Greyhound injuries covered up: inquiry

By Peter Trute
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NSW greyhound inquiry to resume

A public inquiry into the NSW greyhound racing industry is set to resume in Sydney.

Greyhound racing officials continued to misreport serious injuries to dogs for months after an inquiry began probing live baiting and euthanasia of unwanted animals in the industry.

The inquiry into the NSW greyhound racing industry heard stewards, also known as "integrity officers", were instructed to leave details of serious injuries out of meeting reports in an attempt to avoid attention from animal welfare groups.

In an April, 2013 email revealed at the inquiry on Wednesday, NSW chief steward Clint Bentley told stewards management had decided their reports should "desist from providing too detailed information" in reports of dogs' injuries.

"As you would all be aware we have copped some pretty bad publicity recently with regard to injuries suffered by greyhounds at race meetings," Mr Bentley wrote.

Management had discussed the issue, he wrote, and "we suggest that you no longer report injuries such as fractures or breaks but rather just as injured, ie If a greyhound was to sustain a fractured hock we would report it as an injured hock," the email advised.

The inquiry heard the leadership at GRNSW had decided on that action after negative coverage of a race meeting at Dapto where three dogs were seriously injured and died.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Stephen Rushton SC, said misreporting of injuries and deaths had continued until November, 2015.

This was nine months after the ABC exposed widespread live baiting in greyhound racing, resulting in the board of GRNSW being asked to stand down, an interim CEO being appointed and the establishment of the inquiry.

On Wednesday Mr Bentley, who remains chief steward at GRNSW, said he thought the reports were appropriate because they were for informing punters about injuries.

"I don't think that an injured neck, as opposed to a fractured neck, would make a difference to the public," he said.

Mr McHugh asked whether the reports were motivated by a desire to "shield GRNSW from the scrutiny of the animal welfare groups".

Mr Bentley replied: "It's probably fair to say that that was the case, yes."

Former Greyhound Racing NSW chief executive officer Brent Hogan told the commission there had been discussion in the leadership group about what level of detail was appropriate for consistent descriptions of injuries in steward reports.

The commission also heard reports would not include greyhounds being put down, instead recording that an animal had suffered a severe or catastrophic injury.

Mr McHugh said the explanation of a need for consistency was not convincing.

"It appears to me that there was a deliberate policy of euphemistically describing injuries so that it would not excite the interests of animal welfare groups," he said.

The hearing continues on Thursday.