There is no evidence nationally or internationally that greyhounds pose a higher threat to the public when on leash. On the contrary, the greyhound is well known for its gentle and loving nature. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) has been effective anywhere in the world.
View the position of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) HERE.
Where required, current legislation in most states of Australia require a greyhound to undergo a temperament test to obtain the right to be muzzle free while still under the effective control of its handler in public areas.
Legislation refers to this process as "socialisation" or "decommissioning" programs. Such descriptors are misleading as the greyhounds are not put through a specific detraining program, nor would this make a difference in the short term.
To ensure accuracy and validity, such temperament tests should only be undertaken by a skilled and certified behaviour expert, such as a veterinary behaviour consultant or an animal behaviourist. Except for the New South Wales Greenhounds program, existing legislation does not have provisions to ensure that staff involved in the assessment process are suitably qualified to do so. Again, except for Greenhounds, there are no obvious stipulations that approved programs must have internal and external quality control of the assessment process to ensure it remains reliable, reproducible, and without bias or conflict of interest.
The compulsory kennel stay for assessment in both Victoria and Western Australia not only impacts on the accuracy of the temperament test itself, but also presents a welfare issue for greyhounds that have been in pet homes for a period of time as the dog is outside it’s normal environment and as such, placed under unnecessary stress.
Adoption is no longer restricted to ex-racing greyhounds. Increasingly, younger greyhounds are entering the adoption pool. Many have not been trained and thus have not been previously exposed to a muzzle. To enforce compulsory muzzling via legislation without due regard to a process of desensitisation has the potential to cause undue stress and compromise welfare.
Under Greyhound Australasia's rules of racing, (R106), the owner/trainer is obliged to inform the control body once the dog retires. As pets, the majority are then registered with their local councils as companion animals. As companion animals, companion animal laws should apply. Indeed, this is the approach that several progressive local councils have already taken in Queensland.
One of GES's prime objectives is to remove the current muzzle legislation and green collar tests which we believe will remove the extra 'layer' of law placed on greyhounds who are already not permitted to be off leash, or must remain under effective control at all times whilst in public areas. Until this is achieved, we believe that at the very least the following should occur:
- 1. In the absence of removal of muzzle legislation, consideration should be given for the implementation of an industry independent agency to conduct scientifically designed testing that protects animal welfare
- 2. Equal and impartial treatment of all greyhounds in terms of testing procedures, costs and access, regardless of origin
- 3. Development of a science-based test procedure externally validated by experts that does not compromise animal welfare
Greyhounds fall under Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
In many areas, greyhounds are subject to Breed Specific Legislation, commonly known as “BSL” in Australia. This legislation places restrictions upon certain breeds of dogs. Most states in Australia list 5 prescribed breeds that fall under this legislation: American Bull Terrier, Fila Braziliero, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentina and the Presa Canario.
In Victoria, NSW, WA and SA, greyhounds are impacted by BSL, although they are not considered a prescribed breed. Queensland is moving towards leaving greyhound specific restrictions to the discretion and management of local councils. ACT does not have BSL but does have specific greyhound legislation that requires greyhounds to be muzzled and on leash in public places. Similarly, Tasmania does not have BSL, but they too have special legislation with respect to greyhounds that requires them to be muzzled and on leash. NT has no BSL and also no special laws for pet greyhounds. Please refer to the current laws for your State.
What does this mean for greyhounds?
In all Australian states excluding the NT and most recently many areas in Queensland, greyhounds are required by law to be muzzled and/or on leash at all times, including off-leash parks (except for Greenhounds in NSW).
All states excluding Tasmania that require greyhounds to be muzzled have an exemption option available involving the following:
Victoria and Western Australia - greyhounds are required to successfully pass a temperament test which is conducted by the racing industry's "Greyhound Adoption Program" (GAP VIC and GAP WA) where the dog is required to stay in the GAP kennels for a period of 4 days.
A similar test is conducted by GAP SA, and GAP QLD (for the remaining few councils that do require greyhounds to be muzzled) although the test in these states do not require any extended or overnight stay in kennels, but instead a self-guided training course prior to the test.
The procedure is similar in NSW, however assessment is not restricted to the programs affiliated with the racing control body. An approved "Greenhound" assessor can exempt greyhounds from the muzzle requirement (self-guided course and no overnight stay required for the test). The behavioural test by the "Greenhound" assessor can even be conducted at the owner's premises and takes approximately 2 hours. In the ACT, greyhounds are exempt from the muzzle requirement if the greyhound and its handler have completed a course in behaviour or socialisation training approved by the Registrar of Domestic Animal Services.
