New racing board investigates dog virus outbreak in Christchurch

Greyhounds racing at Addington. Photo: File
Greyhounds racing at Addington. Photo: File
The new Racing Integrity Board has embarked on its first major investigation after a costly canine enteric coronavirus outbreak in Christchurch forced the cancellation of greyhound meetings throughout the South Island.

Racing was abandoned after three dogs from Canterbury trainer John McInerney’s kennel tested positive to the virus after suffering diarrhoea during a meeting at Addington on July 12.

The RIB, an amalgamation of the former Judicial Control Authority for Racing and Racing Integrity Unit, which launched on July 1, are working with Greyhound Racing New Zealand to determine the cause and extent of the outbreak.

“The RIB was involved in a discussion led by Greyhound Racing New Zealand when it became known that a dog/s had tested positive to canine coronavirus,” RIB chief executive Mike Clement said.

He would not comment further on the scope of the investigation but said the RIB supported GRNZ’s decision to cancel racing.

It is understood the outbreak was linked to greyhounds involved in an adoption programme that were close to two racing kennels. At least seven kennels have reported symptoms.

Canine coronavirus affects a dogs gastrointestinal system and is not related to Covid-19.

Although greyhounds routinely make a full recovery after contracting the virus, GRNZ veterinary staff recommended racing be halted – and dogs isolated at their kennels – South Island-wide until today.

The Christchurch Greyhound Racing Club hold four meetings a week, three lower grade programmes with stake money of $30,000 and a higher quality event with $40,000 up for grabs.

“That’s stake money that isn’t going to owners, trainers and participants. Those meetings are lost,” said Christchurch GRC secretary Tony Music.

RIB stewards must rubber-stamp a return to racing following a testing regime, though Music was optimistic Addington would be back in the spotlight on Monday.

“I’ve rung the stipe (stipendiary steward) and said: ‘Any reason why we don’t do the fields?’ They said not at all,” Music said.

An abandoned premier meeting could be worked into next season’s calendar while the South Island championships, Canterbury Futurity and Canterbury Futurity Sprint have been moved to August 5.

The Christchurch GRC is the largest in Australasia, holding about 200 meetings a year.

Music said while a coronavirus outbreak was rare among greyhounds, dogs were often scratched due to illness on race day.

“You get the odd scratching with diarrhoea but in this case the vets said it’s contagious so they locked it down,” Music said.

He said small-scale kennels may not be subject to testing before Monday so the Christchurch GRC was relying on trainers taking the necessary precautions.

“It becomes a matter of their honesty whether they nominate their dogs and bring them to the track because it’s just going to stuff it for everyone else again,” he said.

 

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