The governing body for greyhound racing in New Zealand says it will continue its plans to build the country's first straight track in Whanganui, despite a major new SPCA campaign calling for the activity to be banned.
As part of a campaign called "No more chances" which kicked off on Monday, the SPCA said it was time to end commercial greyhound racing after polling found the public agreed.
SPCA commissioned an independent research company to survey public sentiment towards greyhound racing and found that 74 per cent of respondents would vote to ban the industry in a referendum.
Only 9 per cent of respondents believed racing greyhounds had a good life.
SPCA scientific officer Dr Alison Vaughan said New Zealand traded on its reputation for good animal welfare, and the commercial greyhound racing industry may be a risk to the country's brand.
"Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty has stated that his decision rests on whether the industry has a 'social licence' to continue," Vaughan said.
"We know from our survey that there would be support to end the industry, with a majority indicating they'd be disappointed if the Government did not ban commercial greyhound racing."
In response, Greyhound Racing New Zealand said it was disappointed the SPCA launched its campaign against the industry.
"... we consider it entirely inappropriate that a charity is spending significant time, money and resources on this campaign - especially when a robust independent review process is already under way," a GRNZ statement said.
The call to end the industry was premature because the Racing Integrity Board was still working to report on its progress to improve problems raised in the Robertson Review published in September last year, GRNZ said.
Following that review, then Minister for Racing Grant Robertson put the industry "on notice", demanding evidence of improvements in data recording, transparency and animal welfare before the end of this year.
GRNZ said it expected that progress report to be delivered in mid-December.
"It would be premature for any decisions to be made prior to then," GRNZ said.
The organisation said it would continue to make investments in its tracks to improve their safety.
In August the Whanganui Chronicle reported a lack of understanding about the maintenance needed to fix sand tracks had led to the decline of Whanganui's Hatrick Raceway to the extent there was a spike in injuries and deaths among racing dogs.
"For GRNZ, animal welfare is paramount, which is why we are about to commence construction of our first straight track in New Zealand," the organisation said, adding it expected the track to be open in April next year.
GRNZ has also hired track maintenance expert Bill Wilson from Australia to oversee all racing surfaces in the country as well as train curators.
"We acknowledge that injuries still exist, but we are constantly working on ways to prevent, reduce and mitigate the effects of injuries," GRNZ said.
It said it was funding a rehoming programme for dogs injured in races.
The organisation has also started a "Preferred Box Draw" pilot for low-grade greyhounds, which it said was effective at reducing the rates of serious injuries to dogs, according to early evidence.