Greyhound industry figures discussed breeding so many dogs it would become impossible to shut down the industry due to welfare issues, in secret recordings tabled in South Australia’s Parliament.

Greens MP Tammy Franks told parliament the meetings were held in Gawler and Murray Bridge in December 2023 and April this year, in response to the findings of an independent inquiry into the industry

Ms Franks obtained recordings of the meetings and tabled them during a hearing of parliament’s budget and finance committee.

In one recording, a man who appears to be running the meeting, encourages breeders to not be discouraged because of a looming threat of an industry shutdown.

“People have asked me should I stop breeding?” he said.

“I’ve sort of said, I think you still keep breeding and otherwise we won’t have enough product in two years’ time, enough dogs to race in two years’ time.”

Greens MLC Tammy Franks tabled the recordings during a hearing of SA Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

But another person, who Tammy Franks told the parliamentary inquiry was industry veterinarian and greyhound breeder John Katakasi, suggests high breeding rates would help keep the industry open.

“The more dogs, the harder it is for them to shut the industry down because it’ll cost them too much and be an animal welfare disaster, so the more you can breed now the harder it is,” he said.

“The harder it is for them, the bleeding hearts that want to find homes for all dogs and things like that, the more there are in the system, the harder it is for them to do anything.”

The ABC made multiple attempts to contact Mr Katakasi for a response.

Industry closure threat as inspector appointed

After the ABC aired drone vision of dogs being abused on a South Australian property, the state government launched an independent review of the industry.

Once the review was completed, the government pledged to give the industry two years to meet a series of recommendations, or face the threat of being shut down.

It’s now appointed former racing integrity commissioner Sal Perna to fill the newly created role of Greyhound Industry Reform Inspector, who will begin in the job in July.

In the recordings of the meetings, there is discussion around the lack of flexibility on recommendations and how they’ll be met.

But there is also discussion about whether the industry can push back on some areas, such as getting more time to meet larger kennel size requirements, or whether they can argue against a ban on surgical insemination.

Discussion of legal action against illegal drone use

During the meetings, a major concern is raised about drones being illegally flown over properties, and the steps being taken to track down and prosecute the people doing it.

“Hopefully we can stop these invasions of our properties, it is illegal, we need to, if you can get cameras,” one person said.

“I mean the Adelaide Greyhound Club moved a motion at our AGM that we are going to put aside $25,000 if anyone needs us to get a barrister or a private detective to get onto these people.

“The best chance of us stopping them is bankrupting them.

“The unfortunate thing about the drones and stuff is the properties haven’t looked great, so they’ve been able to make us look bad haven’t they?

“Some of the properties look okay to me but then the average person who lives in suburbia thinks all our dogs should be sitting on a fluffy couch watching TV with them.”

Sal Perna has been appointed as SA’s greyhound industry reform inspector.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

In a statement to the ABC, Greyhound Racing SA said individual comments don’t represent its views.

“Any isolated points of discussion raised by individual participants were just that – for discussion – and do not represent the views of GRSA or the overall industry sentiment,” it said.

“While we understand participant concerns around continuous breaches to their privacy through illegal drone surveillance and covert recordings, our industry focus remains on working with all stakeholders to strengthen regulatory oversight.”

It said it’s working with trainers and breeders to reform the industry.

“GRSA has led a number of engagement sessions across the state regarding the industry’s reform agenda and these have been met with strong recognition and support by the vast majority of participants,” it said.

“We continue to make good progress against the inquiry report’s recommendations and remain focused on working with participants and government to safeguard the future of our great sport.”

A warning of an industry on notice

The chief executive of the Office of Recreation, Sport and Racing, Kylie Taylor, was appearing to give evidence at the parliamentary committee when Ms Franks tabled the recordings.

Ms Taylor said she was surprised to hear of their contents, and would raise it with Greyhound Racing SA.

She told the committee the industry needed to take the reform recommendations seriously if it was to continue to operate.

“All I can say to all of those things is, don’t reform at their peril,” Ms Taylor said.

“If they don’t do it, the government has accepted they are willing to shut the industry down and they expect reform.”

Ms Franks said she’s hopeful the new inspector will bring more transparency to the industry.

“Establishing legal fighting funds, breeding dogs, opposing the recommendations around artificial insemination does not give me any comfort that this industry is serious about real reform,” Ms Franks said.

“Really it should be shut down.”

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