Greyhound racing officials refused to hand over names of suspected live baiters, inquiry told
Published: February 18, 2016 - 4:34PM
Greyhound Racing NSW officials refused to hand over information to the RSPCA that could have helped identify a number of people suspected of involvement in live baiting due to privacy concerns, an inquiry has heard.
The Special Commission into Greyhound Racing has been told a diary which "contained very valued information" was seized during a raid in February 2015 on an unidentified trainer who was suspected of using live animals to train greyhounds on his western Sydney property.
The chief inspector of the RSPCA, David O'Shannessy, told the commission on Thursday that the society had asked Greyhound Racing NSW to identify the people in the diary, which had a list of Christian names and telephone numbers.
But Mr O'Shannessy said the racing organisation would not assist unless they received a formal notice to produce information.
Mr O'Shannessy told the commission the RSPCA never prepared the notice or sent it.
The RSPCA did not think it was appropriate in the circumstances and did not want to be seen to do anything to jeopardise any impending court cases, he said.
Mr O'Shannessy told the commission that had a memorandum of understanding between the organisations been in place, it would have been easier to exchange information.
He had told the commission a memorandum of understanding had been drafted years earlier but had never been signed or finalised for a number of reasons.
These included reservations about sharing information with an organisation that did not have the same powers as it did, privacy concerns, and fears of defamation cases against the RSPCA for releasing information.
The special commission was set up in the wake of last year's live-baiting scandal, which has forced a shake-up of the industry.
The former Greyhound Racing NSW chief executive officer, Brent Hogan, and the board of the organisation stepped down from their positions last year after the scandal broke.
The commission resumed hearings this week to hear evidence about greyhound injuries, general welfare and governance.
It has been told that greyhound racing stewards were told to "desist" from providing too much detailed information about injuries and deaths of the dogs, because the industry was being plagued by "pretty bad publicity".
Mr O'Shannessy said that the RSPCA received dozens of complaints a year about greyhounds but the number jumped dramatically to 100 in 2015 after the revelations about live baiting.
Mr Hogan was recalled to give evidence to the commission.
He said he had not been made aware of concerns by the organisation's manager of welfare, education and welfare, Tony O'Mara, or the chief steward, Clint Bentley, that live baiting was continuing and industry participants had, at consultation meetings with Mr O'Mara, baulked at any moves to stop the illegal activity.
Despite documents going to the board of Greyhound Racing NSW that included areas of concern – including that the historic practice of using live animals needed to be eradicated – Mr Hogan said he believed the issue was about the public perception of dead carcasses of animals being used.
When asked why Mr O'Mara had brought the issue of live baiting to the attention of the board, Mr Hogan said: "It was unclear to us."
The commission has adjourned.