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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v A Bradshaw, J Jopson, C Steele and A Lee - Reserved Decision dated 19 December 2018 - Chair, Prof G Hall

Created on 20 December 2018

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

OF THE JCA AT CHRISTCHURCH

IN THE MATTER of the Rules of New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association (Incorporated)

BETWEEN

RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)

Informant

ASHLEY BRADSHAW, Licensed Trainer

First Respondent

JANINE JOPSON, Licensed Trainer

Second Respondent

COREY STEELE, Licensed Trainer

Third Respondent

ALISON LEE, Licensed Trainer

Fourth Respondent

Information Nos. A11151, 11152, 11153, 11154

Judicial Committee: Prof G Hall, Chairman

Mr S Ching, Member

Appearing: Mr K Coppins, Stipendiary Steward, for the Informant

The Respondents in person

RESERVED DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

[1] The four respondents are charged as a result of their withdrawing the named greyhounds from a race meeting of the Otago Greyhound Racing Club held on 8 November 2018 at Forbury Park.

[2] Information A11151 alleges that Ms Ashley Bradshaw withdrew without valid reason the greyhounds, BOSTON POWERS (R7), ZUGZWANG (R8), HANKENSTEIN (R8), NOZZNO FEAR (R9), ASSERTING POWER (R9), GO ALL IN (R9), HIGH SPARROW (R12) and MOHICAN RUN (R12). This is an alleged breach of r 40.3 of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing.

[3] Information No A1152 alleges that Miss Janine Jopson withdrew without valid reason the greyhounds EPIC ROSE (R7), KOPUTARA (R8), ANOTHER MESSAGE (R8), WHO’S JOHN GAIT (R9) and KING KALI(R13). This is an alleged breach of r 40.3 of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing.

[4] Information No A11153 alleges that Mr Corey Steele withdrew without valid reason the greyhound OPAWA BRAD (R10). This is an alleged breach of r 40.3 of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing.

[5] Information No A11154 alleges that Ms Alison Lee withdrew without valid reason the greyhound MAN OF LETTERS (R15). This is an alleged breach of r 40.3 of the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Rules of Racing.

[6] Mr Coppins tabled a letter from Mr M Godber, the General Manager of the RIU, dated 8 November 2018 which authorised pursuant to r 66(2) the laying of the charges alleging breaches of r 40.3.

[7] Rule 40.3 provides:

If a Greyhound is withdrawn without valid reason after the Box Draw, or after qualifying for a Semi Final or Final of a Totalisator Race, the Owner or Trainer of the Greyhound shall be guilty of an Offence.

[8] The issue is simple. Did any of the respondents have a valid reason to withdraw their dogs? As there is common ground in the reasons for the withdrawal of the greyhounds in question, these charges were heard at the same time.

[9] The respondents each applied for stays of the 28 day stand downs pending the hearing of the charges. The stays were granted. These were extended at the hearing until such time as this reserved decision is released.

Informant’s case

[10] Mr Coppins stated he was Chairman of Stewards at the Otago GRC meeting held at Forbury Park on 8 November 2018. He was working with Stipendiary Steward, Mr Davidson.

[11] On arriving at the venue Mr Coppins walked the track and, while doing this, he talked to course curator, Mr P Hammond, who advised him that following the heavy rain overnight and through the morning that the track was slushy on top and that he would be reluctant to take any heavy machinery on to the track. Mr Coppins said during his discussion with Mr Hammond he agreed that it would be advisable to not use the tractor. However he believed that despite the slushy top surface, it was of normal firmness beneath that slushy top. Mr Hammond agreed and the Stewards did not envisage any issues with racing.

[12] Mr Coppins said in his opinion the track was safe for racing. When Mr Davidson arrived, Mr Coppins spoke with him about the slushy nature of the track and they decided that they would, as would be normal with any race meeting, monitor the track throughout the day. Mr Coppins said this would be something that the Stewards would do whether there had been significant rain or not.

