The future of the greyhound racing industry remains unclear even after Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty received two detailed reports on the embattled code.
McAnulty confirmed yesterday he has read a long-awaited Racing Integrity Board report on potential improvements to animal welfare in the greyhound industry, which was put on notice by his predecessor Grant Robertson 18 months ago.
The RIB report was commissioned to determine whether improvements suggested then had been made, some around the safety of racing practices and track surfaces and design, and it was submitted this week.
Greyhound Racing New Zealand has also submitted a 50-page report to the minister in which they have outlined the improvements made and those which are intended to be implemented in the future.
McAnulty says he will not get the opportunity to present the RIB report to Cabinet this year so will do so in February but wanted to assure the issues raised 18 months ago are not being forgotten.
“The findings of the RIB progress report have made it clear that the status quo of the industry is no longer acceptable and so my recommendations to Cabinet will be made on that basis,” said McAnulty.
“The options are allow the industry to continue under strictly monitored regulations, or closure.
“The report will be published in the new year after Cabinet has reviewed the report.”
He says no decision on the future of the code has been made.
“I now have read both reports but no decision on whether greyhound racing maintains its social licence has been made,” he said. “The fact the code was put on notice and closure of it was mentioned under the former minister Grant Robertson shows how seriously animal welfare concerns have been taken.
“I want to come out this week and acknowledge we have the RIB report and a paper from GRNZ and Cabinet will consider the information.”
The major concerns raised when the greyhound code came under fire were safety of dogs when racing and what happens to them when they are retired.
GRNZ chief executive Edward Rennell acknowledges the code faced issues 18 months ago when its future was first threatened but claims they have made significant improvement in both areas.
“Greyhound Racing New Zealand and our participants accept the previous status quo was not an option,” says Rennell.
“GRNZ has made considerable progress in all facets of animal welfare and developed detailed plans for continuous improvement.
“We have successfully eliminated unnecessary euthanasia and have introduced new injury prevention and reduction strategies, including preferred box draw racing and the construction of a straight track in Whanganui.
“We acknowledge that there is still work to be done but GRNZ and our participants are committed to putting animal welfare at the heart of everything we do.”