VETERAN Cessnock greyhounds man Hubert Laurence Murray has been disqualified for 16 years and banned from holding a licence again after he admitted to using three dead rabbits in training.
Greyhound Racing NSW announced the penalty on Friday from investigations after the rabbit carcasses were found in the greyhound training areas of Murray’s Cessnock property in May this year.
Murray, 77 at the time, admitted to the Herald in June that he was the focus of the investigation.
A long-time pre-trainer and breaker-in, Murray was given an interim suspension after the targeted operation found the dead rabbits.
Under GRNSW rules introduced on December 1, 2015, in the wake of the live-baiting scandal, “all lures used in greyhound training, education or racing must be made of purely synthetic materials only”.
Murray told the Herald that he did not use the rabbits as live bait and that they were “gutted” and “just dead rabbits” when used at his property.
The GRNSW inquiry panel announced on Friday that, based on forensic analysis, “the rabbits were dead prior to suffering bite wounds and that the carcasses were likely used as lures”.
The panel accepted the findings of veterinary pathologist Dr Lydia Tong, who said the three rabbits were “dead prior to when they sustained bite wounds and injuries associated with being tethered to a rope.”
Dr Tong said one rabbit “was killed by a gunshot to the head and was then gutted prior to being tethered to a rope. It was likely that the rabbit had been shot a minimum of 24 hours and probably days prior to being seized by investigators”.
Of rabbits two and three, Dr Tong said “they were intentionally killed by having their neck dislocated or wrung. These rabbits were likely killed within 30 minutes of the bite wounds.” She added that “all three rabbit carcasses were likely used as lures by being tethered to a rope”.
Murray admitted to possession of the rabbit carcasses and that he caused each to be used “to entice, excite and encourage greyhounds in the catching pen area of the trial track in connection with the training and educating of the greyhounds”.
The inquiry panel handed down the disqualification and excluded him from making any future licence applications to GRNSW or to be an owner of any greyhound.
The panel said “the circumstances of the offences were of the most serious nature and demonstrated a complete disregard for the GRNSW Greyhound Racing Rules”.
Up until April 2015, humanely euthanised rabbits were used at dog tracks across the state as lures. Murray, who has been in greyhound racing “all his life”, told the Herald in June that the changes were forcing him out of the sport before the suspension.
“The game’s gone and I was ready to give it away anyhow because I had a few dogs here, but none were following,” Murray said.
“It’s just how the game has gone with the breeding and everything. They are down to about 50 per cent breeding now, I think.
“We’ve got that many non-chasers because everyone is mucking around with squeakers and these sort of things. You used to be able to do something with a skin or something when they were pups, but now it’s nil, nil, nil.
“The RSPCA, they allowed dead rabbits, then here’s our silly mob who are the policemen. Down at Wentworth Park, Newcastle, Maitland, everywhere, they were using dead rabbits at the track and [GRNSW] stopped it. The whole game’s too stupid anyhow.”
The panel also warned off Ian Toombs for three months after he failed to attend to give evidence at the first hearing. Toombs attended a future hearing and assisted the panel.
GRNSW general manager regulatory Stephen Dodd said: “I encourage anyone both within the industry and the general public to come forward with any information they have regarding such practices. As the industry regulator, the success of the industry relies on an aspect of self regulation in identifying this rogue element to remove the minority of participants who will not abide by the racing rules”.
GRNSW urges anyone with information about welfare concerns within the NSW greyhound racing industry to contact the Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Hotline on 1800 680 174 or email@example.com.