The RSPCA has welcomed the release today of the TasRacing Animal Welfare Review (the Sykes report).

“The findings of the report have reinforced many of the concerns that we have expressed over a long period of time,” Jan Davis, CEO of RSPCA Tasmania, said.

According to the expert report, ‘… there is a recognition from Tasmanian racing stakeholders that the advancement of welfare policies in the three racing codes in Tasmania have suffered from the absence of a consistent welfare focus within the organisation …’.

The report notes there are significant structural, leadership and staffing concerns at both TasRacing and the Office of Racing Integrity and makes 83 recommendations for improving the welfare of racing animals.

Ms Davis said that the RSPCA would need to give detailed consideration to the wide-ranging recommendations in coming weeks. However, there are some key recommendations that need to be given immediate priority.

“The report calls on TasRacing to consider rebranding to emphasise equine and greyhound welfare in any mission statement on corporate and media material to reflect (its) focus on the welfare initiatives,” Ms Davis said.

“TasRacing needs to publicly embrace the findings of this report – and early adoption of this recommendation will be a first step in recognising the need for change in attitudes to the welfare of racing animals.”

The report also recommends that TasRacing establish an Animal Welfare Board. Membership of this Board would include members of TasRacing personnel with portfolio responsibilities for animal welfare (eg stewards and vets), as well as representatives of industry greyhound and equine rehoming programs. Importantly, the Board should also include independent animal welfare expertise from the RSPCA and other welfare homing groups.

“Similar structures in other states have not only resulted in improved animal welfare outcomes, but also increased confidence in industry governance arrangements,” Ms Davis said.

One of the major criticisms the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups have made of TasRacing has been the lack of transparency with respect to industry data.

“We keep being told that the government and Tasracing are investing more money than ever before into greyhound and horse welfare, but no-one is prepared to provide actual details in a timely and transparent fashion. We simply do not have any means of judging whether or not this is the case. Even information as to what animal welfare programs the industry has and what investment is being made in these programs impossible to find.”

Ms Davis said that, without this information, it is impossible to test the accuracy of industry claims and hold them to account.

The report recognises that this is a real issue and recommends that Tasracing commit to developing a central database to upload and store information collected at all stages of racing’s greyhound and horse lives to then understand any welfare concerns and make meaningful decisions on those concerns.

“TasRacing needs to demonstrate its real commitment to improving animal welfare outcomes by publicly embracing these recommendations.”

Ms Davis said that there has been little visible progress towards implementation of the recommendations of the Monteith Report into the Tasmanian racing industry, which was released over 18 months ago.

“We stand willing to work with TasRacing to ensure the standards of animal welfare within the state are aligned with community expectations.”

“The RSPCA therefore urges TasRacing, the government, and the broader racing industry, to urgently take action to implement the recommendations of these expert reviews,” Ms Davis said.

Jan Davis, CEO – RSPCA Tasmania
Mobile: 0409 004 228