[13] Mr Coppins then spoke with Mr J Carlyle, the Club secretary, about whether or not any trials had been scheduled, to which he responded that he did not wish to hold trials. Mr Coppins agreed, and told him that the Stewards would continue to monitor the track throughout the day.

[14] Kennelling was completed and no comments were made concerning the weather conditions or the track to the Stewards, the race day veterinarian (Dr T Malthus) or the Club.

[15] Racing duly commenced and while watching each of the first four races Mr Coppins said he did notice that on TV the track did look very slushy. Mr Davidson, who had been going to the start of each race, also said that while it was wet, no trainers had made any adverse comments to him.

[16] At this point (following race 4 and prior to race 5) Mr Coppins advised Mr Davidson that he would go to the kennel block and chat to a couple of trainers and the vet. Mr Coppins spoke to four trainers (Mr C Steele, Mr J McInerney, Mr G Cleeve and Mr B Conner) who all indicated they thought the track was fine. Mr Coppins also spoke to Mr P Seque (handler for trainer Ms A Bradshaw) who did not really want to comment as he had only been out in one earlier race.

[17] Following race 5 Mr Seque entered the Stewards’ room saying that he had been advised by Ms Bradshaw to withdraw her remaining runners. Mr Coppins advised Mr Seque that until this point the Stewards had received no negative comments about the track and that it was still deemed to be safe to race on and that all runners would be stood down for 28 days. A short time later Mr Steele entered and stated he wanted to withdraw his runner and the remaining runners of his employer, Ms J Jopson. Mr Coppins advised Mr Steele what the situation would be regarding the 28 day stand down. Mr Steele advised that he would “take the 28 days and go to the JCA”, but he “didn’t want to be the reason for a meeting being abandoned”.

[18] Mr Seque mentioned that one of his runners had been injured, however Dr Malthus was not aware of this and had not treated or examined any Bradshaw runners. The following week, Christchurch GRC New Zealand Cup night, Ms Bradshaw advised Stewards that one of her runners from the Otago GRC meeting the previous week was found to have a torn gracilis muscle.

[19] Mr Coppins went with Mr Seque and Mr Steele to see Mr Carlyle and notify him of the late scratchings so he could then notify Race Day Control. Mr Davidson ‘Tweeted’ the information and Mr Coppins contacted the on-course commentator about the late scratchings. With the exception of two races ie race 8 (four runners) and race 9 (four runners) the remainder of the fields were not dramatically reduced in numbers.

[20] Mr Davidson went to the kennel block with Messrs Seque and Steele to notify kennel staff that these dogs were late scratchings. Mr Coppins contacted RIU Chief Greyhound Steward, Mr G Whiterod, to ensure that he was happy with the approach and process that Mr Coppins had followed to that point, ie, talking to trainers, the veterinarian and the Club. Mr Whiterod advised that he was satisfied that this approach was in line with the RIU approach.

[21] Mr Davidson and Mr Coppins discussed the ongoing procedure for the remainder of the meeting. They decided to continue to monitor the track, talk to trainers, the vet and Club.

[22] Following race 7 Mr Cleeve came to see Stewards and Mr Coppins asked him again what his opinion was and he said that while the track was definitely very wet with some splashing of dogs, in his opinion the track was still safe.

[23] Following race 7, in which she had a runner, Ms A Lee advised Mr Coppins that she did not wish to start her runner in race 15. Mr Coppins advised her of the 28 day stand down.

[24] Prior to race 9 Mr Cleeve, Mr Davidson, Mr Hammond and Mr Coppins went to inspect the track. Again, Mr Cleeve said that he thought that the track was still safe and that it was a good idea not to take any machinery onto the track as this could have an adverse effect in that it would draw moisture up.

