Victoria donates millions to welfare

Days out from the Melbourne Cup carnival, Victorian racing authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to the welfare of retired racehorses.

Racing Victoria has announced a $25 million boost to fund the first three years of an expanded welfare program while the Victoria Racing Club will donate 10 per cent of ticket sales for next week’s carnival to its Equine Wellbeing Fund.

Authorities from around the country met in Sydney on Friday to determine ways to strengthen measures already in place after an ABC 7.30 report on horses being slaughtered at a Queensland abattoir.

Victoria and NSW have programs in place to track horses when they leave racing but problems arise when horses are on-sold again and again with no means to keep track of them.

Victoria has joined the other jurisdictions in calling for a national traceability register.

The Victorian initiative includes:

* An expanded Off The Track Program to create more career opportunities for thoroughbreds who have retired from racing;

* An advanced tracking system: A database to register retiring Victorian thoroughbreds to at least their first post-racing home and for as long as they remain part of the expanded OTT program

* Independent audits of the status of all thoroughbred and broodmares; and analysis of data on livestock sales;

* An equine welfare task force: A dedicated in-house task force focused on delivering programs that improve welfare outcomes for Victorian thoroughbreds;

* Humane euthanasia: A new humane ‘on farm’ euthanasia program administered by registered veterinarians for thoroughbreds where this is considered the most appropriate outcome

RV also expressed its expectation that anyone found to breach the laws which govern knackeries and abattoirs will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

In Victoria, Primesafe is the authority responsible for the regulation of knackeries and abattoirs.

“The horses are the stars of our sport and no one will argue that they must be treated as such. The events and stories of the past 10 days have galvanised both public and industry opinion and created an opportunity to fast-track initiatives already planned,” RV chairman Brian Kluger said.

“Our equine welfare strategic plan is our blueprint for providing continuous improvement for racehorses before, during and after racing.

“There are many challenges to overcome, particularly when the racing industry has no jurisdiction or oversight of retired racehorses.”

VRC chairman Amanda Elliott said racegoers and enthusiasts shared a genuine concern for the horses.

In addition to the percentage from tickets sales, the VRC will donate five per cent of membership fees to the program.

“We fully endorse and commend the announcement made today by Racing Victoria of the investment of $25 million to support the fast-tracking of the industry’s off-the-track initiatives. We are pleased to support the industry with our own substantial fund,” Elliott said.

“Many of our stakeholders and partners are looking for ways to contribute to their wellbeing and this action taken by the VRC facilitates a direct and substantial contribution by everyone.”

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