Obviously the laws vary dramatically from state-to-state making responsible pet Greyhound ownership extremely difficult and contradictory. For example, a greyhound visiting Victoria from South Australia would be required to wear a muzzle for its stay in Victoria, yet is deemed safe not to in its home state. Similarly, a greyhound in Brisbane will (soon) no longer be required to wear a muzzle or undergo temperament testing, yet cannot be in the adjacent Redlands Shire without a muzzle or a green collar.
Greyhound muzzling laws vary around the world, but for the most part, Greyhounds do not fall under BSL laws in other countries and are not required to wear a muzzle in public - in fact in some countries they are also allowed off leash. Australia and Northern Ireland have the strictest laws for this breed worldwide.
GES believes that muzzling laws are outdated and should be removed completely. In Victoria, the muzzle law dates back to the 1884 Dog Bill (Hansard, 17 July 1884, p. 594):
"No person shall exercise or train any greyhound within the limits of any city town or borough save in the grounds belonging to such person or in respect of which he has obtained a right or permission for such person unless every greyhound is first properly muzzled and kept muzzled during the time he is so exercised or trained and every person who acts in contravention of this section shall be liable to a penalty...".
It was passed because greyhounds were only held as racing greyhounds at the time and not as pets as they are today. Most of the debate in parliament (parliamentary discussions in July and September 1941) centred on the argument for muzzling dogs around sheep – which was to stop dogs from biting and killing sheep. Most of this behaviour was attributed to dogs such as Alsatians and cattle dogs.
The greyhound is becoming an increasingly popular choice as a pet. By taking these dogs into their homes and making them a part of their family, the word is gradually spreading and more people are becoming aware of this gentle and intelligent breed:
“The Greyhound is not an aggressive dog, as some may believe due to muzzles worn during racing. Muzzles are worn to prevent injuries resulting from dogs nipping one another during or immediately after a race, when the 'hare' has disappeared out of sight and the dogs are no longer racing but still excited. The thin skin of the Greyhound can tear easily from a small nick from teeth, so even a minor skirmish can result in stitches and time out from racing. Greyhounds with a high prey drive occasionally wear muzzles outside the racetrack; owners aware that their Greyhound has a high tendency to chase small prey will protect the prey by applying the muzzle.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greyhound).
Inconsistencies across states and countries
Australia is (apart from Northern Ireland) the only country worldwide in which greyhounds are required by law to be muzzled. Even within Australia, the regulations regarding greyhounds differ between states, with some states not requiring a muzzle. There is no evidence of any kind to suggest that in the countries or states where a muzzle is not required there is a higher rate of dog attacks attributed to greyhounds. Do Australia and Northern Ireland have more aggressive greyhounds than other countries?
Animal behaviourists believe that a muzzle prevents a greyhound from proper dog-to-dog socialisation, which is crucial once a greyhound has finished racing. The muzzle also conveys a negative image to the public - an image that could not be further from the truth. This may deter people from adopting a greyhound. Greyhounds are not born with a muzzle on, thus due regard must be given to the fact that not all have been exposed to wearing one previously. Therefore, pet dogs must only wear a muzzle after a period of counter-conditioning to minimise stress.
The state specific domestic animal acts and local council laws clearly state that dogs are required to be under the effective control of their owners. Therefore, there is no additional benefit to adding a muzzle. If a dog needs a muzzle, whatever the breed, this is the responsibility of the owner. Why do greyhounds require an extra layer of law placed on them?
Perhaps legislation might be better placed ensuring the racing industry does more to prevent the creation of a population of dogs deemed to require muzzles by default in the first instance.
To require greyhound rehoming groups to offer greyhounds in muzzles is akin to expecting them to rehome dogs that fit the description of dangerous or menacing dogs under the legislation, which is arguably both unethical and illegal.
Other rescue organizations
GAP nationally only caters for less than 10% of the dogs whelped each year. Many pet greyhounds today are adopted out by other rescue organizations and are therefore legally required to wear a muzzle (even greyhounds from RSPCA which also has a temperament test in place). As such, it seems illogical that except for Greenhounds in NSW, only the industry funded Greyhound Adoption Programs (GAP) have the sole rights to undertake muzzling exemption under the legislation. There are also discrepancies between GAP dogs and those adopted by other agencies with regards to fees and time prior to undertaking the assessment.