Greyhound Racing Reforms in the ACT

Monday 6 November 2017 @ 10.41 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

Last Thursday, 2 November 2017, the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory was presented with two coinciding Bills which are proposed to pave the way for future reform with regard to Greyhound Racing in the ACT. The Bills are: the Racing (Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017, presented by Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay; and the Domestic Animals (Racing Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017, presented by Minister for Transport and City Services, Meeghan Fitzharris.

As stated in the Explanatory Memoranda to these Bills, “together, the two Amendment Bills provide for:

  • greyhound racing and trialling in the ACT to cease with effect from 30 April 2018;
  • removal of provisions relating to a controlling body for greyhound racing in the ACT;
  • amendments to the definition of ‘race’ so that it no longer includes greyhound racing in the ACT; and
  • the ownership, breeding and training of greyhounds in the ACT for racing outside the ACT to continue on the basis that it:
    • is at no cost to the ACT community
    • complies with strict animal welfare standards.”


In 2015, the NSW Parliament launched the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW. The Report, released on 16 June 2016 by Michael McHugh AC QC, made a number of important findings in relation to Greyhound Racing including:

  • Of the 97,783 greyhounds bred in the last 12 years, between 48,891 and 68,448 dogs were killed because they were deemed uncompetitive as racing dogs – this equates to a “wastage” rate of 50 to 70 per cent.
  • Even by reducing the number of races to the minimum required for the industry to remain viable (593), at that wastage rate there would still be 2,000 to 4,000 dogs killed prior to reaching racing age each year.
  • Evidence of live baiting extends as far back as 2009 and with around 10 to 20 per cent of trainers engaged in the practice, the Commission concluded that there is endemic support for the practice and that GRNSW knew about the practice and did nothing about it.
  • Greyhound racing is only commercially run in eight countries. The largest of those is the United States where it has been in decline over a number of years with Arizona becoming the 40th state to ban the sport in June this year.
  • Deaths and injuries went unreported to GRNSW even following a Four Corners report in February 2015 exposing live baiting practices, and the establishment of the Special Commission of Inquiry in May 2016.

Consequently, the Report made two recommendations going forward into the future:

  • Option 1 (Rec. 1) – no longer permit greyhound racing and close down the industry.
  • Option 2 (Rec. 2-80) – maintain the industry and undertake reforms to improve transparency and governance and reduce the level of greyhound deaths.

The ACT Initiative

As a consequence of the NSW report into greyhound racing, the ACT Government made a commitment in 2016 to end Government funding of greyhound racing, as well as to put an end to greyhound racing all together. One of the first steps in this initiative was made in the 2016-17 Budget Review, published on 7 February 2017, which stated that:

“The Government will cease grant funding for the greyhound industry in the ACT, effective from the expiry of the current Memorandum of Understanding on 30 June 2017. The grant funding of $1.033 million in 2017‐18 will be redirected to a transition program to assist workers to re‐skill, as well as rehome and care for the greyhounds”.

Another step made by the ACT Government  towards ending greyhound racing in the ACT was made in the form of the Greyhound Racing Industry Transition Option Analysis (the Durkin Report), presented to the Attorney-General on 15 May 2017, by Ms Mary Durkin, an independent consultant. This report discussed the statistics and implications of Greyhound Racing in the ACT and found  that:

“there are 70 Canberra residents who are active participants (i.e. owners, breeders and trainers) in greyhound racing in the ACT, with approximately 52 racing greyhounds owned by ACT residents and based in the ACT. NSW owners and trainers represent a significant majority of participants in greyhound racing in the ACT. In 2016 approximately 71 dogs that raced were based in the ACT, while 1107 were from NSW.”

The Bills

The Racing (Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017 (the “Racing Amending Bill”), and the Domestic Animals (Racing Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017 (the “Domestic Animals Amendment Bill”) were released as a joint initiative to give effect to the ACT Government’s initiative to end greyhound racing in the ACT.

Racing (Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017

The Racing Amendment Bill primarily amends the Racing Act 1999 to take out any reference to Greyhound Racing which may be found in that Act. The most distinct way which this is achieved is through the amendment of the long title of the Racing Act, omitting “greyhound racing” from the title. The long title is therefore changed from:

“An Act to regulate thoroughbred racing, harness racing and greyhound racing conducted for the purpose of betting, and for related purposes”; to

“An Act to regulate thoroughbred racing and harness racing conducted for the purpose of betting, and for related purposes”.

Further, the Racing Amendment Bill omits references to greyhound racing in Division 3.3 of the Racing Act, as well as in s 61E, which provides the definition of race field information.

The Bill then proposes to insert a new Part 11 into the Racing Act, which provides for transitional regulations and provisions while Greyhound Racing is in the process of being phased out of the ACT. The regulations which are permitted by this Part are those which “prescribe transitional matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed because of the enactment of the Racing (Greyhounds) Amendment Act 2017” [see section 110(1)].

The Racing Amendment Bill additionally amends the Race and Sports Bookmaking Act 2001; the Race and Sports Bookmaking Regulation 2001; the Racing (Race Field Information) Regulation 2010; and the Totalisator Act 2014; omitting references to greyhound racing in relevant legislation in the ACT.

Domestic Animals (Racing Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017

The Domestic Animals Amendment Bill amends the Domestic Animals Act 2000 and the Domestic Animals Regulation 2001. These amendments again provide for the end of greyhound racing in the ACT by providing for new obligations to those people who “own or have day to day control of greyhounds that are involved, or are intended to be involved, in greyhound racing other than in the ACT.” Outlined in the Explanatory memorandum to the Domestic Animals Amendment Bill:

“All greyhounds remain subject to the existing requirements in the Domestic Animals Act for the registration of dogs generally in the ACT. An owner of a greyhound that is to be used for racing will be required to apply for racing greyhound registration for that dog from the age of six months. Owners of pet or rescue greyhounds that will not be involved in racing, training or breeding will be required to make a declaration to this effect by the time the dog is six months old to avoid liability for additional registration requirements.”

The Domestic Animals Amendment Bill also adds a new division 2.4A, which deals explicitly with “Racing greyhounds”. This division provides for a registration system whereby, under s 39C of the new division, an owner may register to the registrar for their greyhound to be registered as a racing greyhound. The Domestic Animals Amendment Bill then creates an offence of keeping an unregistered racing greyhound under s 39D. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 50 penalty units and is applicable under strict liability.

The other Acts amended by the Domestic Animals Amendment Bill are:

  • The Domestic Animals Regulation 2001 will be amended to include the additional information that will be required for racing greyhound registrations, and the information that will be provided on certificates of registration.
  • The Animal Welfare Act 1992 will be amended to make it an offence to conduct, or facilitate the conduct of, a greyhound race in the Act. It will also be an offence for a person to allow a greyhound that they keep to take part in a greyhound race in the ACT.  
  • The Animal Welfare Act will also be amended to make it an offence to allow a female greyhound to breed in a way that contravenes a breeding standard (the standard addresses matters such as breeding ages and the number and frequency of litters).  “

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Domestic Animals (Racing Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017: Bill and Explanatory Memorandum as published on Timebase, LawOne.

Racing (Greyhounds) Amendment Bill 2017: Bill and Explanatory Memorandum as published on Timebase, LawOne.

Racing Act 1999: as published on Timebase, LawOne.

Michael McHugh AC QC (16 June 2016). Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in New South Wales: Report.

NSW Government, Department of Justice. Greyhound Special Commission of Inquiry Factsheet – July 2016.

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