Piglets, possums and rabbits mauled to death during barbaric greyhound training ‘rituals’

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 16 February 2015

70 Australian greyhound trainers, including leading identities, have been implicated in illegal and brutal training methods – where live animals are tied to mechanical lures and dogs incited to chase and kill them.

Evidence gathered during ground-breaking investigations by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland have underpinned RSPCA raids in three states and has seen the suspension of over 20 trainers by racing authorities, with investigations continuing.

“What we have documented is sickening, shocking and profoundly disturbing – not only because of the horrific cruelty – but because of the human behaviour that is revealed," said Animals Australia Chief Investigator Lyn White.

Until now, a lack of direct evidence has prevented the RSPCA from being able to investigate allegations of live baiting. In light of this, acting on information from members of the public, surveillance cameras were used at training facilities in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.

The evidence shows live piglets, possums and rabbits being tied to mechanical lures and flung around race tracks at high speed while being pursued and mauled by dogs. Live rabbits on leads were also used to taunt and provoke dogs in the lead up to races.

“The evidence graphically reveals that when you combine gambling, prize money and live animals, there will be people who will do anything to get a winning edge, regardless of the consequences for animals."

In one case a severely injured possum was left on the lure for nearly an hour – 22 circuits of the track – as dogs chased and ripped her to pieces.

“The screaming of terrified piglets and rabbits as they were flung around the track is spine-chilling, but equally so, was seeing trainers completely unmoved by the suffering of these animals," said Animal Liberation Queensland’s Hayley Cotton.

“Those involved don’t even put suffering animals out of their agony, they just use them again and again while they remain alive."

The groups said claims by racing authorities that live baiting is not widespread are baseless and reveal their inherent conflict of interest.

“Racing authorities didn’t even know that live baiting was occurring at these facilities so how can they claim that it is not happening elsewhere? Since news of the RSPCA raids broke, the greyhound forums have been alight with chatter that these practices are well known and have been going on for years. It’s even been suggested that live kills are needed to get greyhounds to chase," said Ms Cotton.

“It’s not only the numbers of trainers involved, it is their stature in the industry. The 70 individuals implicated include: one of the highest profile and most successful trainers in the country; the President of a greyhound racing club; a former steward; the President of a peak body and one of the of most prolific pre-trainers of greyhounds in Australia," said Ms White.

The animal protection groups are calling on state racing bodies to instigate life bans on   individuals found guilty of live baiting, and for specialist government task forces to take over the regulation of the industry.

“It’s clear that industry self-regulation has failed. These illegal and horrific practices have occurred on their watch and shatter PR claims that animal welfare is a priority in the industry," said Lyn White.

The groups are also calling for the immediate suspension of all government funding and industry incentive schemes.

“Nothing mitigates the disgraceful behaviour these investigations have exposed, but the politicians who have poured tax payer funding into this industry, who actively encouraged participation and then failed to ensure appropriate oversight, also have a lot to answer for," said Ms Cotton.

Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland said the willingness of leading trainers to engage in cruel and criminal behaviour to gain a winning advantage raises questions about the future of the greyhound racing industry.

“This industry clearly has a dark underbelly that should make government support untenable. Leading trainers continue to be caught out drugging dogs and now we have extensive evidence that significant numbers of trainers are prepared to resort to illegal and barbaric training practices to win races," said Ms White.