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Cannington racetrack receives ominous recognition.

Cannington has earned second place nationally for track-related injuries for racing greyhounds in 2021, according to the report released on Thursday February 24, 2022 by Coalition for Protection of Greyhounds – CPG Lethal Tracks.

Cannington racetrack has received the title after data collected from the Racing and Wagering WA (RWWA) steward reports, has revealed that 502 dogs were injured on tracks during the last calendar year.

This figure comes as no surprise to Free the Hounds (FTH) President, Melissa Harrison. “We have been
advocating for years for greyhound racing to end in this state, yet our government continues to turn a blind eye to the facts that this “sport” is dangerous to greyhounds. No matter how many welfare words they mention or figures they cherry pick, it will never be safe for the dogs to race.”

RWWA, the Government agency controlling greyhound racing, recently set up a website purely to show case their welfare initiatives – We Are Animal People. “However, in stark contrast to this, their very own Welfare Committee only met three times during the financial year 2020/2021, and not once during the 2019/2020 year, as we discovered under a Freedom of Information request”.

RWWA have also had access to reports from University of Technology Sydney (UTS), from as early as August 2020, claiming that both Cannington and Mandurah tracks need repairs performed to be bought up to a safe racing standard, yet nothing has been done and racing continues – UTS Report.

Just some of the recommendations from the UTS report;

  • Regrade Cannington and Mandurah tracks to smooth the surface
  • Install three/four transitional (clothoidal) bends at Mandurah
  • Increase the width of the Cannington track catching pen when the track is renovated
  • Widen the entrances to all track catching pens. Design the shape and alignment of the catching pens at Mandurah and Cannington for better entry, a safe stopping distance and to reduce the likelihood of interference between greyhounds

“Since January 1 this year, 13 greyhounds have broken legs, one has fractured its foot, two have sustained fractured wrists, one has fractured a tibia and one a shoulder. Two have been euthanised due to injuries sustained in the Mandurah catching pen and one has been found dead in its kennel while under RWWA care in rehabilitation” Ms Harrison went on to say. “This level of injury should not be acceptable to any Government in 2022 and is the very reason racing is being banned around the world”.

Free the Hounds are calling on the Labour Government to expedite the phase out of this cruel sport or at the very minimum for RWWA to halt racing and for the track upgrades to begin immediately.

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Do our Statistics hold up?

Have you heard our recent radio ads on Nova 93.7 this week? Are you curious about the figures we mention in the ads? We’ve broken it down for you:

Approximately 40% of greyhounds are injured every year on WA tracks

On its We Are Animal People website and in its Annual Reports, Racing and Wagering WA (RWWA) states that, “In WA greyhound racing, 99.8% of starters race safely without sustaining major injuries”. Whilst this statistic is technically correct, it is obtained by manipulating the figures in a way which obscures the alarming number of greyhounds which suffer all injuries while racing.

In fact, in the 2020-2021 financial year, 1,659 individual greyhounds raced with 626 of them suffering any injury (of all severities, not just major as RWWA state) bringing the actual injury rate to 37.73%. 

In reaching the 99.8% injury figure, RWWA calculates “starters” instead of individual greyhounds racing. A “starter” is a greyhound which is entered into and starts a race or qualifying trial, such that one greyhound may have 50 starts and therefore represent 50 “starters”. This is why in the 2020-2021 financial year there were 31,105 starters despite only 1,659 individual greyhounds actually being raced. 

Furthermore, RWWA’s statistic only takes into account “major” injuries which include serious bone fractures, on-track deaths, and injuries which “retire” a greyhound immediately from racing. The 99.8% does not account for injuries of any severity (including minor and moderate), which can be just as serious and career-ending. Therefore, RWWA has cherry-picked a statistic which masks the prevalence of injuries amongst individual racing greyhounds.

Over 80 Greyhounds fractured bones in 2021 in WA

Free the Hounds tracks and records all injuries that are reported in RWWA’s Steward reports. Steward reports are written and released to the public detailing the injuries suffered by greyhounds in each race. Over the year, there were 89 fractures on WA tracks – the vast majority of these greyhounds were retired immediately from racing, and some of them were euthanised.

Since 2015, 1200 Greyhounds have died on WA race tracks.

Where do we get this information from?

Free The Hounds obtains all of its information, including the above figures, directly from RWWA – through documents obtained under Freedom of Information, RWWA’s Annual Reports and its Steward reports.

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How Hot is too Hot

During the recent heatwaves of December and January, Racing and Wagering WA (RWWA) allowed greyhound racing to continue despite record temperatures here in Perth.

According to the RWWA Hot Weather Policy a venue will be declared ‘hot weather affected‘;

  • if the forecast maximum temperature is 35° or higher for the venue at any time within the two hours prior to kennelling and two hours after the running of the final race.
  • If the maximum is forecast to be 38° or higher for the venue at any time within the same period, stewards can move the event to a later time or abandon it altogether.

The most notable problem with this policy is that the temperature is taken at the venue and NOT where the dog is coming from. Each of these dogs could be coming from a distance away and required to sit in a vehicle being transported at some of the hottest parts of the day. Another fundamental flaw is the allowable temperature, 35° is too hot for a dog to be running in at any time.

Why not abandon the event in this heat? RWWA will still pay trainers an amount of $25 for each dog they have entered to race for the event. The only thing to suffer from an abandoned meeting is gambling revenue. If welfare of the dogs were the major concern, wouldn’t abandoning a meeting be the obvious thing to do?

The RSPCA has stated the following; “Greyhound racing inherently poses significant risks to animal welfare. Racing greyhounds in very hot weather places them at significant risk of dehydration and heat stress. However, there are no consistent rules that prohibit greyhound racing in Australia above a specific temperature.”

If this policy upsets you as much as it does Free the Hounds, please contact your local MP and tell them greyhounds continue to suffer on WA racetracks and ask they work to end greyhound racing.

Use our template to contact your MP via our End Greyhound Racing Page.