Standards need setting

AUSTRALIA’S peak animal welfare body is calling for a mandatory set of standards for the near 17,500 horses involved in the Victorian racing industry, heading into the November state election.

RSPCA Victoria has issued the push for the next state government to usher-in a mandatory welfare code for racehorses.

RSPCA Victoria chief executive, Liz Walker, said animal welfare was a priority for voters in the upcoming election and more must be done to address public concerns about racehorse welfare.

Dr Walker said she wanted mandatory standards similar to the Code of Practice for the Keeping of Racing Greyhounds, relating to health, transport, husbandry and retirement of dogs in racing.

It comes as there are no mandatory welfare standards in Victoria for racehorse trainers, owners and industry workers to follow.

Victoria has a non-mandatory code under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that outlines provisions for the needs of horses in general, but does not target the racing industry.

“Currently in Victoria, legal protection for racehorses is limited to the minimal requirements under Victoria’s animal welfare legislation,” Dr Walker said.

“While there are industry-regulated rules of racing, they are not sufficient to protect the welfare of racehorses throughout their lifecycle and are not enshrined in legislation, so can be changed by industry at any time.”

Dr Walker said mandatory standards should require owners and trainers to provide appropriate nutrition, socialisation, training and rehoming options as well as training to staff.

She said these standards should also end any practices that cause injury, pain, suffering or distress and to ensure good welfare throughout the horse’s entire lifecycle, including after racing.

Concerns include a lack of transparency around reporting deaths and injuries, oversupply and wastage, and the use of whips and tongue ties.

A mandatory code would include minimum standards for grooming, farriery dental and vet care, as well as nutritional requirements and social interactions with other horses and humans.

“We believe that developing animal welfare standards for racehorses – regulated independent of industry – will positively impact the lives of these horses by ensuring appropriate levels of veterinary care, improved socialisation and handling, a reduction in injuries as well as better retirement plans,” Dr Walker said.

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