[25] There were 120 dogs accepted to race on the day, of which 105 raced (15 late scratchings from four trainers) and stewards sent only one dog to the veterinarian, Dr Malthus, post-race. This was due to this runner possibly hitting the rail and no injury was detected. The vet did advise that he had examined one dog at the request of connections and found it to have cramped and required a five-day stand-down, but he did not put this down to the track.

[26] Mr Coppins introduced a statement from Dr Malthus in response to Mr Coppins’ request to send “something confirming that you were happy with the track, the dogs racing, ie none presented with injury etc”. Dr Malthus confirmed he was the duty veterinarian on the day. He said “[i]t was a cold wet day, there was only one greyhound presented with a post-race injury. This was a minor scratch … and had nothing to do with the track conditions.” We note that Dr Malthus makes no other reference to the track conditions.

[27] The TAB had the track/weather conditions listed as slushy/raining. The previous three meetings, which were all listed as good/fine, there were a total of 11 dogs sent for post-race vet checks with nine returning no injury on the days concerned.

[28] After the meeting Mr Coppins contacted Mr Whiterod who told him to charge each of the trainers with a breach of the Rules. These charges would normally be by way of a Minor Infringement, but due to the fact that all parties had left the track Mr Whiterod advised that Mr Coppins should call each trainer to notify them of the 28 day stand down and the fact that he would also be filing informations. Before he could call them, Ms Bradshaw rang Mr Coppins and he advised her that she could apply for a review of the 28 days, and also about the charge. Ms Jopson then called Mr Coppins and he told her the same, and before he could call Mr Steele, Mr Steele called him and Mr Coppins had the same conversation with him. Mr Coppins attempted to call Ms Lee. He left a message and talked to her the following day.

[29] When questioned by the Committee as to the weather conditions, Mr Coppins said there had been heavy overnight rain and it rained or was showery during the course of the meeting. With respect to consulting trainers, he said he had spoken to a number after race 4 and had had conversation with senior trainers during the day. Mr J McInerney was there and he had 43 dogs racing on the day. He was one of the trainers spoken to after race 4. He was content that the meeting proceed.

Respondents’ cases

[30] Ms Bradshaw was the first respondent to make an oral submission. She read from a prepared statement.

[31] Ms Bradshaw said that while watching the running of race 5 she noticed the deterioration of the track around the two bends since her dog had raced in race 1. During the running of this race the box 4 dog, IT'S A JOKE, was slow coming out of the boxes resulting in it being several lengths behind the field. Entering the bend her dog, box 5, ODIN SLAYER, was sitting in position 4/5. About half way around this bend, ODIN SLAYER was sitting wide on the track, free of interference and could be seen pulling up, dropping back to 7th position and going out of sight on the replays.

[32] When ODIN SLAYER and IT'S A JOKE reappeared on the screen six seconds later, IT'S A JOKE was 6.3 lengths ahead of ODIN SLAYER, who was a total of 20 lengths behind the winner.

[33] In the replay of this race published online, handler Mr P Seque can be seen looking at the back leg of ODIN SLAYER, who collapses.

[34] During the running of this race and watching the poor result of ODIN SLAYER, despite being clear of interference, Ms Bradshaw made the assumption that ODIN SLAYER had torn a gracilis. An injury which at his age was career ending due to recovery time and high injury recurrence. Later she told the Committee the dog was retired and she confirmed her belief that the injury was due to the state of the track.

[35] In a phone call following the running of the race, Mr Seque confirmed to her that her suspicions were true and ODIN SLAYER had torn a gracilis. During this call Ms Bradshaw and Mr Seque discussed the unsafe track that they believed to be a danger to the safety of their dogs. They decided the risk of losing another race dog was too great and felt it best on welfare concerns to scratch their remaining dogs from the meeting.

[36] Ms Bradshaw said this was not a decision they made lightly. That morning they had received a $3,000 combined monthly and emergency vet bill which had taken one of their race dogs out for several months. Plus they had the loss of ODIN SLAYER for racing purposes following that race. They were also scratching over half of their race team knowing the risk of their not being allowed to race for 28 days.

