity of racing dogs."

Rennell told Newshub racing greyhounds are regularly drug tested and there has never been a case of deliberate administration of methamphetamine to a racing dog, only meth contamination.

It's not clear yet how the dog was contaminated but the hearing heard McInerney's son, who looked after the dogs, had a history of drug issues.

With McInerney disqualified, work is already underway to transfer ownership of the dogs to his other son.

"The penalties that he's facing are completely weak because he can just transfer those dogs into his son's name, it's going to be the same kennels, probably a lot of the same staff, and he will continue to make money off these dogs," Appelbe said.

Basilicata said this makes the penalty inconsequential.

"It's a loophole and it needs to be closed."

McInerney was charged with negligence in 2018 after five dogs died of suffocation while in a van on the Cook Strait ferry.

And last year, Newshub revealed photos of several of his dogs with injuries after being dropped off at a rehoming kennel.

He will learn on Friday exactly how long he'll be disqualified from the sport.

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