Tag Archives: greyhound racing

A response from the Minister for Racing

Following up on my previous post, the Minister for Racing, Kieran McAnulty, has responded about his report to Cabinet and release of the Racing Integrity Board report:

The ongoing improvement of greyhound welfare remains a priority for this Government. That is why the previous Minister for Racing, Hon Grant Robertson, initiated the Robertson Review into Greyhound Racing. It is also why, following the conclusion of the Review in July 2021, the industry was put on notice to make improvements.

I received the final report from the Racing Industry Board (RIB) on the greyhound industry’s progress in December 2022. This report will form the basis of my recommendation to Cabinet on the future of the industry, alongside consultation with the industry and animal welfare groups. The report will not be released publicly until it has been duly considered by Cabinet.

I had intended to present my findings to Cabinet in February 2023. However, this year’s significant weather events have made it necessary for the Government to deal with more pressing issues, and as such the greyhound paper has been delayed but will be presented at the first opportunity. I’d like to get it started and I acknowledge this uncertainty may be causing anxiety and intend to release a statement and contact key stakeholders within the next week to provide an update on next steps.

I am looking forward to hearing about what the Minister’s next steps will be.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The petition to ban greyhound racing in NZ

Towards the end of each calendar year, it seems that the NZ Government releases a lot of reports before staff take holidays for Christmas and the summer season. Unfortunately, this also means that the contents of these reports do not always get as much attention by the public and media that they should.

In late November 2022, the Petitions Committee issued its report on the petition of Aaron Cross from the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand to ban commercial greyhound racing.

The findings of this report are sobering and worth highlighting:

One of our principal concerns about this petition is that the industry’s responses to problems have been slow and do not show that the welfare of dogs is the industry’s main consideration. For example, despite the Hansen recommendation in 2017 regarding straight racetracks, there are still no straight tracks.

We have heard that the industry has focused more on reducing greyhound deaths than on reducing injuries and improving the quality of care. This can result in ill or traumatised dogs that are not suitable for rehoming as pets. We are also concerned for other dogs that do not get into the rehoming programme.

We note that the industry does not have a long-term plan for dealing with the large number of dogs that need rehoming each year. Further, we are concerned at the lack of a plan to track and manage the overall population of racing greyhounds in New Zealand and at the possibility that the industry may be breeding and importing too many dogs. Population management was raised as an issue in the WHK report, the Hansen report, and the Robertson report. We think a carefully considered population plan is long overdue.

We were interested to hear about the RIB’s attention to kennel audits and we hope that they lead to improvements in dogs’ care. We urge the RIB and GRNZ to also look at changes that will reduce injuries.

We are disappointed by the lack of consistent information and we note that this issue has been identified as a focus area in the Greyhound Review. We are keen to hear whether the quality and consistency of data has improved between the time that we received submissions (autumn and winter 2022) and the RIB’s report due next month (December 2022).

The industry’s lack of good systems and data, and the absence of transparency, have been flagged many times in the past but we have seen minimal improvement. This reduces confidence in the industry’s social licence. We believe that investment in systems to provide high quality data is urgent, as one of the requirements for the industry to retain its social licence to operate.

We also urge the industry to ensure that all its people are aware of, and comply with, animal health and welfare requirements.

In our view, the removal of the SPCA from the health and welfare committee shows poor judgement of what is needed for the industry to keep its licence to operate. Shutting out an organisation that, while it opposes GRNZ’s work, is prepared to help it improve its practices, has worked against the industry.

Similarly, we consider the GRNZ comment that methamphetamine may have accidentally contaminated dogs to be disingenuous at best. It indicated a disregard for a real health and welfare problem. A more appropriate response would have been to immediately acknowledge and investigate the problem.

We note that the RIB said it was developing a new animal welfare team to support and monitor each racing code’s animal welfare policies and initiatives and to promote and ensure compliance with animal welfare standards. We would like to know what (if anything) delayed this initiative, and whether (and how) it improves the lives of greyhounds.