[37] This decision was going to put Ms Bradshaw into financial strain as greyhound racing was her and Mr Seque’s only source of income to provide for her family and dogs, as well as employee wages.

[38] Ms Bradshaw emphasised this was a meeting they believed they had several good chances of winning. The nature of the track supported dogs that jumped to the front, which many of their dogs did. Even so, they assessed the welfare risk as too great.

[39] As a trainer Ms Bradshaw said she was obliged to have regard to r 85.3, which states:

A licensed person must exercise such reasonable care and supervision as may be necessary to prevent greyhounds under the licensed person’s care or custody from being subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering.

[40] It was Ms Bradshaw’s opinion that the condition of the track surface posed an unnecessarily heightened risk of injury. The fact that no other dog was injured, she believed, was due to good luck not good management.

[41] When Mr Seque approached Mr Coppins about their intentions, he informed Mr Coppins that ODIN SLAYER had torn a gracilis muscle during the running. She understood that Mr Coppins had shown no interest in this information and did not ask about a vet check, nor was this injury recorded in the Stipendiary Stewards’ report despite it being a serious career ending injury. During this meeting Ms Bradshaw said only one vet inspection was recorded, a far lower number than the national average of six inspections per meeting and certainly less than would be expected on such a wet, uneven track, when dogs could clearly be seen faltering on the television coverage.

[42] Ms Bradshaw said that the Stipendiary Stewards’ report stated that discussions were had with trainers throughout the meeting. They had earlier in the meeting asked Mr Seque what his thoughts on the track were, to which he had replied he was unsure as he had not been on the track since race 1.

[43] Significantly, Ms Bradshaw said that when Mr Seque came to Mr Coppins with their concerns and intentions he did not make any mention of organising a track inspection.

[44] Ms Bradshaw said when she questioned Mr Coppins as to when he had performed a consultation on the track with senior trainers, the vet and track representatives, as listed in the report, and as per the guidelines, he failed to share inspection times and instead referred her to the Stipendiary Stewards’ report which did not make note of the time either.

[45] Ms Bradshaw believed this inspection took place around race 8 or 9 (Mr Coppins states it was prior to race 9) after four trainers had already pulled their dogs out and was far too late to preserve the integrity of the race meeting. She questioned how other trainers, including one who recently was found guilty of animal welfare charges, could make a decision on what is safe for her dogs.

[46] Ms Bradshaw believed that if protocol was followed in a more efficient manner, for example the races pushed back one race while the track had an assessment prior to her kennel’s scratchings, the opinions of other trainers may have differed without their having the knowledge of the late scratchings leaving fields easier and safer due to smaller field sizes with an increased chance of prize money, as a large number of the remaining dogs had been withdrawn. One trainer earned another $3k after this inspection and another a further $7k.

[47] Ms Bradshaw said it was also stated on TV during race 7 that trainers had been given the option to scratch, and that the track conditions looked worse on TV than they actually were. She believed this was a most unusual comment and demonstrated that even the race commentator, Mr Teaz, had concerns about the images being presented to the public.

[48] When they committed to racing their dogs, Ms Bradshaw said, they did so on the expectation that the track would be in safe condition for the duration of the entire meeting and trainers should not be expected to endanger their dogs on an uneven and deteriorating track surface. This expectation, she said comes from the constitution of racing under cl 2.1(f), to uphold the highest standards of Greyhound racing in New Zealand, and cl 2.1(c) to formulate and administer Regulations governing Greyhound racing and the registration, breeding, safety and welfare of Greyhounds in New Zealand.

[49] It was Ms Bradshaw’s belief that the Club was not able to maintain a safe track for the duration of the meeting and therefore she should incur no penalty for scratching their dogs.

[50] Ms Bradshaw said there was a precedent for abandoning a meeting because of an unsafe track. She referred to 18 June 2015 at Addington raceway. The meeting was abandoned following the running of race 3 after a dog was euthanized after injuring himself free of interference. She remembered attending this meeting, and after the trainer of the dog that died said he would not race on the track anymore that day, an inspection was done.

