Animal rights groups call for end to greyhound racing as Govt announces review

The Government is launching another review into greyhound racing, arguing the industry hasn't acted quick enough on its last review to resolve animal welfare issues.

Racing Minister Grant Robertson says he's not satisfied with the industry's work on animal welfare, but the Green Party argues it's time to ban greyhound racing entirely.

Speaking to Newshub, greyhound trainer Craig Roberts says he loves his dogs - and they love what they do.

"They're born to race, they're bred to race. They love the competition, they love to run fast, they love to chase the lure," he said.

But the Government, unsatisfied with the current animal welfare standards, says the industry is due for another review.

"We've seen just too many incidents in recent times where concerns have been raised," says Robertson.

In 2017, a damning review by Rodney Hansen, QC found "unacceptably high" rates of dog euthanasia, with more than 1400 greyhounds euthanized in a four-year period. He made 20 recommendations.

However, the Racing Minister believes the industry is not providing enough information on the changes it's making to bring animal welfare up-to-scratch.

"One of the issues we have here is we do need a greater level of transparency around what's happened with the recommendations," Robertson said. 

"Greyhound Racing New Zealand have said they feel they're meeting [the recommendations], but we feel it's time for an independent set of eyes."

Last year, the industry reported 214 greyhounds were euthanized in the 2019-2020 season.

Thirty-four were from race-day injuries, 15 were described as 'aged pets', while 165 were marked as 'other'.

"The vast majority of greyhounds that are euthanized, are euthanized five to 10 days post-race because of the injuries that occur," says chief science officer for the SPCA Dr Arnja Dale.

The SPCA is thrilled by the new review, led by former court of appeal judge Sir Bruce Robertson.

"We've worked in partnership with the racing industry on this, we've sat on the animal welfare committee, but the industry just does not take animal welfare seriously," says Dr Dale.

Trainer Roberts is confident the review will show the codes have come a long way.

"Look, they certainly don't do any harm. But is it necessary, I'm not sure."

The review is due back on August 1. If the Government's not happy, it says it may take a further fundamental look at the industry.

"If it shows the recommendations from the Hansen review have not been implemented, then it's time to have a wider review about the continuation of greyhound racing in New Zealand," says Dr Dale.

Greyhound Racing New Zealand also welcomes the review, saying it's confident the body is on track with what it has been asked to do. 

It says the Government is wrong to say the industry hasn't acted on requests for reports, and has been waiting since December to be contacted by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

Roberts says his kennels are open to any reviewer.

"They might get a better understanding of how well they are treated, while racing and after racing," he says.

New Zealand is one of only seven countries where greyhound racing is still legal. The Greens want to make that six.

"This industry has no place in Aotearoa New Zealand, and we've been working on a members bill to that effect for the last few months," says the Green's animal welfare spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick.

Animal rights group SAFE agrees there's no need for a review - it's time for an outright ban.

"Making animals run around a race track is pretty archaic," says CEO Debra Ashton.

"Using animals as entertainment belongs in the history books."