As greyhounds navigate the risky bends of regular circuit race tracks, officials can only hold their breath and hope for no injuries or worse, deaths.
It’s no easy task when travelling at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour.
But soon the odds will be more in favour of the dogs, with the NSW Government investing millions of dollars in straight tracks.
So far, the sites selected for the safer tracks include Tamworth in northeast NSW, Tweed Heads on the far North Coast and Goulburn in the state’s south.
Goulburn Greyhound Racing Club secretary Patrick Day said the new track, which will be made from sand and is due to be completed by next summer, will be more attractive than oval tracks.
“They reduce injuries and some greyhounds are better suited to a straight track,” he said.
Even Goulburn Mulwaree Council is backing the straight track, recognising the local club’s $9.8 million contribution to the local economy each year, which grew after Canberra’s greyhound race track closed.
The case for the straight track was originally made in 2017 in the ‘Identifying optimal greyhound track design for greyhound safety and welfare’ report by the University of Technology Sydney.
Commissioned by Greyhound Racing NSW, the report recommended the industry adopt straight tracks to eliminate all injuries associated with circuit track bends.
It’s an argument backed by NSW greyhound racing injury and death statistics.
In 2020, there were 48 deaths, including two in Goulburn, and 2821 injuries, according to the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds.
The group is committed to banning greyhound racing but supports straight tracks in the meantime.
It has since called on Greyhound Racing NSW to adopt straight tracks as the standard track type.
This advocacy has forced Greyhound Racing NSW to reconsider its aversion to straight tracks, particularly as most spectators now watch races on television rather than live at race tracks.
Now the NSW Government has supported the governing body’s bid to improve animal welfare at race tracks with a $30 million Greyhound Racing Capital Grants Program.
So far, Greyhound Racing NSW has spent $7 million from the program on safety works that include upgrading, rebuilding and replacing tracks, and creating rehabilitation centres and lifelong homes for greyhounds after their racing careers end.
“The comprehensive greyhound welfare reforms we have brought in over the past few years have had a real impact in driving down injury rates in the sport, and the next big step is the introduction of more straight track training and racing,” said Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson after visiting Goulburn’s greyhound race track.
Mr Day said the club hopes to use the grants to improve the existing oval track by making the track longer and adding more sweeping bends.
The club is also looking to build a veterinary clinic that will provide greyhound welfare, rehoming and desexing services.
Club members will be able to use the clinic pre, during and post-racing.
“We’ve also been running the Goulburn Greyhounds as Pets group for two years, which assists with finding retired greyhounds a forever home,” Mr Day said.