[51] Ms Bradshaw questioned why the same offer of an inspection was not made at the Forbury meeting. She pondered whether the Stipendiary Stewards had decided she and the other trainers were not experienced enough to have their concerns taken seriously. She asked whether it would it have taken a dog to die as a result of the track before the Stipendiary Stewards would take a serious look at the track.

[52] Ms Bradshaw placed in evidence a number of photos of dogs racing on the track on the day, and a series of photos that demonstrated the deterioration in the track conditions during the day. She expressed concern as to the depth of the top of the track and the other respondents’ submissions echoed this concern.

[53] Ms Bradshaw questioned Mr Coppins as to why, when ODIN SLAYER had drifted out of the race, this had not been noted in the Stipendiary Stewards’ report. She said surely it was an animal welfare issue. Mr Coppins said the dog did drift out but he had not noticed this at the time, therefore he did not request a veterinarian check. Had any concern been expressed to him, he would have required a check.

[54] Mr Coppins asked Ms Bradshaw why she had taken six days to take ODIN SLAYER to the vet. He questioned why it was not on race day. Ms Bradshaw said she was an organised trainer and she had “meds available at the time”. She had no ability to rush to a vet and took the dog to one when circumstances allowed. Mr Seque had pain meds and these were given to ODIN SLAYER two hours after the race with food.

[55] Mr Coppins replied to Ms Bradshaw’s submission that the Addington approach should have been taken. He emphasised that the Stewards were not considering abandoning the Forbury Park meeting. Therefore, there was no inspection. He was comfortable with discussing the issue with other trainers on the day. He would have only convened a meeting with the trainers if the Stewards were considering abandoning the meeting, They were not. He emphasised both he and Mr Davidson were talking to other trainers on the day. He noted that 13 of the 17 trainers at the track had continued to race their dogs.

[56] Mr Coppins said that below the slush there was a good surface. It was moulding sand which “holds well”. With reference to the photos produced by Ms Bradshaw showing the Addington track and the Forbury Park track, he said a comparison was false as the dogs at Forbury Park were moving and would go into the track further than dogs standing, as they were at Addington.

[57] Mr Coppins said the reason the Stewards decided to talk to a group of trainers after race 4 was that on TV it did not look great. He emphasised that Mr Davidson had talked to trainers both before and after each race. He said these were the major trainers, including representatives of the Adcock, Evans and Wales kennels.

[58] Mr Coppins said Mr Seque had expressed concern about the state of the track when he late scratched his dogs after race 5. Mr Steele had said the same thing at that time. Ms Lee had not expressed her concern as to the track until after race 7 or race 8 when she withdrew her dog from race 15. Mr Steele was also representing the Jopson kennel. There were thus only three persons who expressed concern about the track.

[59] Mr Coppins said Mr Teaz was wrong to say Ms Bradshaw had been given the option to scratch her dogs. Ms Bradshaw confirmed this to the Committee. Mr Coppins said the allegation that Mr Teaz said the track did not look good was hearsay. We do not place any weight on the view of Mr Teaz in this instance and do not address this point.

[60] Ms Bradshaw responded to Mr Coppins’ comment about the dogs getting a grip from the moulding sand. She said the uneven top could be dangerous. ODIN SLAYER had been seen by the physio two days before the meeting and had no injury. The dogs go through the top quickly and the moulding sand was like concrete. She said there was bitumen under the moulding sand.

[61] Miss Jopson then addressed the Committee. She said she believed dogs could sometimes get down into the hard under-surface at Forbury Park and would chip nails and skin their pads. She said a Stipendiary Steward had told her “they did find tarseal.” (We note at this point that Mr Coppins disputed this and the issue was never resolved to the Committee’s satisfaction. We proceed on the accepted basis there was a hard layer of sand under a loose top to the track.)

