Greyhound racing has been topical and controversial in NSW in the past 12 months, including a Government ban announced and later rescinded.
Professor David Eager and his research team at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) conducted field research throughout NSW for the report Identifying optimal greyhound track design for greyhound safety and welfare.
An international expert on the safety of sports, play and recreational surfaces and equipment, Professor Eager applied risk engineering and technology interventions to mitigate injury to dogs, through the identification and analysis of injuries focused on track design.
This report was commissioned by the sport’s governing body, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW), which has oversight of 33 tracks throughout the state.
“Our preliminary findings have highlighted there are multiple and interrelated track features that increase the likelihood of injuries. These include sudden changes in the camber and the lack of a smooth transition from the straight into the bend,” said Professor Eager, from the UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT.
Computer simulation and modelling have allowed efficient and cost-effective generation of evidence to justify major changes to track design. They reveal how the overall shape of a track influences the lateral dynamics of greyhounds on the track.
Different tracks have different curvatures, cambers and transitions, so the centrifugal forces, acceleration, and changes in these forces experienced by greyhounds are elevated. Changes in the curvatures of a greyhound’s running path can result in rapid changes in the centrifugal force, increasing the likelihood and severity of injuries. Gradual changes in the centrifugal force and camber are more predictable and adaptable for racing greyhounds and statistically will result in fewer injuries.
Eleven wide-ranging recommendations to improve animal welfare and major adjustments to the way racing is currently conducted include:
- GRNSW and the Australian greyhound racing industry consider developing purpose-built straight tracks
- Install extended lures at all tracks
- Progressively remove bend starts and discontinue the associated race distances
- Increase the height of the starting box grilles to at least 400m
- Conduct trials with a delayed starting box opening
- Trialling a reduction in the number of starters from eight to six greyhounds.
GRNSW interim CEO John Gibbons thanked UTS for work to date and said it would greatly help the transition to safer greyhound tracks.
“This watershed report and the recommendations it makes will pioneer track design reform in NSW and across Australia to ensure safer standards of racing at all levels and reduced rates of injury,” he said.
“The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW as well as the Greyhound Industry Reform Panel made it clear that more needs to be done to increase safety at greyhound tracks, to improve safety standards for greyhounds and reduce racing-related injuries.”
GRNSW will now consider the recommendations of this Phase I report. It has commissioned UTS to undertake Phase II: extending the injury data collected to include all Australasian tracks, evaluating the effectiveness of changes to track layouts in reducing the frequency and severity of injuries, and recommending parameters for optimal track design.
This will allow the enhancement of existing tracks as well as the better design of new tracks. The study is expected to take three years to complete at a cost of $975,000.