NZ threatens to shut down greyhound racing

A growing tide of Kiwis want greyhound racing banned.
A growing tide of Kiwis want greyhound racing banned.

The New Zealand government will shut down greyhound racing in 2023 unless the industry makes radical improvement to animal welfare standards.

On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson released a damning review into racing practices; the third such review in a decade.

The inquiry, undertaken by Racing Integrity Board chief Sir Bruce Robertson, reveals 923 racing dogs have been euthanised since 2017, with no reason given for the deaths of 462.

It also finds Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ) guilty of "unnecessarily obfuscating information" sought during the probe.

The deputy prime minister's response is scathing, saying "the social licence to operate the sport of greyhound racing is under challenge".

"I want to be clear today - the greyhound racing industry is on notice: either make the improvements needed or risk closure," he said.

GRNZ denied an attempt to cover up key information and pledged to lift standards.

"We are more than happy and ready to comply with the recommendations in the report," a response stated.

It may not be enough.

Animal welfare groups SAFE and the SPCA say the industry doesn't deserve another chance as it is not taking animal welfare seriously enough

"This industry has repeatedly failed to act in a transparent manner and consistently meet even the most minimum welfare standards for the animals involved," SPCA chief scientific officer Arnja Dale said.

"Given the clear failure to adequately improve welfare standards, we welcome the conversation about whether this industry has a future in New Zealand."

SAFE spokesman Will Appelbe said the toll of greyhound deaths - including 107 this year - justified an industry shutdown.

"Anything other than a total ban on greyhound racing continues to put dogs at risk," he said.

A growing tide of Kiwis are against the industry.

Last month, a petition signed by 37,000 people was presented to the NZ parliament.

New Zealand is one of a handful of countries, including Australia, where sanctioned greyhound racing takes place.

Mr Robertson said the industry must make improvements on three areas - data recording, transparency, and animal welfare - and report back to government by the end of 2022.

"I believe the urgency of the matters raised in the report justify that," he said.

Animal welfare has been a focus of Jacinda Ardern's government since her Labour party was elected in its own right last year, announcing a ban of live animal exports by sea in April.

Australian Associated Press