[62] Miss Jopson said a Forbury Park meeting had been abandoned some two weeks later and this one should have been as well. Mr Coppins replied that the abandonment was due to there being a lot of rain in Otago at the time and there being early concerns about the track. Because of the rain the Club had not had the opportunity to prepare the track as they had had two weeks earlier (ie for the meeting in question).

[63] Miss Jopson said because of the sludge and the splattering as the dogs raced through it, there was a visibility issue and dogs were getting splash back into their eyes and throats. She was also concerned about toe, ligament and hock damage.

[64] Miss Jopson said the handlers had had to walk on the grass to the boxes. This showed the sloppiness of the surface. A meeting with the trainers, Club committee and the veterinarian should have been called.

[65] Miss Jopson referred us to the Blackburn decision of 28 September 2016 where animal welfare issues had been emphasised. She believed these were of greater concern in today’s environment. Trainers were “under the gun all the time” to make things safe for the dog.

[66] Mr Coppins said to Miss Jopson that after race 4 he had spoken to Mr Steele who was representing her kennel on the day, and he had said he was happy and that the track was consistent. Miss Jopson replied that Mr Steele was not as experienced a trainer as was she, and that she could see more on TV. She said she spoke to Mr Steele after race 4, and after race 5 she made the decision to pull her dogs as the track was deteriorating race by race. She believed that the dogs were getting through the surface too much after race 5.

[67] Mr Coppins replied to Miss Jopson that the handlers were walking on the outside of the track or on the path over the fence because they wanted to walk out there and in order to preserve the track for the dogs.

[68] Mr Steele said he decided after race 6 to withdraw the dogs after consulting with Miss Jopson. He said in the catching area it was possible to put fingers in the holes made by the dogs’ footprints. The base was very firm. There was no slush just a compacted hardness. He emphasised the track had not been groomed. He believed the chance of a dog going from a slushy surface to a hard surface in the same stride, ie with one foot in a hole and one in slop, was high, and injuries were more likely in these circumstances.

[69] Mr Steele said at the start of the day the track was slushy but was consistent throughout the whole track. At the conclusion of race 6 he thought the track was getting worse and he was not happy to let a dog race on it. He said for him it was not a visibility issue but the uneven nature of the surface. It was not consistent. Rule 85.3 had the effect that “the number one obligation was to the welfare of the dog” and therefore this was a valid reason to withdraw a dog. Media publicity, politics and Greyhound Board scrutiny meant animal welfare was the number one priority.

[70] Mr Steele pointed out that all four respondents were Canterbury trainers and he described the arduous nature of the day, the associated travel costs, and lost stake money. For the Jopson kennel, these were the only starts that week and thus the only chance to earn stake money. The cost of an injury to a dog was an issue, too.

[71] When questioned by Mr Coppins as to why other trainers were prepared to continue racing, Mr Steele replied that perhaps these trainers did not have animal welfare as their number one priority.

[72] Ms Lee was the final trainer to put her defence to the charge. She said she had been a trainer for over 18 years. She said there was steady rain all day and she had been unable to trial her reserve dogs as Mr Carlyle, the Club secretary, had said to her that the Stipendiary Stewards had wanted to protect the track.

[73] Ms Lee said her dog in race 1 was covered in sand but she thought the track was okay. She did not go on the track again until race 7. Her dog in that race was covered head to toe with sand. The dog could hardly see. She was concerned about the welfare of her dogs particularly because of the inability of track staff to groom the track. She concluded it was not a safe racing surface. Her dog in race 7 usually came from behind. It was coughing and was covered in sand and could not see. She believed the track was unfair for dogs that came from behind.

[74] Ms Lee said that although she withdrew her dog in race 15, it was a dog that jumps. It was a young dog and had previously had a hock injury in late August. After a 10 day stand down the dog had had 2 starts, winning one. She was concerned the dog might re-injure its hock because of the depth of the track.

