New law prevents Australian greyhounds being taken to China after dogs raced against cheetahs in Shanghai
Greyhound Racing NSW has attempted to stop exports to places of cruelty by requiring owners to obtain a greyhound passport from Greyhounds Australasia
New South Wales authorities will introduce new laws to stop greyhounds being shipped to cruel and degrading conditions, after a large-scale export racket sent 70 animals to a Shanghai zoo known for racing dogs against cheetahs.
The new rules seek to place a greater onus on racing greyhound owners to prevent their animals being sent to places with shocking animal welfare records. But critics have already dubbed it a “Band-Aid” solution that will mean little unless the federal government toughens its stance on greyhound exports.
Earlier this month, two family members – Mark and Stephen Farrugia – were fined for exporting 70 dogs to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park and another 96 dogs to the Macau Canidrome racetrack. A third family member, Donna Farrugia, was found guilty of knowingly aiding and abetting the exports, and suspended for a year and a half.
The Farrugias had bought the dogs from greyhound racetracks across the state, often when they were no longer wanted by their owners.
They were then exported to China with the approval of the Australian agricultural department, generating the Farrugias a profit of about US$300 per dog.
The animals faced horrendous conditions abroad. At the Macau Canidrome, dogs are routinely destroyed if they underperform or fail to make a profit.
At the Shanghai zoo, they are kept in hot and dark concrete cells and made to participate in cruel spectacles for visitors. That includes a 100m race with a cheetah for the title of “fastest in animal kingdom”.
Greyhound Racing NSW has attempted to stop exports to places of cruelty by requiring owners to obtain a greyhound passport from Greyhounds Australasia. Passports are only issued to certain countries. China is not one of them.
The passport regime, in the case of the Farrugias, failed. There is no federal law preventing the export of greyhounds to places of cruelty.
The Farrugias had obtained permits through the federal agriculture department and complied with its requirements.
The family members said they were unaware of the NSW requirement for a passport and were not told of any such requirement by the department.
Greyhound Racing NSW on Thursday announced it was implementing new rules to attempt to prevent exports to places of cruelty.
It will make it an offence for someone to transfer greyhounds when they “either know or ought to know that the greyhound will likely be exported without a greyhound passport”.
The change effectively places responsibility on the original owner of the greyhound not to give their dog to an exporter, if they think it will be sent somewhere without the proper authorisation.
In a statement announcing the change, Greyhound Racing NSW noted the change would not stop greyhounds being exported to places with poor welfare records, due to the lack of any federal restrictions.
“The lack of a greyhound passport does not preclude a greyhound from being exported from Australia and the federal regulatory scheme does not take account of the animal welfare standards of the destination country,” the agency said.
The NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi welcomed the rule change but said it would do little to stop the practice.
“We know that dogs are sent to the USA and then re-exported to China, where there are hardly any laws protecting animals from abuse,” Faruqi said. “As long as there is money being made of greyhound exports to China and Macau, they will find a way of doing it regardless of these rules.”
Faruqi said the passports scheme had failed. She called on the federal government to “show some leadership” and cease the issuing of export permits for racing greyhounds.