The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (The Commission) is implementing the recommendations from the Martin Inquiry into Animal Cruelty in the Management of Retired Thoroughbred and Standardbred Horses in Queensland and racing participants are on notice to ensure they comply with their obligations.
In January this year Judge Terry Martin handed down his report and made recommendations in response to the October 2019 ABC 7:30 Report program ‘The Final Race’ which highlighted the large scale treatment of retired race horses as disposable commodities at the end of their racing careers.
One of Judge Martin’s findings was that poor industry compliance with requirements to notify control bodies of the retirement or death of racing horses undermines all attempts to calculate the number of racing horses retiring each year that require aftercare and the true destination of those horses.
Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett said the Commission was tasked with committing more resources to the active enforcement of retirement notifications including the auditing of ‘high-risk’ categories such as racing horses that have been ‘spelling’ for more than 12 months and horses that are still registered but have not had a race start in the last 12 months.
“In response, and as a result of extra Government funding the Commission has dedicated two Integrity Investigations Team (IIT) staff members and an audit is underway to address the registered horses that fall into the above category,” he said.
“Results so far confirm a large number of Queensland horses have been inactive for an extended period and accordingly there is an unacceptable number of Queensland horse trainers that have failed to comply with their obligations under the rules of racing.”
The Commission’s enforcement approach to these notifications strives to enhance animal welfare outcomes and at the same time deliver a process that more accurately reflects the current racing stock domiciled on Queensland properties.
Commissioner Barnett said as part of the Commission’s enforcement activity to implement the Martin Inquiry recommendations, those trainers identified as non-compliant may be subject to further investigation.
“In an amnesty period, held late in 2019, while the Martin Inquiry was in session and during a follow up audit of non-compliant trainers, more than 150 Queensland trainers were identified as not having fulfilled their obligations,” he said.
“Ongoing enforcement activities will soon commence and may include stable inspections and stock audits.
“The Commission’s last resort is to hand out penalties, we would prefer that participants worked within the rules at all times.
“Our goal is to nurture voluntary compliance with the rules through education and engagement with the industry.
“However, noncompliance or a failure to submit the relevant notifications within the prescribed time frame will be subject to penalty.
“The Martin Inquiry IIT Stewards are authorised to issue formal stewards’ directions, fines, referrals for further investigation and to act against a participant’s licence,” Mr Barnett said.
The Commission is also planning a targeted education program commencing with reminding the racing industry about the importance of keeping accurate lifecycle records including retirement, deregistration and death notifications.
Further education will also be provided by the Martin Inquiry IIT Stewards during stable inspections.
The Commission will keep the industry updated as the Martin Inquiry recommendations implementation continues.