It has become increasingly apparent that there are extensive animal welfare problems and unethical practices inherent in the greyhound racing industry in Australia. Identified animal welfare problems include significant overbreeding and oversupply, high injury rates, physical overexertion, inadequate housing, lack of socialisation and environmental enrichment, illegal live baiting, training problems, administration of banned or unregistered substances, export and the fate of unwanted greyhounds (high wastage rates, high euthanasia rates and low rehoming rates). Other major problems include industry self-regulation and lack of industry transparency and accountability.
As a result of multiple investigations and formal Inquiries, overwhelming evidence now exists in the public sphere confirming longstanding and widespread illegal behaviour, animal cruelty, major animal welfare problems and unethical practices inherent in greyhound racing.
Deeply ingrained industry cultural attitudes perceive greyhounds as a ‘racing product’ and this perception negatively affects the way greyhounds are treated by participants. Industry participants generally view greyhounds as animals born solely to generate winnings and earnings for their owners, trainers and the punters. This is at complete odds with the majority community view that greyhounds should be treated as companion animals.
Industry’s systemic commodification and devaluing of greyhounds is evidenced by a number of routine industry practices. Each year thousands of greyhounds are abandoned and discarded by industry participants. Euthanasia is routinely performed simply because a greyhound is deemed ‘unsuitable for racing’ and this is generally considered acceptable and normal practice by industry.
Additionally, greyhounds sustaining treatable injuries (including minor injuries) are often euthanased simply because they are viewed as no longer useful for racing purposes and are thus considered economically unviable. Decisions about the fate of greyhounds are therefore primarily based on economics rather than animal welfare. In addition to these unethical practices, evidence demonstrates that most greyhounds are kept under inadequate conditions that fail to meet their physiological, behavioural and social needs. Additional welfare problems such as the routine use of inhumane anti-barking muzzles and the widespread use of painful surgical artificial insemination methods on female breeding greyhounds have also been identified.
For the vast majority of participants, the primary motivation for engaging in racing is financial gain and this occurs at the expense of animal welfare. This fundamental aspect of greyhound racing presents an inherent and ongoing conflict in relation to animal welfare problems as the welfare of the greyhounds and other animals are a low or irrelevant concern to the industry. For as long as commercial greyhound racing continues, this central and strong economic incentive will likely continue to override animal welfare considerations resulting in ongoing and serious detriments to animal welfare on a broad scale.
Furthermore, while commercial greyhound racing continues, there will not be enough suitable homes available to absorb the large number of dogs produced each year. This is the case even when taking into account the small proportion of greyhounds that may be kept by the owner or rehomed through adoption programs. The turnover rate for unwanted greyhounds is very high with an average number of career starts at only 31 starts for each greyhound and an estimated average career turnover time of approximately 1.2 years. Therefore, greyhound racing will continue to result in high euthanasia rates. In order to match birth rates to rehoming capacity, the required reduction in the number of greyhounds bred each year would be so significant that industry would not be sustainable.
Evidence clearly demonstrates that animal cruelty and poor animal welfare outcomes are heavily entrenched and inherent to greyhound racing and that these problems have passed a threshold making it highly unlikely cultural attitudes or practices can be changed. Therefore animal welfare problems are unlikely to be resolved.
Given all of these significant findings, the RSPCA does not support greyhound racing.
Where greyhound racing continues to be conducted RSPCA Australia advocates the following:
- The comprehensive regulation of greyhound racing by an independent body with a formal and complete separation of the integrity and regulatory functions from the commercial functions.
- The adoption of compulsory and enforced animal welfare standards for greyhound at all life stages to eliminate practices that cause injury, pain, suffering or distress and ensure all greyhounds have a good quality of life.
- The adoption of formal processes to address over-supply and wastage rates. There should be an expectation and formal processes in place within the industry that greyhounds will be rehomed as a companion animal on retirement and provisions made to ensure their welfare.
- The mandatory collection and publication of comprehensive lifecycle (birth to death records) and injury statistics and the development of a national identification and traceability system for all greyhounds to ensure each greyhound born is accounted for.
See also RSPCA Policy C06 Greyhound Racing