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D-Day for the dishlickers as Orange councillors go behind closed doors

October 16, 2023

By Peter Holmes

The future of greyhound racing in Orange will be debated behind closed doors at Tuesday night’s council meeting, with members of the public and the media banned from viewing.

It is not unusual for confidentiality to be maintained in certain matters - such as when companies tender for council work - however animal welfare groups have criticised the decision, saying an issue around the treatment of animals should be debated in open council.

The nature of any proposal from the Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association (GBOTA) to Orange City Council (OCC) is shrouded in secrecy.

It is not known if it includes the so-called centre of excellence, a race track, guarantees on race meeting numbers, deals with betting agencies, or requests for OCC funding.

GBOTA has spoken about Orange and Bathurst as possible homes for a new Central West base.

On August 23, 2023, state member Phil Donato - an enthusiastic backer of greyhound racing - asked the government in parliament when a decision would be made on whether Orange would get the track and the centre of excellence.

Minister for gaming and racing David Harris responded: “Like the member for Orange, the government is committed to competitive, safe and sustainable greyhound racing in New South Wales, particularly in the Central West.

“With regard to the Orange site, I note and applaud the councillors from Orange City Council who in March this year voted to back the use of the former trotting track for greyhound racing. The rehabilitation and use of that land in Orange for greyhound racing is estimated to provide a $20 million boost to the local economy and local jobs.”

Harris went on to say that he believed Greyhound Racing NSW and the Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association were “in active negotiations with both Orange City Council and Bathurst Regional Council about a greyhound racing centre of excellence in the Central West”.

“However,” he added, “I note that it is a commercial decision by the relevant organisations and there are sensitivities in commenting publicly on the progress of those negotiations. I look forward to receiving an update on the centre of excellence proposal in due course. I understand that that decision may be imminent.”

Animal welfare groups Animal Liberation and the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG) say there is a “lack of transparency” and that endorsing a new greyhound track in Orange would be endorsing an industry with “serious entrenched animal welfare issues and community problems”.

“We strongly refute the essence of Council’s 7 March 2023 Notice of Motion that the greyhound racing industry offers economic benefits, holds cultural significance or promotes sport,” said Lisa Ryan, the regional campaigns manager for Animal Liberation, in a statement sent to media.

“We are calling on council and all elected councillors to ensure information provided to the community is accurate, honest and transparent. This is essential when it comes to public and community land and decisions which impact the welfare of greyhounds and the local community.”

Kylie Field, the NSW state director for CPG, said: “Greyhound racing is plagued by many problems, ranging from animal abuse to gambling addiction. It’s outrageous that the public can’t see the track proposal for Orange and has been excluded from council discussions.”

She said councillors “have to ensure they don’t blindly repeat racing industry misinformation”.

The government's Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission publishes quarterly and annual figures on injuries to racing greyhounds in NSW.

In the three months from April 1 - June 30, 2023, it said there were 324 race meetings, 3,375 races, 26,092 starts and 4,655 dogs racing.

There were 1,048 injuries to dogs.

Injuries are classified from Category A to category G, but it is difficult to ascertain exactly how many dogs died either on the track, or after a race from an injury sustained on the track, in that three-month period.

For example, Category D race injuries (226 injuries in three months) are “where the injury occurred on track in a race and identified post-race by the On-Track Veterinarian after a post-race veterinary examination, given a stand down period 28-90 days by the officiating veterinarian, which are typically more significant muscle tears, bone fractures or other injuries that require a greater amount of treatment and recovery. These injuries may or may not race again depending on severity, prognosis and treatment”.

Category E (15 dogs in three months) is for “any greyhound that died during a race or was euthanised by the officiating veterinarian due to the catastrophic nature of the injury sustained. Note: this will include a small number of medical conditions”.

However, things get murky in Category F (84 dogs in three months). It includes all 15 Category E death incidents “as well as those within Category D that are deemed to be of a particular serious nature.

“The following are included:

• death or euthanasia on-track;

• any skull or spine fracture or paralysis (partial or complete);

• any long bone fracture (i.e. humerus, radius/ulna, femur or tibia);

• a hock fracture/dislocation where the stand-down period is 60 or 90 days;

• any other fracture where the stand-down period is 60 or 90 days;

• any other joint injury where the stand-down period is 60 or 90 days;

• a skin injury where the stand-down period is 60 or 90 days;

• a soft tissue injury (including muscle injury) where the stand-down period is greater than 90 days.”

Therefore, the number of dogs that died in three months in NSW was somewhere between 15 and 84, although all 84 suffered either death or serious injury.

Field said “greyhound racing fails to meet community expectations and is rapidly losing popularity”.

Councillor Kevin Duffy has been a vocal advocate for greyhound racing returning to Orange.

“Orange has lost a lot of things over the years - Gnoo Blas to Bathurst Mount Panorama; horse racing and trots to Bathurst; the greyhounds disappeared, and now we’ve got a chance to bring it back,” he said on Monday.

He defended the decision to debate and vote on the matter in a Closed Room session, saying there were commercial confidentialities that had to be maintained under state law.

Animal welfare campaigners plan to address councillors ahead of the meeting.


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