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Nearly 50 greyhound deaths not recorded in industry's annual report, prompting calls for transparency

There are calls for more transparency around greyhound racing after nearly 50 dog deaths weren’t included in the industry's last annual report.

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Animal welfare groups want to see independent audits, but racing advocates are adamant the industry is making improvements. Source: 1 NEWS

A total of 214 greyhounds were euthanised last season, according to Greyhound Racing New Zealand's 2020 annual report. But after inquiries from animal welfare advocates, a further 47 sudden deaths of racing dogs not included in the report were revealed.

Data provided subsequently by Greyhound Racing New Zealand shows the dogs that weren’t euthanised died of things like heart attacks, poisoning and internal bleeding. For more than half of the 47 dogs, the exact cause of death wasn't recorded.

Emily Robertson of the Greyhound Protection League says she thinks the GRNZ report represents “half-truths”.

“The fact those 47 deaths weren't included in the annual report really gives the impression they were deliberately hiding those deaths,” she says. 

SAFE’s Marianne MacDonald says she’s also concerned about the lack of detail about euthanised dogs. In the 2019/2020 season, 34 dogs died of race day injuries, 15 died of old age, while 165 deaths were listed as ‘other’.

“We need a total investigation, not just of the 47 that we've just found out about but also there's 165 that were euthanised outside of races. We need to know what's going on and we need to know what else is being hidden by this industry.”

She says she ultimately wants to see dog racing banned in New Zealand, and a tightening of rules in the meantime.

“We definitely need more independent eyes in the industry, we need quarterly audits of animals welfare.”

New Zealand is one of only seven countries in the world where commercial dog racing is still legal, but trainer Craig Roberts doesn’t agree with campaigners' calls to ban the sport.

“If greyhound racing ceased, the breed would eventually cease as well and they'd be responsible for extincting a breed of dog," he says. 

He agrees that all greyhound deaths should be included in the industry’s annual report, but says major improvements have been made to animal welfare.

“The deaths should be recorded whether it be an accidental death or an illness death. While they're registered as racing animals there needs to be that information available," Roberts says.

“We've had a couple of independent audits and we've made changes to the industry based on what was in those reports…The greyhounds are well cared for, well looked-after and the industry’s thriving at the moment.”

Greyhound Racing New Zealand refused an interview, but a spokesperson told 1 NEWS sudden deaths weren't in the latest report because they haven't been reported historically.

The organisation says there’s been a 40 per cent decrease in euthanisations, from 351 in the 2018/19 season to 214 last season.

Animal welfare minister Meka Whaitiri refused an interview. In a statement racing minister Grant Robertson said he has “no direct jurisdiction over the greyhound racing code".

"Operational matters, including animal welfare, are the responsibility of Greyhound Racing New Zealand," he said.

Emily Robertson says “successive Governments” have failed to act on greyhound safety.

“We had hoped with Winston Peters out of the way we'd get some more progressive action. So far, the reaction has been to pass the buck.”