We have doubts about whether the greyhound racing industry still has a social licence to operate in its current form. We have serious concerns about the way the industry is operating at present. We urge the Government to be mindful of our comments when it considers the future of the greyhound racing industry following the RIB’s report in December 2022.

You can download a full copy of the Committee’s report here.

The current Government promised that the industry was ‘on notice’ for a period of one year. Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty has had another report about the industry from the Racing Integrity Board since December 2022. The issue of greyhound racing was to have been decided at the first meeting of Cabinet in February 2023.

With the change in Prime Minister thanks to Jacinda Ardern’s resignation and the Civil Defense emergency caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, the first Cabinet meeting of February was taken up with other business. But, it’s now mid-March 2023 and it’s time for Minister McAnulty to make a decision – and at a minimum publicly release the Racing Integrity Board’s report which has been kept confidential to this point.

I spoke to the Minister’s press secretary, Joanna Ramsay, this morning and asked for an update on when the Minister will be making a recommendation to Cabinet, and if/when he will release a copy of the Racing Integrity Board’s report.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The latest review of NZ’s greyhound racing industry

Last week, a new review report into the greyhound racing industry in New Zealand was released. As most of you know, greyhound welfare is a topic near and dear to my heart because Izzy is an ex-racer.

This review, by the Hon Sir Bruce Robertson, is not the first review of the industry. It’s not even the second (but the second, known as the Hansen report was a whopping 93 pages. I discussed that earlier report in my blog post How many hounds needing a home?). The 2021 review is the third review of greyhound racing in this country.

So the report made some headlines last week in the news because the Minister of Racing, Grant Robertson, says he’s putting the industry ‘on notice.’ Frustratingly, none of the mainstream news sources provided a link to a copy of the actual report. Being the information geek that I am, I tracked down the report and read it thoroughly over the weekend – with highlighter pen in hand.

Before I go into some of the key findings, you should be aware that a major reason why this review was undertaken is that Greyhound Racing NZ (GRNZ) wrote to the Minister for Racing in June 2020 stating that all 20 recommendations stated in the Hansen review had been successfully implemented and so they would no longer be providing progress reports. The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee felt that the information provided was insufficient and, with more deaths and injuries of greyhounds on the track, this review was commissioned.

I like this review, for one reason because it is PITHY. 19 pages including the appendices, it gets straight to the heart of the matter.

Key points:

  1. Kennel audits were supposed to have been undertaken regularly; GRNZ reported that audits were done annually. This review says that comprehensive information on both the regularity of the audits and their outcomes is not available.
  2. The database on greyhounds was to have been updated to ensure it is easily accessible, and contains accurate information on every greyhound born in NZ or imported into New Zealand until it is de-registered. This review found that not only are the data difficult to access but even the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee cannot obtain even the simplest of information. “There does not appear to be any reason why information regarding the welfare of greyhounds should be outweighed by reasons of privacy, commercial confidentiality, or otherwise.”
  3. The first review of racing recommended that dogs privately re-homed (as in, not through an adoption agency), should be audited to verify their whereabouts. Yet, through submissions to this review, it was found that there is not sufficient information to give any true assurance about the welfare of these dogs.
  4. GRNZ has expanded re-homing efforts BUT it has not established any form of public reduction targets, population projections, or estimated the number of dogs needed for the industry each year. In other words, there is nothing to stop the unchecked breeding of greyhounds for the industry which expects others to take care of their dogs for their lifetimes once they are no longer deemed suitable for racing. The Hansen report clearly said that re-homing alone was not going to solve the industry’s problems.
  5. The negative impacts of racing on overall health often do not present until a dog is settled into a new home.
  6. “No reason given” is still the most common reason for euthanising a greyhound – and by a significant margin.
  7. It is unclear what education and experience standards are in place for individuals employed to assist with breeding and managing kennels.


It has become clear that no matter the outcome of this report, or any reports henceforth, the social license of the industry will continue to be challenged for the foreseeable future. If GRNZ wishes to secure a future for the industry it governs, then it must set out to demonstrate the decency of the greyhound racing industry at every possible opportunity.

