31 May 2023

Greyhound death in Wagga sparks further calls for industry change

| Chris Roe
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Joyous Treasure is the first dog to die at the Wagga track since upgrades in August 2022. Photo: Supplied.

Animal welfare advocates have again raised concerns about the safety of Wagga’s greyhound racetrack following the tragic death of another animal on Friday.

Two-year-old Joyous Treasure was put down after tangling with another dog and slamming into a rail at full speed and breaking her neck.

The steward’s report details how Joyous Treasure “came together with another runner approaching the turn out of the back straight and became unbalanced colliding heavily with the running rail and failing to finish”.

A post-race examination revealed the fractured neck and open wounds and concluded that “the greyhound was humanely euthanised”.

“The race video of Joyous Treasure’s death is unwatchable but is a true indication of the inherent dangers of greyhound racing,” said Kylie Field from the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG).

“The dogs run at more than 60 km[/h] and any stumble can be fatal. Several greyhounds have been killed or seriously injured this year after running into rails. These rails are lethal.”

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Four dogs died as the result of injuries sustained while racing in Wagga in 2022 however a spokesperson from Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) said that “upgrades were made to the track in August last year”.

In a statement, they confirmed that this was the first catastrophic injury at Wagga since the upgrades.

“Serious injuries have been declining since reform of the industry in NSW since 2016, and the very best efforts are made to minimise and reduce injuries,” they said.

“As publicly noted in the stewards’ report, it was not to do with the track. It was a racing related incident. Sadly, particularly for the owner and trainer, the greyhound was humanely euthanised.”


Joyous Treasure was humanely euthanised after a catastrophic injury at the Wagga track. Photo: Supplied.

GRNSW has consistently dismissed the claims of animal welfare groups as “propaganda” and media coverage of such incidents as “disproportionate”, maintaining that, “injuries are a part of all sports”.

Industry regulator, the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission (GWIC), confirmed that 27 dogs have died in NSW so far in 2023 but said that “the industry is committed to ensuring the welfare and safety of racing greyhounds and continues to employ measures to ensure the highest level of care is provided”.

In a statement to Region earlier this year following the death of Mobile Doll May at a Goulburn race meeting, the GWIC said the proportion of fatalities was steadily decreasing.

“While such outcomes have reduced across the industry in NSW by more than 50 per cent (from 1.7 per 1000 starts to 0.5 per 1000 starts) over the past four years, the industry is committed to the highest welfare for its canine athletes.”

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A Race Injury Reduction Summit was held earlier this year and an injury reduction action plan was developed including proposed trials of new lure technology, more veterinarian supervision, education for trainers and further research into “race injury causations”.

Animal welfare advocates say the research has been done and Wagga vet Dr Sarah Pollard Williams from Charles Sturt University said the standard circular tracks needed more than an upgrade.

“It has been known for decades that track design affects the likelihood of racing dog injuries,” she said.

“The greyhound racing industry needs a social licence to operate, and that is lacking at present.”

A study released in 2017 by the University of Technology Sydney, explored the optimal track design for safety and welfare and identified curves as the focal point for injuries.

“Approximately 80 per cent of all catastrophic and major injuries were caused by congestion and incidents such as checking, collision and galloping,” the report stated and went on to recommend a move to purpose-built, straight tracks, something the industry has largely resisted.

“Using a straight track would eliminate all injuries associated with greyhounds needing to negotiate their way safely around the bend,” said the report.

GRNSW confirmed that there have been moves in that direction.

“GRNSW opened a straight track facility at Richmond in the past two years, and there are plans in place for another four straight tracks to be built in coming years.”

Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr said he would pursue the matter with the new NSW Racing Minister David Harris.

“I have become aware of the death of Joyous Treasure,” he said.

“I will be writing to the Minister seeking information on the incident and what can be done to further improve greyhound safety in racing.”

Are catastrophic injuries in greyhound racing an acceptable part of the sport?

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