26 June 2023

Another greyhound racing injury sparks calls for Wagga to straighten things out

| Chris Roe
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injured greyhound

Greyhound Dana Rebel suffered a concussion at the Wagga track on 16 June. Photo: Supplied.

There are renewed calls for a safety review of the Wagga Wagga greyhound racetrack after another heavy collision just weeks after the death of Joyous Treasure in May.

In the first race of the night on 16 June, Dana Rebel, in only her second race, was approaching the first turn when she lost her footing and collided head-first with the inside rail.

According to the steward’s report, Dana Rebel “came together with other runners shortly after the start and lost momentum then approaching the first turn lost balance, checking off the running rail and fell”.

READ ALSO Greyhound death in Wagga sparks further calls for industry change

The post-race veterinary examination “revealed concussion and lacerations to both hind legs” and a 21-day incapacitation certificate was issued.

Video footage of the incident was removed by Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) but has now been circulated by welfare group Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG).

“The race video of Dana Rebel’s injury, similar to that of Joyous Treasure’s death, is heartbreaking,” CPG’s NSW Director Kylie Field said.

“It shows a dog stunned and in shock. No dog lover would accept this, which is why GRNSW has censored the race video.”

injured greyhound

A 21-day incapacitation certificate was issued after Dana Rebel was injured at Wagga Wagga. Photo: Supplied.

CPG has asked Wagga MP Joe McGirr to address the matter of the “ongoing suffering of greyhounds on an unsafe racetrack in his electorate”.

“I agree that we need to see what we can do about this safety issue,” Dr McGirr said. “We need to look at the track.”

Last month, Joyous Treasure suffered a broken neck while racing at Wagga and became the 27th dog to die on a NSW track in 2023.

A month on, the trackside euthanising of Whipping Dance in Broken Hill and Unchanged Pace at Gunnedah has taken the state’s death toll to 29.

Nationally the number is 62, along with 5339 injuries.

A scan of the steward’s report from Wagga on 16 June shows that it was a busy meeting for on-track vet Seamus McKillop, with nine animals examined and five sustaining injuries.

READ ALSO Canadian deployment a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Wagga SES member

When Region contacted the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC) following the death of Joyous Treasure, a spokesperson said an investigation into the incident was underway and that engineers would examine the track.

They explained that track fatalities “have reduced across the industry in NSW by more than 50 per cent ” and added that a Race Injury Reduction Summit had been held earlier this year and that an “injury reduction action plan” would be forthcoming.

When Region followed up on Friday (23 June) to see whether there were any recommendations made by the engineers who inspected the Wagga track and to ask what progress has been made on the injury reduction action plan, they directed us to GRNSW.

“In 2020 Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) developed Minimum Track Standards that have been approved by the Commission,” GRNSW said in a short statement.

“GRNSW is using the standards to guide its upgrading of racetracks around NSW. As such, GRNSW should be contacted for comment regarding the Wagga track.”

While GRNSW did not respond to enquiries made at the end of last week, in May a spokesperson told Region that the track met minimum standards and that “upgrades were made to the track in August last year”.

While it is true that injuries and deaths in the sport have fallen, the industry remains largely resistant to the primary recommendation to replace circular tracks with straight ones.

A UTS study released in 2017 found that around “80 per cent of all catastrophic and major injuries were caused by congestion and incidents such as checking, collision and galloping,” and suggested that “using a straight track would eliminate all injuries associated with greyhounds needing to negotiate their way safely around the bend.”

GRNSW opened one straight-track facility at Richmond two years ago and there are plans for another four straight tracks in the coming years.

At the 2021 opening of the first NSW straight track, Richmond GRC President Peter Rodgers proudly said that it “ticked all the welfare boxes”.

“The pressure on the dogs will be taken off them running up the straight. The longevity of the older dogs to be able to race for longer and it’s just a diversion from the circle track where there’s so much pressure on them,” he told Greyhound Racing Victoria.

Dr McGirr said it was something Wagga needed to consider.

“It’s a round track with a curve and I think that we need to look at options to straighten the track out,” he said. “I’ll be following that up with the minister and with Greyhound Racing New South Wales to see what we can achieve.”

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