Kieran McAnulty requests options on shutting down greyhound racing industry

The Racing Minister has requested options for shutting down the greyhound racing industry. 

It follows a just-released report by the Racing Integrity Board (RIB) that found the industry is making "slow progress" in five out of 15 key areas.

But a call on whether the sport will be banned in New Zealand likely won't happen until after the election in October. 

Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty was asked whether he thought the report's findings were acceptable.

"I'm being really careful about what I say here because I've just stood up and said I want to give people space to draw their own conclusions. And now I'm being asked to express my own opinion," he said.

Pressed on it being a matter of public interest, he said: "Well, they [the public] will know very shortly because I have to make a recommendation to Cabinet as to what we do."

But that recommendation likely won't be on the agenda until after the election. 

"It does appear to be a cop-out. It's politically expedient, I guess," SAFE investigations manager Will Appelbe said.

"We've got a general election approaching and it's hard to see any reason why the Minister wouldn't ban greyhound racing."

But McAnulty said people "shouldn't see this as kicking the can down the road".

"People should see this as the final stages of whether they can continue or whether they can close."

The Integrity Board has given the Minister options for shutting the sport down at his request. But for now, the industry is on notice again after first being put on notice a year and a half ago by then Racing Minister Grant Robertson.

This is the fourth report into the greyhound racing industry over the past decade and all of them have raised serious concerns about animal welfare issues.

The latest RIB report found:

  • injuries continue to "trend upwards"
  • the industry has been "slow" to respond to track safety concerns
  • the RIB is "not confident" the industry's animal welfare committee is independent
  • while "significant" progress has been made on reducing euthanasias, there's an "urgent need" to improve data to understand outcomes for dogs that end up in rehoming programmes. 

"Our message is very clear: There should be no more chances for the industry. They have failed to live up to societal expectations," said SPCA chief scientific officer Arnja Dale.

But the industry says the RIB's report shows "considerable progress". 

"Our industry's primary focus remains animal and participant welfare, and we will continue to strive for continuous improvement." 

McAnulty said it would be incorrect for people to "assume that the foot is being taken off the throat here".

But for now, racing will continue until the election is done at least.