[75] Ms Lee emphasised she had made her decision to withdraw her dog independently of the other trainers.

Summing up

[76] Mr Coppins said the fact that some trainers perceived the track to be unsafe was not a valid reason when a number of senior trainers said the track was safe to race on and this was supported by the veterinarian and the track curator. He said he had an obligation to other trainers to continue racing.

[77] Animal welfare was always a concern. The other 13 trainers were happy to continue racing and no other injuries were notified. He said Mr Cleeve had said to him there was a lot of water and splash back but he did not raise visibility issues as a welfare concern. Indeed, Mr Coppins said visibility was never raised with the Stipendiary Stewards on the day as being an issue.

[78] Mr Coppins said it was not unusual for a club not to hold trials and he took issue with Mr Carlyle if he had said the Stipendiary Stewards did not want trials as Mr Carlyle had said the Club wanted “to keep the track” and he had agreed with Mr Carlyle.

[79] Mr Coppins reiterated no thought had been given to meeting with trainers as the Stewards did not consider abandoning the meeting. The Stewards had continued to monitor the track conditions and continued discussions with trainers.

[80] Mr Steele stated his kennel only currently had two dogs racing. So loss through injury or a stand down was a big one for the kennel. He reiterated it was not a spur of the moment decision to withdraw his dog. There was a cost and inconvenience through so doing. He had given it a lot of thought. It was a unanimous decision by the owners.

[81] Ms Bradshaw emphasised not only was she willing to lose the possibility of stake money through withdrawing their dogs but also in some cases the opportunity to qualify for the New Zealand Cup. She also noted that although Mr Coppins referred to senior trainers, Mr Wales and Mr Adcock were not there, just their kennel representatives.

[82] When asked by the Committee if safety concerns had led to the withdrawal of their dogs, why did they not speak to Mr Coppins about this before so doing. Mr Steele said it was a machinery issue for him and this could not be rectified. Miss Jopson said she presumed a trainers meeting would be called, as it was part of the Abandonment protocol. She was very surprised one was not called. Ms Bradshaw said she did not think about it at the time. The weather was not improving and it was clear the track would deteriorate. With respect to Mr Coppins emphasising that the 13 other trainers were happy to race, she said the trainers who had not withdrawn their dogs had the likelihood of a 28 day stand down being held over their heads, as had she, and that that may have influenced their thinking, but there was no way of knowing this.

Decision

[83] We are faced with a situation where four trainers had genuine concerns for the welfare of the greyhounds in their care. We have identified these concerns earlier in this decision. These trainers rightly point to the animal welfare emphasis that currently pertains throughout the industry. In this regard, we were referred to r 85.3 which requires trainers “to exercise such reasonable care and supervision as may be necessary to prevent greyhounds under the licensed person’s care or custody from being subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering”. The respondents submit that they were giving effect to this obligation at the meeting in question at the clearly evident expense of having travelled the dogs to the meeting and not racing them and, of course, their forgoing the opportunity to receive stake money. These were no half-baked decisions to withdraw the dogs but were considered actions of concerned licence holders.

[84] On the other hand, we have Stipendiary Stewards, who after consultation with the Club, the course curator, the veterinarian, and selected trainers, determined that the track was safe for racing. It is evident from the photos placed before the Committee that conditions were far from ideal for racing but those persons involved in assisting the Stewards with the decision making on the day had not stated the track was in such a condition that it was unsafe, which, as is evidenced by the charges before us, was contrary to the view taken by the four respondents.

[85] We believe it is unfortunate that a meeting was not called with the 17 trainers or their representatives who were present at the track. 

[86] We note that the GRNZ Abandonment Protocol Scenario Three provides that where safety concerns are raised during the course of a meeting, the Stipendiary Steward must assemble an “Club Inspection Committee” comprising the Club Track Committee or in their absence a Club representative / track curator, vet and two trainer representatives, or alternatively the Club Track Committee, the track curator, and the vet. The trainer representatives are to be selected by the Stipendiary Stewards and no other trainers/ licensed persons are to be involved unless specifically requested to do so by the Stipendiary Stewards. We would anticipate that the trainer representatives might believe it prudent to take a sounding from other trainers present on the day as part of this process.

