New South Wales has become the first state in Australia to ban greyhound racing, with an announcement on July 7 that it will be banned from July 1 next year.
Premier Mike Baird said the government was left with "no acceptable course of action except to close this industry down" after it considered an 800-page report by a special commission into the "widespread and systemic mistreatment of animals" in the industry.
The special commission found overwhelming evidence of animal cruelty. Baird said the inquiry found up to 68,000 dogs, or almost half of all greyhounds bred in NSW, were killed in the past 12 years because they were too slow; live baiting is practised by about 20% of trainers; Greyhound Racing NSW had a policy of deliberately misreporting the number of dog deaths and injuries; and the industry is not capable of reforming in the short or medium term.
In announcing the ban, Baird said: "The report is ... chilling, confronting, horrific. [It] has shone a light on an industry that has overseen the slaughter of tens of thousands of healthy dogs whose only crime was not being fast enough.
"This is not an easy decision. It is certainly one that is not taken lightly but when confronted with [the] report it is the right thing to do.
"One of the issues we have had to wrestle with is the positive impact of the greyhound racing industry. There are over 1000 direct jobs in the industry and nearly 6000 registered owners of greyhounds.
"So, do such benefits of the dog racing industry outweigh the shortcomings? Based on this report, the government believes they do not. Greyhound racing has been banned in many countries and 39 states of the US and is legal in only eight countries around the world."
Deputy Premier and Racing Minister Troy Grant said the one year delay in closing the industry would facilitate the re-homing of dogs and a transition package for workers. The sport would continue "under scrutiny" until then to forestall a greyhound "genocide".
The issue was first raised in NSW parliament when the late Greens MP John Kaye introduced a bill last year to ban all greyhound racing in NSW after revelations about possums being used as live bait.
"Animals, gambling and profits are a particularly toxic mix," Kaye said at the time. "As long as there is commercial greyhound racing there will be animal cruelty."
In his announcement Baird paid tribute to Kaye's leadership on the issue. "It wasn't a conspiracy theory. He was right. I didn't pay as much attention as I should."
Greens NSW MP and spokesperson for Animal Welfare Mehreen Faruqi said: “This is a win for animals. Animal welfare activists have worked tirelessly for this outcome for so many years. Thousands of people in the community have written letters, rallied at protests and let the government know that they will accept nothing less than a ban on greyhound racing. This is a huge vindication of their efforts.
“Today is such a special day and such a fitting tribute to my late friend and colleague, John Kaye, who was a passionate advocate for animals and worked tirelessly to see an end to this cruel industry.
Greens national spokesperson for animal welfare Senator Lee Rhiannon said the ban on greyhound racing should be replicated across the country.
“The critical thing now is that these dogs are not just shipped interstate, or overseas, for racing. Now we need to turn our attention to other states where this cruel industry is still legal.”
The ACT is set to follow NSW's lead and ban greyhound racing after Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there was "no future for the industry" in the territory.
In a statement, Mr Barr said the ACT government agreed with the NSW government's decision and would consider the findings of the NSW report before announcing a timeframe to ban the practice.
Queensland and Western Australia have no plans to close the industry. Victoria says it has put the industry “on notice” and Tasmania is awaiting a parliamentary report.
Animals Australia's Shantha Hamade said: "We are dealing with an industry which, for more than a decade, has been founded on the practice of live baiting. Also an industry that has happily been responsible for the slaughter of tens of thousands of healthy dogs each year and let's not forget the drugging of dogs for performance enhancing reasons that goes on in this industry."
Hamade said other states should follow the lead of NSW.
"Everything that is going on in NSW is going on nationally and without a national approach to this problem, what we'll see happening is that trainers in NSW will start moving their dogs interstate," she said.