PARENTS of a teenager who died 10 years ago when she was thrown from a racehorse have called on the Hunter Region to back a national horse register to trace the animals’ history and protect people.
Sarah Waugh, of New Lambton, was 18 when she died in March, 2009 after Dubbo TAFE hired a horse for a beginners’ jillaroo course only days after it raced its fourth event of the year. TAFE was fined $300,000 in 2014 when it admitted staff did not check the horse’s history.
Sarah’s parents Juliana and Mark Waugh have asked the Hunter, one of the world’s three major thoroughbred racing centres, to back a petition for a Senate inquiry into development of a national horse traceability system because “it is long overdue”.
“Many animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA, are up in arms about the treatment of many horses, including many retired racehorses, yet we still have no registration system to trace all horses,” Mrs Waugh said.
Many animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA, are up in arms about the treatment of many horses, including many retired racehorses, yet we still have no registration system to trace all horses.Juliana Waugh, mother of Sarah who died when she was thrown from a racehorse.
“We simply do not know how many horses are in Australia, what their condition is, what their history is or where they are. Sarah died 10 years ago on March 24. A national register is a no-brainer. It’s going to happen. I’m just hoping and praying it gets enough traction so that by the end of the 10 years we can say this is how it will be done.”
In 2018 the RSPCA threw its weight behind a national register, saying about 9000 horses are slaughtered in abattoirs each year and about half may be ex-racehorses. While the number of horses bred by the racing industry has fallen over the past decade, nearly 11,000 adult horses leave the industry annually, the RSPCA said.
“There is a high level of public expectation that these horses will be appropriately cared for in their post-racing life, not least because they have been bred and used for sport and profit in a multi-billion dollar industry,” the RSPCA said.
A national identification and traceability system for all horses would allow the collection and publication of comprehensive life cycle and injury statistics, the RSPCA said.
“In this way accurate information will be available on the experience of every racehorse from birth to death,” it said.
The RSPCA called on the racing industry to do more to adopt responsible breeding practices including reducing the number of racehorses bred and minimising the risk of injury.
It said every horse bred by the industry “should be provided with a suitable alternative role on retirement with provisions being made to ensure their long-term welfare”.
Federal Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, who established a petition for a Senate inquiry into a national horse traceability register, said it would give all stakeholders, including the racing industry, horse breeders and animal welfare groups, an opportunity to present evidence so Federal Parliament could decide the best way forward.
“The lack of oversight can have awful consequences for horses that are often abandoned in paddocks or dumped at saleyards, and eventually end up in knackeries and slaughterhouses,” Ms Faruqi said.
“The benefits of a national register would extend to biosecurity, including for the prevention and management of emergency animal diseases such as equine influenza and African horse sickness, safety for riders, backyard breeding and combating rural crime. Similar registers already exist in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Canada.”
While thoroughbred and standardbred racehorses are registered at birth on separate industry databases, and compulsory retirement schemes state if horses are retrained, moved into breeding or sold through saleyards, they are not tracked when they leave the industry.
A national register would provide more accurate figures on horses that end up at abattoirs for pet food or export abattoirs for human consumption, Ms Faruqi said.
It would also allow people buying former racehorses to check their histories.
A NSW Department of Primary Industries survey in late 2016 found 91 per cent of horse owners supported a national registration scheme.
Mrs Waugh said a Senate inquiry would “bring a whole lot of things into one place” after years of fighting on behalf of her daughter.
“There’s lots of ways it can be done and there is money. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We’re just proposing using the registers that are already available and adding to them,” she said.
Politicians regularly appeared at racing industry events “rubbing shoulders with the big breeders and the big names in the industry”, but it was time they took responsibility for making the industry more transparent and accountable, Mrs Waugh said.
Her family still lived at New Lambton, and her daughter was always in her thoughts, she said.
“We’re still here with all our memories,” she said.
Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association referred questions to Racing NSW, which referred questions to Racing Australia. A Racing Australia spokesperson said there would be no comment.
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