[87] The abandonment protocol was never implemented by the Stewards because we are told that they never contemplated the abandonment of the meeting. Clearly, however, the Stewards had some concerns with the track and the conditions under which the dogs were racing. From early in the day regular soundings were being made of some of the trainers both before and after races.

[88] An opportunity for all the trainers to meet and share their thoughts on the track and continued racing might have avoided the consequences that followed. A formal inspection of the track with a representative group of the trainers and in accordance with the abandonment protocol would have been opportune. It is accepted that this may have resulted in some delay, with perhaps the meeting being put back a race, if continued racing was the outcome.

[89] Neither of these courses of action were adopted, and this was despite the fact that four trainers (some 25% of the trainers present that day) expressed their concern with the state of the track and indicated their intentions to withdraw their dogs. In total, 15 dogs were late scratched. This of course was to the detriment of the Club and the TAB. Those persons who had invested on the dogs concerned would have had their investments returned.

[90] We can understand that trainers cannot be permitted to withdraw a greyhound on a whim or as the rule states “without valid reason”. Reserve dogs would fail to get a start and box draws could end up determining whether or not a dog competed. The fields could quickly be decimated. This would obviously be far from an ideal state of affairs and would clearly be to the detriment of greyhound racing.

[91] This leads us to consider the specific issue of the withdrawals in the circumstances of this case. We believe the abandonment protocol should have been implemented. This is far from our saying the Stipendiary Stewards were at fault in determining to continue with the meeting. To the contrary, we do not believe that they were, based on the advice they received from the course curator, the veterinarian, the Club and the trainers with whom they had informal discussions. But when faced with not one but four trainers (but we note only three individuals, as Mr Steele also represented the Jopson kennel) expressing concerns as to impact of racing upon the welfare of their dogs, we believe this was the time to implement the protocol.

[92] It may well be that the withdrawal of the dogs concerned would have continued to be the outcome on the day but, importantly, the four trainers would have been given the opportunity to contribute to the decision making. With the exception of speaking and hearing from Mr Steele earlier in the meeting, this did not occur. It is clear from the photographic evidence that the track deteriorated during the day. It is understandable that a trainer’s view as to the safety of the greyhound may have altered in this time.

[93] We are faced with the issue of whether genuine and, in this case, shared concerns as to animal welfare and safety can amount to a “valid reason” to withdraw a greyhound. We believe in the circumstances of the case before us the answer is that they can. We emphasise that the conditions on the day were exceptional. There was persistent rain and the track was deteriorating. We make no finding on the condition of the base of the Forbury Park track. There is simply no evidence before us on which we can draw any firm conclusion. However, it is evident there was a loose top to the track, which was slushy, and the greyhounds were getting into it to differing degrees as they traversed the track. There was a potential for a dog to become unbalanced (and, we were told, resulting strain on hocks) due to it obtaining a different purchase on the track depending on how far a leg extended into the top; ie one leg landing deeper than another. Sand was coming back into the face of the trailing greyhounds affecting sight and breathing. These matters sufficiently concerned the four respondents that they withdrew their dogs and were subsequently charged.

[94] We emphasise we do not find that welfare concerns can always justify a dog being withdrawn but neither do we find that they can never so justify. What we do find is that in the circumstances of this particular case, the withdrawals were not without a valid reason. We see no basis on which to distinguish between the respondents. They all acted out of similar concerns.

[95] We thus find that the charges against all four respondents are not proved. Accordingly, the 28 day stand down imposed on each dog on 8 November last is lifted.

[96] There is no order for costs.

Dated at Dunedin this 19th day of December 2018.

Geoff Hall

Chairman

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