The recent decision, seemingly made unilaterally, by Premier Mike Baird to shut down the entire NSW greyhound racing industry has come as a huge shock to the Medowie and surrounding region.
The unexpected announcement has caught the industry off guard as no consultation with greyhound associations or owners, breeders, and trainers had gone into the decision making process.
The decision based on a controversial report prepared by Commissioner Michael McHugh AC QC titled ‘Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in New South Wales’ has attracted significant media and political interest.
For local greyhound owner and breeder, Mr Luke Miller, racing greyhounds is a hobby that he enjoys with his father.
Mr Miller told Medowie News Of The Area that the decision had rocked the industry and the owners, trainers, and breeders involved including business from support industries such as greyhound food suppliers.
“I do it as a hobby,” Mr Miller said.
“I don’t make my livelihood out of it, but for those who so this is devastating news.”
When asked what motivated Mr Miller to get involved with greyhound racing, Mr Miller told Medowie News Of The Area, “My father had greyhounds until my mid-teens.”
“With the closure of the Newcastle track he gave up racing them.”
“In about 2010, I had stopped playing sport and my father had retired so I asked him to participate in it to keep his mind and body active.”
“We went out and bought Boris, who after retiring, now lives with me as our family pet.”
Mr Miller, as well as others involved in the greyhound racing industry, is concerned the Special Commission of Inquiry’s Report has factual inaccuracies and that Premier Baird has acted without due consideration of these inaccuracies.
In particular, they are concerned that statistics of animal cruelty including greyhound deaths are incorrect and overstated, and that claims made are based on hearsay rather than evidence.
The NSW opposition will oppose the move by Premier Baird to ban greyhound racing.
Member for Port Stephens, Ms Kate Washington said, “I abhor animal cruelty, and the McHugh report into the Greyhound industry sets out some disgusting and systemic practices within the industry.”
“The report also includes 79 recommendations which establish a roadmap for righting the industry.”
“The first recommendation is that Parliament should decide on the future of the industry,” she said.
“Democracy continues to be trashed by Mike Baird and it’s the working class in rural and regional NSW that’s copping it.”
Mr Miller said that following the ABC’s 4 Corners report, he thinks we have come a long way in the industry.
“Those doing the wrong thing shouldn’t be tolerated.”
“We don’t want those people in the industry.”
Following the ABC’s report, the greyhound racing industry has undergone significant reforms including increasing the size of kennels, runs requirements changed, and tracks having to meet new standards.
These reforms have come with an expensive price tag, and for those breeders, owners, and trainers who made the adjustments did so with the understanding that greyhound racing would continue, there was no indication the industry was under threat of closure.
Mr Miller told Medowie News Of The Area, “I’ve never put a dog down, I’ve always rehomed them or I keep them as pets.”
“I’d like that on the record, I have not and will not put a dog down just because they can’t race.”
When asked what it was that attracted people to greyhounds—whether as pets or as racers—Mr Miller told Medowie News Of The Area, “You don’t get a more affectionate dog than a greyhound.”
“I like their raw athletic ability.”
“They are docile by nature and eager to please.”
“They are just such a loving companion, they have such different personalities that easily fascinate you and draw you in.”
Whether the industry should be reformed, better policed, better administered, harsher penalties imposed on those who don’t follow regulations, or shut down is the topic of much debate and argument across the community.
Whatever the final outcome, strong political and community leadership is needed that takes into consideration those impacted by the decision, and a strong plan to enable people reskill into other areas and for businesses to receive compensation.