GRNZ has made its job harder by unnecessarily obfuscating information and pushing back against those with an interest. All information should be recorded, and it should be available. Arguably GRNZ has data to support its stances on the issues raisedin this report but is seen as unwilling to share this.

For those of you who have an interest, I encourage you to read the report in its entirety and share it with others. The current NZ Government says the industry is on notice and must report by the end of 2022 on its actions in response.

My view is that greyhound racing has been banned in many countries because of the animal welfare considerations. New Zealanders must ask themselves why those animal welfare issues don’t exist here. Because clearly this review has found that they do.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

How many hounds needing a home?

Izzy of The Balanced Dog

All of the dogs I have had in my life have been adopted.

Our first family dog came from a no-kill shelter; our second from a supermarket notice board.  A local re-homing group, Dogwatch, facilitated my first adoption as an owner; my second dog, Daisy, came in a private adoption through word-of-mouth, and in 2014 Izzy, a greyhound adopted through the national adoption group Greyhounds as Pets, arrived on the scene.

Worldwide, there are more dogs that need homes than there are adoptive homes to care for them and this situation is no different for the greyhounds of New Zealand’s racing industry.

As of 2018, New Zealand is one of only eight territories in the world with a commercial greyhound racing industry.  The others in alphabetical order are Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, United Kingdom, the United States (five states only), and Vietnam.

But many New Zealanders are unaware of the findings of  The Hansen Report, which was publicly released in the busy pre-Christmas period of December 2017.  Formally titled A Report to the NZ Racing Board on Welfare Issues Affecting Greyhound Racing New Zealand, the report was written by the Hon Rodney Hansen, QC.

I won’t go into all of the findings in this blog post (the report is 93 pages).  But the statistical analysis of the racing industry’s own data show that despite the efforts of all of the re-homing groups in the country combined, re-homing can’t deal with the influx of greyhounds leaving the industry.  The report deems this a ‘current structural imbalance’ and recommends that ‘re-homing alone cannot solve the problems created by excessive numbers of greyhounds entering the industry each year.’

The bottom line?  There’s still a lot to be done to look after the welfare of the greyhounds in the NZ racing industry.  In the four-year period between 2013/14 and 2016/17, the whereabouts of 1,271 dogs could not even be determined and another 1,447 hounds were officially euthanised.

Upon the report’s release, Racing Minister Winston Peters described the findings as both disturbing and disappointing.  While the racing industry has said it intends to act on all findings, those actions will take time.

And that is why I volunteer with Greyhounds as Pets and also offer my fundraising support.  Because there are so many hounds in need of an adoptive home.

As with children, dogs don’t ask to be born.  But it is our responsibility as a society to care for them once they are brought into the world.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Best Mate – book review

Best Mate

Best Mate is a book for young readers, approximately 10 years of age.   I picked up my copy at an outdoor market for just $3 (the book was originally published in 2007).  Since I am now the proud owner of a re-homed racing greyhound, it was the greyhound on the cover that caught my eye.

It was, of course, an easy read.  But I can highly recommend this book which tells the story of a greyhound pup rescued by a small boy, Patrick, on his way to school.  Named ‘Best Mate’, the pup was discarded in a river canal in a sack with his litter mates.

And so begins a story of a dog and a child’s insight into animal cruelty.  Best Mate loves Patrick and Patrick loves him.  The two are separated when Best Mate is stolen for  racing.  There he meets a young girl named Becky who names him Brighteyes and he makes a friend with another racing greyhound.

But that is not the end of his story, or the cruelty that the book portrays.  Be prepared to support the young reader in your home:  Best Mate’s friend is killed when he can no longer win races.

Best Mate will ultimately be re-homed yet again before the end of the book, and this time he ends up with the name Paddywack.

There are a few chapters in this book written from Best Mate’s perspective.  The only thing that would strengthen the book is to hear more from Best Mate himself.

This book should be on your child’s reading list.  It is a good introduction into animal welfare issues and a good first insight into the greyhound racing industry.

My reading of this book is all the more timely since news has hit the media this week about ‘live baiting’ in Australian greyhound racing…the book doesn’t portray live baiting, but I felt a connection to the story nonetheless because of the headlines.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand