GRSA CEO on 5AA regarding SA muzzle laws

Jan 14, 2019

Last week there was a story in The Advertiser regarding changes to muzzle laws for greyhounds in Victoria. Greyhound Racing South Australia's CEO Matthew Corby spoke with Graeme Goodings on 5AA to discuss if the changes affected SA and he also spoke about the important role foster carers play in GAP SA's success.

Transcript of the interview is below:

Greyhound lovers across Australia are rejoicing now that their beloved pets are not longer required to wear muzzles in public. The new nation wide law came to affect on January 1st, I think the law will help with the public image of greyhounds. They must still be leashed in public.

(Graeme) Matt, good afternoon to you.
Is that story in the advertiser, doesn’t seem to be quite the case, what’s the case in our state?

(Matt Corby) No, I don’t think anything sinister occurred this morning but, we did have some cross wires there, just for the sake of clarification, I guess as a starting point, the article that went in the Herald Sun this morning in Victoria was picked up here, did talk about, did convey the sense of a national position, in exchange to muzzling laws, but to be clear that law is a state law in Vic, and they have changed it so that from Jan 1, a muzzle law for greyhounds does not apply in Victoria, but it still does apply in South Australia for the moment. That said, it is a process that will be watching in Victoria, it is one that I think we strongly and philosophically support, it still represents good progress.

What is the background and history of greyhounds needing to be muzzled?

It is interesting you asked, it has been long in the history at some point in time, it is really probably come about as a result of the fact that greyhounds race at fairly high speeds, and with their mouths open so they have always had a muzzle in racing. It probably flowed from that at one stage, that practice was to muzzle them when they were being adopted out in the public, now lots changed in the decades that have passed since such legislation was introduced, it really does not take in to account that greyhounds have a considerably more positive and family friendly temperate than a number of breeds of other dogs that people take on as pets. It is probably failing to keep pace with the science of the situation, one thing I do say that might have been different about greyhands that they have kept in place for some time is that compared to other breeds of animals, greyhounds make their transition in to domestic lives as a pet, at some point either after they haven’t made the track as a racing career or they are raised and finishing their racing career, and so I guess that is probably the only unusual thing that greyhounds go from, being in a regional or a rural setting, and as being trained greyhounds for racing and then they make a step across to domestic lives as a pet, that offer doesn’t occur until they are 2,3 or 4 years of age. The reason I point to that of being unique, or different is, that I guess that points to the fact that there is maybe a bigger transition for dogs of any breed at that age, making that transition whereas many other breeds would go in to a pet or a domestic situation, soon after birth or at least close to a younger age, so in that sense, we have a number of dogs that retire out of the system each year from racing, we have an unconditional responsibility we believe to rehome all dogs, but part of that process is a phase we call fostering, where greyhounds go from that regional setting and they get used to things that every day dogs I suppose, get used to, that could be garbage trucks or kids or the sites and sounds of normal every day life.

So it is a bit of re training?

It is a bit of re training. That foster care period is usually 6-8 weeks and so, in that sense I guess that the notion of the muzzle being on for that period remains as maybe a proportion as much as anything else. Then when dogs have graduated through that process, we put them through a vigorous testing which dog and cat board are credited, and they receive their green collar at which point, their muzzles do come off. So when you are walking along the street and you see greyhounds that have been adopted in to the community and there are many vowels that have done that in recent years, you will typically see them muzzle off only during that 6-8 period where we are going through to a process of foster caring, which is a re training or an assimilation in to their new life.

Now there are a number of myths I assume about greyhounds, if you tick them off for me…

Greyhounds need a lot of exercise?

Not true, we could summarize their exercise requirement by saying a short walk every day, 20-30 mins is ample. We tend to suggest 30-35 minutes, once every two days, as a minimum, and our side of that, they get home, they collapse, they sleep, they come out for a few minutes at a time to check everything is as it is before they fell asleep, first time then they go back to sleep. Sometimes you don’t know you have a greyhound in your house, they are so silent and such couch potatoes, they are more like a sleeping teenage boy than they are a pet.

That could also dispel the myth of their hyperactive.

They are certainly not hyper active, but that said, it is interesting that their short burst of energy and this is why they are a dog that are atune to racing, they are beautifully designed as a breed to be perfect athletes, and so yes, in the context of racing, they can put in a 400-500 metre burst, over a very short period. It’s only about 30 seconds to run half a kilometre, and they have a heavy level of muscle mass to fat, and they have very thin bones and long legs, all the things that designed to speed. Once they have expended that energy, they have nothing left in the tank and they take a little while to fill up.

There’s another suggestion that they wouldn’t make a good pet because they are not cuddly.

Oh no, that is certainly incorrect, they are genuinely viewed as a very family friendly pet. Once they have made this assimilation in to family life, I have 2 young childrens, our retired greyhound is just a big softie, I think if you find you spoke to anyone who owns greyhounds, they understand that they are really soft animals, they can be a little bit sooky if anything. They generally tend to have a favourite parent in the house hold, they are pretty calm beings.

What about the suggestion that they are dangerous to cats and other small animals,

We do have to be very careful with cats, I guess that is not unique to greyhounds, that a number of dogs just don’t socialise well with cats. Of the rehoming program that we have in place we are always conscious of making a decision through testing in the beginning that dogs are either cat friendly or not cat friendly, some of them just aren’t meant to mix. As I say that, that’s a pretty typical challenge that confronts most dog and cat owners, that they have to show caution in that regard but no, it does not apply more to greyhounds than any other breeds.

What about the fact that because they are so athletic, that they prefer an outdoor environment?

No, they don’t, getting back to the issue of hyperactivity, they spend so much of their time curled up on their bed or on a pillow or cushion, they really do not need much space outside, it is nice if people have a yard, but we have a lot of greyhounds who are perfectly happy in an environment or apartment, or similar. They do not exercise more than any other breed.

I think you have put those myths to rest, and anyone contemplating a greyhound would do well to consider it because apparently they make wonderful pets.

They do, probably the greatest thing for us, is people getting involved in foster care and we provide all of the food, the bowl, we provide a weekly subsidy really our aim in foster care, we are always recruiting family or individuals who want to help us out, sometimes it helps people in temporary situations who like to travel and don’t want a 52 week commitment of a dog, we have a greyhound partnership with the L:ittle Heroes Foundation, where if people go through that, we actually make a donation of $500 to Little Heroes, great to work with helping children suffering illness. There are all sorts of ways to get involved. Head to GAPSA.org.au, where people can learn more about that, but they are a fantastic pet, we always enjoy an opportunity to get the message out that this is a fantastic breed.

Well it would seem that it should only be a matter of time, before they can go unmuzzled in South Australia.

We certainly will be looking at what has happened in Vic, we’d be pretty optimistic that it will go seamlessly, that trial, and I don’t think it would be long that we would be knocking on the door of authorities here to seek a similar lifting of that rule, we would just like to be cautious with everything we do, this is a big program for us to make sure  we get greyhounds in to home, I think muzzles probably do impact on the perception of breed, while we spend more than a million a year on rehoming greyhounds, anything that we can do to promote that the true nature of these dogs as great family pets, it is probably going to be a benefit to us, so I think, we have to watch this space and make sure that we are moving with the times and presenting our greyhounds in the light that really reflects their true nature.

Nice to talk to you today.

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