NSW premier hosing down greyhound racing ban before inquiry a ‘mockery’, Animal Justice MP says

<span>The CEO of Greyhound Racing NSW, Robert Macaulay, has resigned after a report alleging welfare issues in the industry was released and then removed from public view.</span><span>Photograph: AAP</span>
The CEO of Greyhound Racing NSW, Robert Macaulay, has resigned after a report alleging welfare issues in the industry was released and then removed from public view.Photograph: AAP

The greyhound racing industry in New South Wales will face a government inquiry but not a ban after the resignation of the industry body’s chief executive and the release of a scathing report alleging welfare issues for the dogs.

The chief executive of Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW), Robert Macaulay, resigned after the report’s release on Tuesday in a decision his board described as “an amicable one, and one he felt was best for the industry at this time”.

The document, written by the body’s former chief vet Alex Brittan, alleged that two-thirds of greyhound deaths had been excluded from official reports and that thousands of dogs recorded as being rehomed as pets were kept in industrial kennels.

The premier, Chris Minns, insisted the greyhound racing industry would continue while the claims were fully investigated, ruling out a ban on racing like that proposed by then premier Mike Baird in 2016.

“We’re not going to shut down the industry but we do take this report seriously,” Minns said.

Related: Animal welfare concerns prompt review of NSW rehoming facility for greyhound racing dogs

The state’s racing minister, David Harris, confirmed he’d announce an independent inquiry in coming days into welfare concerns including those raised by Brittan, while the industry’s independent watchdog, the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission, is investigating Brittan’s allegations.

“We want to make sure that we have a clear pathway going forward that has clear definitions in place about how the sport should be run,” Harris said on Wednesday morning.

Brittan’s report, emailed to GRNSW, GWIC and government bodies in mid-June and seen by Guardian Australia on Wednesday, details allegations that dog deaths were “grossly underreported” and dog rehoming numbers were exaggerated to include dogs left in industrial kennels.

Brittan alleged that thousands of dogs were “trapped in the industry” due to insufficient rehoming and that GRNSW management responded to his concerns by saying “if we can just ignore the problem long enough, it will die”.

A GRNSW spokesperson said the organisation took concerns about animal welfare, integrity and rehoming “very seriously” and was “ensuring the matters raised by Dr Brittan are thoroughly investigated”. GRNSW in June appointed former Victorian police commissioner Graham Ashton to review and make recommendations on the contents of Brittan’s document.

Animal welfare advocates said the premier’s pre-emptive rejection of a ban risked limiting the independence of the forthcoming inquiry.

“[Minns’] comments make a mockery of any so-called ‘investigation’ the minister is planning,” said Emma Hurst, MP for the Animal Justice party.

“We need a public reassurance that – no matter what the recommendations are – that the government will take appropriate action, even if the recommendation is to shut down the industry,” she said.

Abigail Boyd, a NSW upper house Greens MP, demanded a transparent, open-ended inquiry with protections enabling whistleblowers to come forward.

“Anything else would be a continuation of the protection racket afforded to this corrupt industry that has been allowed to run by its own rules for far too long,” she said.

Related: ‘They couldn’t care less’: fears for dogs’ welfare as Greyhound Racing NSW axes one of two adoption centres

The GRNSW board was already under pressure after Harris threatened to sack them over governance and operational issues, including the board’s failure to notify him of the damning report when it was first circulated early in June.

In late June, Harris requested the board members show cause as to why they should not be stood down. The board has until Friday to respond.

“It is no secret that the relationship has become strained because I make no apology for asking for the highest level of welfare and integrity,” he said.

Harris is also reviewing a report into welfare concerns at a GRNSW-run dog rehoming facility in Wyee, prompted by claims from current and former staff in June that the centre has serious animal welfare issues.

GRNSW has run a publicity blitz over the past week claiming 2023-24 was “our best year ever”, including press releases and online, radio and full-page newspaper advertisements.

Additional reporting by Tamsin Rose