HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [6.37 pm]: It should be no surprise to anyone in this chamber that I, along with many in the community, support an end to greyhound racing. It is an archaic and cruel pastime based on exploiting animals simply for the sake of gambling profits. I make it very clear that the best way to stop greyhounds from being injured or killed is to ban greyhound racing in its entirety, but I recognise that until either this government or a future government decides to be on the right side of history, at the very least we need to look to reducing the risks that these dogs face every time they race in Western Australia. The risks that these dogs face are quite significant. Last year, over 31 Western Australian greyhounds suffered catastrophic injuries on the track and died or were immediately euthanased on the spot. That is an extraordinary number of dogs. If we were talking about euthanasing 31 horses on Western Australian racetracks, there would be justifiable outrage. I think there should be similar outrage over the deaths of 31 beautiful dogs.
The problem is that people are not aware of the number of fatalities suffered by these animals. The latest 2019 Racing and Wagering Western Australia report highlights an injury record in the industry that is absolutely tragic. Between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018, nearly 3 500 races were held, with 25 562 starts. Of those races, 45 greyhounds died and 736 dogs were injured. I will put those figures into some perspective. Although the injury rate per 1 000 starts might seem low, we need to remember that there were only 1 391 greyhounds registered to race in Western Australia that year. That means that over half of all Western Australian racing greyhounds were injured in that period alone. The RWWA statistics show that although the number of minor injuries had decreased by a small amount, the number of injuries in the more serious injury categories increased or remained the same. The only category in which there was a reduction was for catastrophic injuries, when a greyhound either died or had to be euthanased immediately, which was a reduction from 45 to 31. I point out that that is 31 dogs too many.
There is research on work that can be done to try to at least reduce the number of catastrophic and other injuries in greyhound racing. It has been found that many deaths and injuries can certainly be prevented. In 2017, Greyhound Racing NSW released research by the University of Technology Sydney into ways to make greyhound racing safer. That research shows how to both make greyhound racing tracks and individual races safer for the dogs. A lot of the accidents during greyhound races occur when dogs bump against each other at speed, particularly when they are going around the track’s corners. I do not know whether members have ever seen footage of some of the injuries dogs have sustained, but they make for pretty awful viewing. The UTS study found that the main cause of serious injuries—up to 80 per cent, in fact—was the issue of congestion, especially at the corners of the tracks, and that making tracks straight rather than curved would reduce the likelihood of collisions. That was the first of UTS’s interim recommendations. Further recommendations include —
A.1 Clearly the best option is to use only straight tracks.
A.2 The use of straight tracks would eliminate all injuries associated with greyhounds needing to negotiate their way safely around the bend.
A.3 Notwithstanding, oval tracks exist and while they exist they need to be designed so they are optimised to reduce the injury rates and the severity of these injuries to an absolute minimum.
If we are to retain the existing curved tracks, which, as I mentioned, is not best practice, the industry’s own research shows that increasing the track camber reduces deaths and injuries in the same way that it does for cyclists. The UTS report also highlights the significance of reducing the number of starters per race from eight to six, as is the norm in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The 2018 review of races in the 2016 and 2017 calendar years showed that reducing the number of racers to six from eight more than halves the number of catastrophic injuries. Optimising the track surface is also beneficial in reducing the frequency and severity of injuries.
I think significantly reducing the injuries suffered by hundreds of dogs is something the government could make happen right now. Even if there is no appetite to ban greyhound racing—which I think the government should; it is clearly past the time to ban it—and until there is the fortitude to do that, at the very least, we need to insist on world’s best practice and to take practical measures right now to safeguard greyhounds’ lives and wellbeing. The independent research has shown what needs to be done if the government insists on keeping this particular element of the gambling industry alive, and I think it is up to the government to implement those changes as fast as possible. I, of course, applaud measures to protect other dogs, such as dealing with issues around puppy farming, which we are going to debate soon, but there are some really practical measures that can and I think must be introduced as soon as possible under this government in order to minimise the number of injuries and deaths experienced by these greyhounds.