A mother and daughter charged after a greyhound tested positive for methamphetamine illustrates the racing industry’s ongoing failure to protect animals in its care, says the SPCA, which is calling for an end to the sport.
Lisa Waretini, who holds a public trainers licence, and her daughter Alysha Waretini, who holds a kennel hand licence, were charged after greyhound Opawa Pip tested positive for the Class A drug at an Addington Raceway meet in Christchurch in April last year.
The pair were among a string of failed drug test cases in New Zealand’s greyhound racing industry in the past year after an investigation by the Racing Integrity Board [RIB].
Lisa Waretini, who claimed she was responsible for the dog’s day-to-day care including feeding, didn’t attend the race meeting. The greyhound was transported by Alysha in her van from their Christchurch home, the RIB’s decision dated February 23, said.
Alysha Waretini told the investigator she hadn’t used meth for more than two years but still associated with those who did, although she was never in their company when they got high. She claimed they had never travelled in her vehicles.
Tests were done on two vehicles at the property used to transport dogs to races and both returned positive results for traces of methamphetamine.
The van tested positive above the driver and front passenger’s seat and steering wheel. Samples of hair and urine from Lisa and Alysha tested negative for the drug.
The RIB’s adjudicative committee banned Lisa from the industry for 15 months, from March 11, 2023 to June 10, 2024. No decision was made on a penalty in Alysha’s case.
SPCA chief executive Gabby Clezy said positive tests could result from the drug being deliberately administered or accidental contamination.
She noted the RIB acknowledged methamphetamine detections were becoming more common and were particularly prevalent within the greyhound industry.
“Whether these animals were exposed to these dangerous substances intentionally or not, these positive results are another piece of evidence demonstrating the commercial greyhound racing industry’s continuing failure to adequately protect the welfare of the dogs in their care,” Clezy told NZME.
“This is one of the many reasons SPCA is calling for an end to commercial greyhound racing.”
Clezy said Cabinet was considering the future of greyhound racing and the SPCA urged the Government to consider the welfare of dogs when it made its decision.
RIB chief executive Mike Clement said the industry took the use of prohibited substances seriously and there was zero tolerance for methamphetamine.
“The penalties handed down by adjudicative committees inevitably include a period of disqualification from the sport,” Clement said.
“This is not an insignificant sanction; it can have far-reaching consequences for those subjects of the penalty.”
Clement said the board didn’t have the jurisdiction to bring charges under the Animal Welfare Act but it worked closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries, police and SPCA, which did.
“RIB animal welfare investigations that could be captured by the Animal Welfare Act, including methamphetamine-related investigations, are referred to these organisations per the agreements.”
He said in addition to the RIB testing racing animals for prohibited substances at every race meeting, there was also additional testing outside of race days as well as testing of participants involved in safety-sensitive activities.
“The RIB has and will continue to work with the industry to identify opportunities to prevent harm from prohibited substances to animals and people and will take firm action when there is a positive result.”
Ministry for Primary Industries animal welfare compliance national manager Gray Harrison said the organisation took all complaints seriously.
“If we found evidence that methamphetamine was intentionally given to a greyhound dog and that it affected its welfare – being that it suffered - then we could take legal action under the Animal Welfare Act,” Harrison said.
Many factors went into gathering evidence to support an Animal Welfare Act charge but Harrison said he was unable to provide details about the investigative techniques.
He said MPI had not taken any prosecutions in the past three years but noted the RIB had put cases before the Adjudicative Committee, formerly the Judicial Control Authority, which had imposed sanctions against owners and trainers.
“MPI believes the penalties are appropriate – however, if we thought a stronger deterrent was needed and the evidence supported it, we could put a case before the court.”
Greyhound Protection League spokesman Aaron Cross, who presented a petition to Parliament in August 2021 with 37,827 signatures calling for the sport to be banned, claimed three inquiries had signalled the need for significant change but had not resulted in any improvement.
“It’s time the Minister responsible accepted his obligation to wider New Zealand and made it known that ‘we don’t do that here’ and put an end to this out-of-control subculture that can’t and won’t stop hurting dogs in the name of entertainment,” Cross said.
Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty said the RIB was established by the Government to oversee the industry and deal with any breaches and as Minister for Racing he had no ability to interfere in operational matters.
“However, I will say that the Government is committed to the improvement of integrity and animal welfare in the racing industry and that my expectation is that any individuals found guilty of drugs and or animal welfare abuses should face the appropriate consequences.”