Trainer Dave Irwin’s staunch opposition to Greyhound Racing NSW’s Race Day Water Policy spilled over at Maitland last Thursday afternoon with the leading conditioner failing to comply on the fifth occasion, with the matter now referred to stewards.
Mandatory since February 18, following a trial period where its use was discretionary, trainers must now provide between 250ml and 500ml of water for each greyhound kenneled at NSW race meetings.
Introduced by Greyhound Racing NSW, the purpose of the policy is to protect the health, comfort and safety of greyhounds with respect to their race day hydration, while ensuring the integrity of greyhound racing at the same time.
Currently, NSW is the only jurisdiction to adopt such a scheme.
For Warragai Creek trainer Irwin, regarded as one of the sport’s leading conditioners with a life-long involvement in the industry, he feels he’s been left no choice other than to tackle the issue head-on, resolute in his quest to get what he believes to be the right outcome for participants.
“Let me just say from the start I’m all for everything we can do for animal welfare – that’s a given – but this policy, if anything, is counter-productive,” said Irwin earlier this week.
“What we have here is a policy that hasn’t been thought through – it’s that simple.
“When you have respected industry vets both locally and interstate prepared to put their grievances in writing that should be enough to say things aren’t perfect.
“At the end of the day trainers are wholly responsible for the welfare of their greyhounds - nutrition, hydration, temperature, health - the list goes on. The onus is on the trainer to do the right thing by their greyhound the moment they step into their kennels – the small time they are kenneled on race day shouldn’t be any different – it’s from one extreme to the next.
“I’ve forwarded documentation to GRNSW CEO John Gibbons and based on that information have asked him to reconsider GRNSW’s position on the policy and place the responsibility back on the trainer, the way it should be.
“My understanding is if there is data to support the policy the industry hasn’t seen it. Since its implementation we’ve seen many greyhounds drop their performance. The idea of a greyhound to be racing - sometimes within minutes of drinking up to half-a-litre of water - is actually a hindrance to welfare not a help, not to mention a significant integrity issue.
“From my own perspective my attitude to hydration – particularly on race day is as meticulous as you can get – to the minute almost. Travelling distance, weather conditions, mannerisms of the dog – there’s so many moving parts. The objective is to ensure the dog is happy and healthy but at the same time not racing - sometimes over 700 metres with a stomach full of water – that’s not in the greyhound’s best interests.”
The Race Day Hydration Policy has received mixed reactions since its implementation.
In its current format, the policy makes no concession to whether the greyhound’s a 22 kilo bitch or a 41 kilo dog.
Whether the greyhound is due to compete in race one or 12 – sometimes a three hour disparity as to how much time will be spent in the kennels.
Whether the race meeting is at The Gardens on a Friday afternoon in the throes of summer or at Bathurst on a Monday in the middle of July where the temperature may see itself a few clicks above zero.
The industry continues to embrace change and performance should never be placed above welfare. Nor will it.
Elements of this policy has merit but the basic principle of the trainer’s obligation to exercise his or her discretion for what’s best for that particular greyhound gets lost in all of this.
These offices received a call on Monday from a trainer engaged at Wentworth Park on Saturday night – it was the first time the greyhound had raced since the Water Policy became mandatory.
After drinking every ounce of water the greyhound competed in an early race, performing well below par. Post-race the greyhound brought it all up – hardly ideal.
But in the same conversation that same trainer said they had another greyhound that the policy may work well for in moderation.
There you go, discretion based on the greyhound and all the moving parts involved in forming a decision based on an intimate knowledge of the greyhound.
Trainers are licensed by GRNSW after becoming satisfied they will do their absolute best for the greyhounds in their care – responsible for their ongoing welfare.
Trust may well be a great place to start.
Dave Irwin has asked any trainers that share his concerns on the policy to email him – confidentially - at email@example.com
PLEASE NOTE: If trainers wish to raise any concerns with the current policy, GRNSW encourage participants to email firstname.lastname@example.org