A leading Wagga greyhound trainer says the future of the sport he knows and loves is on tenterhooks as the troubled industry stares down a fresh round of allegations that have shocked the community.
As shocking as the allegations may be, local trainers have urged calm, telling the industry’s detractors that generational change is under way and to have faith in new safeguards.
It comes as the special commission of inquiry into greyhound racing was this week told the industry was responsible for the deaths of up to 17,000 healthy greyhounds in a year.
But trainer Rod Oakman, who earlier this year considered giving up the game over live baiting claims, admits the figure, which he questions, is another damaging blow against the sport.
I think the industry is certainly on a tightrope, but I think a lot of these figures have been blown out of proportion – and it's hurting us.Greyhound trainer Rod Oakman
Mr Oakman said there is talk among Wagga trainers that the industry is “doomed”.
“That’s what a lot of them are saying,” he said.
“I think the industry is certainly on a tightrope, but I think a lot of these figures have been blown out of proportion – and it’s hurting us.”
A cloud of uncertainly sits over the future of greyhound racing, with speculation many tracks could close, prompting a move towards a closely monitored, centralised racing.
The more extreme predictions include a blanket ban on greyhound racing.
Another Wagga trainer, Chris Edwards, said despite the bad news, the industry was cleaning up its act.
“It’s a great sport, it’s a wonderful activity and for me, it’s a passion,” he said.
“There’s no questioning whatsoever the industry is at its lowest point in history, but we’re trying to change the perception of us. We’ve got some wonderful people – and a lot of younger people – on the committee here that are making changes.
“As an industry, we know the barbaric things that are happening need to be addressed.”
Industry-wide changes include a new breeding register and licencing, which is designed to make it harder for “backyard breeders” and provide an accurate count of the number of racing dogs there are.
New testing equipment and in-house veterinarians and compliance officers are also set to clampdown on cheating.
“We have to embrace these changes because if we don’t, we will die a quick death,” Mr Edwards said.