14 November 2019

Statement from RSPCA WA Chair, Lynne Bradshaw AM:

RSPCA WA welcomes the action plan to improve the welfare of racehorses announced today by the State Government and Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA).

The pledge of more than $5 million to implement the plan, with a further $3 million recurring annually is a significant commitment and we look forward to seeing the details.

RSPCA expects to have input into the development of horse-specific welfare guidelines as part of the plan. We also want to see the welfare of all equines improved, not just racehorses, through independent oversight by animal welfare inspectors.

Key points:

Maintaining public confidence in the development and implementation of the plans will be critical for success. The community was shocked to discover via the news media the abject cruelty towards horses taking place behind closed doors in the eastern states. Today’s announcement is positive for racehorses but to restore public confidence, there should be oversight of welfare standards for all equines by independent animal welfare inspectors, including the RSPCA, in addition to inspections by the racing industry.

Transparency will be important for public confidence and this must include auditing of the whole system with ongoing public reporting embedded into the plans.

Standards should apply to all equines. Overall, the plans appear positive for racehorses, but the WA community would expect welfare standards and compliance and enforcement of those standards in knackeries and abattoirs to be consistent for all equines, not just those from the racing industry.

Any place where horses are to be euthanised should have clear welfare standards that are horse-specific and RSPCA wants input into the development of those standards. Therefore, we encourage government to pursue changes in law to allow inspections by independent general inspectors under the Animal Welfare Act 2002, including RSPCA Inspectors, to ensure all animals killed in these facilities are treated humanely.

A racehorse welfare facility for retired racehorses seems a great concept and that must include a facility for euthanising horses humanely on site – otherwise, the risk is that old or sick horses will have to be transported to a commercial abattoir or knackery to be put down.

The breeder licensing system is very positive and that should be extended to ALL horses, not just racehorses.

Ability to trace horses throughout their life cycle will make a big difference. Right now, there is a Senate inquiry in the Australian Parliament into the feasibility of a national traceability register for all horses. A traceability register is long overdue and would make sure every horse is linked to an owner. We are pleased to note the WA Government supports this register.

RSPCA WA is optimistic that the proposed plans will improve the welfare of not only racehorses but all equines in WA and this has been long overdue. We look forward to working with the State Government to develop and implement these plans and show that WA can lead Australia in animal welfare.