Shocking report suggests thousands of racing greyhounds euthanized or ‘unaccounted for’ in New Zealand

  • 1447 dogs known to have been put down in just four years
  • Racing Board has published report into welfare standards

The New Zealand greyhound racing industry has been hit by allegations of subpar welfare standards after the country’s Racing Board ordered an urgent review into incidences of euthanasia at race tracks and training facilities.

The levels of greyhounds being put down in New Zealand has caused serious concerns.
The levels of greyhounds being put down in New Zealand has caused serious concerns.

Stuff.co.nz has reported that the popular betting activity has been rocked by controversy in recent years, with some lawmakers even calling for greyhound racing licenses to be revoked as a result of falling welfare standards.

According to the report, 1,447 dogs were put to sleep between the 2013/14 and 2016/17 racing seasons – and another 1271 animals are ‘unaccounted for’.

Ministers will now consider further action to tighten industry regulations and to ensure racing operations stick to the strict welfare requirements that racing laws have put in place.

Huge number of racing dogs euthanized

The reported statistics are fairly damning: 2,718 greyhounds connected with racetracks have been put to sleep, or are missing from the records entirely, over the past four years.

The report was carried out by Rodney Hansen QC, a former High Court judge, at the request of the Racing Board. It highlights problems with the lifespan tracking of racing pups which leaves many animals unaccounted for, as well as concerns that too many dogs are being euthanized.

“When the welfare of greyhounds should be paramount, the Hansen report has revealed rates of dog euthanasia, the numbers of ‘unaccounted’ for dogs, and low numbers of rehomed greyhounds which are simply unacceptable,” said Racing Minister Winston Peters.

There a over 1,000 dogs deemed 'unaccounted for'.
There a over 1,000 dogs deemed ‘unaccounted for’.

Mixed response to report

Though ministers all agree that urgent action is needed following the “disturbing” and “dismal” revelations, opinions diverge over what action should be taken. Ministers Peters and Whaitiri both agree that the racing industry must do more to protect animals, but make no mention of sanctions or restrictions on greyhound racing.

Green Party representative Gareth Hughes goes further, suggesting that “the social license for this industry should be revoked” if significant improvements are not made immediately. He argues that the industry may be opting to euthanize animals to keep their costs down, instead of following government guidelines on rehoming retired racers.

Racing industry responds to welfare allegations

Greyhound racing is one of New Zealand’s most popular forms of betting, and gamblers tend to assume that the Code of Welfare is kept to. The results of the Hansen report might shock participants.

“New Zealanders expect that animals are treated humanely while they are racing and after they have retired from racing,” said Associate Minister of Agriculture Meka Whaitiri.

The Greyhound Racing New Zealand recognizes that it must act on the report immediately to limit negative perceptions of the industry, and to prevent future allegations of welfare standard breaches.

“The report correctly identifies that there are several gaps in our knowledge of where dogs are located through their life cycle,” a statement from GRNZ reads. “We have invested in ground-breaking new population management software which we will roll out progressively from 2018.”

The board also confirmed that action was being taken against all 20 points in the Hansen report.

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