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$25 million commitment to equine welfare in Victoria

Racing Victoria (RV) today announced a $25 million plan dedicated to the welfare of Victorian thoroughbreds with an immediate focus on their post-racing wellbeing.


The landmark commitment will fund the first three years of an ongoing program to accelerate and expand RV’s Equine Welfare Strategic Plan.


RV also called on all sectors of the racing industry, as well as those outside the industry with a thoroughbred in their care, to step up and be accountable for treating thoroughbreds with the humanity they deserve in life and in death.


The $25 million commitment launched today will deliver:


  • A statewide re-homing program: An extended re-homing network which takes advantage of existing infrastructure to support retired thoroughbreds transitioning into second careers or forever homes;


  • Post-racing career options: An expanded Off The Track Program to create more career opportunities for thoroughbreds who have retired from racing;


  • A statewide foster program: A new foster program to provide short to medium term support for thoroughbreds in need;


  • An advanced tracking system: A new Off The Track (OTT) 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 taskforce: A dedicated in-house taskforce 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; and


  • Responsible breeding: Support for a national responsible breeding campaign led by Racing Australia and Thoroughbred Breeders Australia to reduce the number of thoroughbreds that end up with no options.


RV called on all regulators across the country to ensure that animal welfare standards are being maintained and compliance strictly enforced in Australian knackeries and abattoirs.


RV 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 order to serve as a deterrent to those people who do not take their animal welfare responsibilities seriously.  In Victoria, Primesafe is the authority responsible for the regulation of knackeries and abattoirs.


Supporting the outcomes of last week’s Racing Australia Equine Welfare Meeting, RV also renewed its call for collaboration between the Federal and State Governments to develop a National Horse Traceability Database.


The minimum $25 million spend over the first three years of the accelerated action plan will be funded by an increased investment from RV, a contribution from the Industry Sustainability Fund and an increase in the industry contribution from 1% to 2% of prizemoney.


Today’s announcement complements existing equine welfare programs undertaken by RV and the wider Victorian racing industry including the highly regarded Off The Track program and world leading injury prevention research.


It also follows the recent joint $1.3 million investment by RV, the State Government and University of Melbourne to bring Australia’s first Standing Computed Tomography (CT) Scanner to Melbourne to assist in the early detection and prevention of serious injuries in thoroughbred racehorses.


Quotes attributable to RV Chairman, Brian Kruger


“Victoria’s vision is to be a leader in equine welfare practices. Whilst the industry has achieved many great outcomes over recent years and has a clear pathway for the future, it is clear we need to step up and do more.


“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 galvanized both public and industry opinion and created an opportunity to fast track initiatives already planned.


“Our equine welfare strategic plan, which was released earlier this year after extensive industry consultation, is our blueprint for providing continuous improvement for racehorses before, during and after racing.


“Today we are announcing an expanded and accelerated action plan with at least $25 million over the next three years to fast track better welfare outcomes for Victorian thoroughbreds.


“There are many challenges to overcome, particularly when the racing industry has no jurisdiction or oversight of retired racehorses, however we are committed to making important steps in the interests of our equine stars and the sport more broadly.


“This is not a job that can be done on our own. It requires industry commitment and ongoing support from Government and to that end we again implore the Federal Government to work with its state counterparts to fast track the introduction of a National Horse Traceability Register to assist our efforts.


“We understand that the development of a national database for all horses will be a complex matter. We welcome the opportunity to work with Government to trial a pilot scheme for thoroughbreds.


“Critical to the success of these initiatives is the coming together of all Australian Principal Racing Authorities and we intend to play a major role in supporting Racing Australia to drive a national agenda which provides for world-leading equine welfare outcomes for Australian thoroughbreds.


“All stakeholders in the Victorian racing industry have a responsibility to the horse and thus I wish to commend the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) on their announcement today that it will be contributing more than $1 million to kick-start an Equine Wellbeing Fund on behalf of the Club.


“Importantly, those people attending the Melbourne Cup Carnival next week, be they VRC members or racing fans, can take comfort in the knowledge that a percentage of their admission ticket will help to fund future initiatives in the interests of the horse.


“We also know that commercial partners of racing share our commitment to equine welfare. We will continue to work closely with them to create opportunities for their ongoing support of our equine welfare projects.


“Thoroughbred racing is a vital contributor to the state of Victoria, supporting 25,000 jobs and bringing together regional and rural communities. We want it to remain strong and viable for future generations and we will be working tirelessly to achieve that.”