Dog owners vent outrage at Foley’s support for greyhound racing

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Newtown resident Laurina Chilcott and Atlas at a rally in support of the greyhound racing ban. Photo: Steven Siewert Bridget Dominic and her greyhound Rivers join the rally in Newtown on Sunday. Photo: Steven Siewert

Supporters of a ban on greyhound racing at a park in Newtown on Sunday. Photo: Steven Siewert

Laurina and Michael Chilcott had hoped a rally in Sydney’s inner west on Sunday would be a chance to celebrate Premier Mike Baird’s decision to ban greyhound racing.

Instead, the Newtown couple joined about 150 people – and a large number of their pooches – to express their outrage at Labor leader Luke Foley’s move to oppose the ban in NSW, threatening their dreams that the greyhound racing industry would finally be shut down.

“He is backing the wrong side,” Michael Chilcott said.

The couple has fostered 15 greyhounds in less than three years, Atlas being their latest.

“We want to save as many dogs as we can because we feel like we can have more impact from doing that,” Laurina Chilcott said. “The day the decision [to ban greyhound racing] was made was one of the happiest days of our lives.”

Speaking at the rally in a park in Newtown, state Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi accused Mr Foley of pitching the issue as a battle between the working class and other sections of the community.

“As if working people don’t care about dogs dying,” she told the crowd. “I think this is disgraceful political opportunism.

“Labor is using the [industry’s] workers as political pawns.”

Ms Faruqi said the industry was already facing “massive financial issues”, and 24 race tracks had been earmarked for closure before the government’s decision early this month.

“We have to accept … that this is a sport that is already in chronic decline. Mike Baird and I don’t really agree on much, but on this one he has it absolutely spot on.”

Mr Foley said if the Greens “stepped foot outside of Newtown they’d realise thousands of people will be robbed of their livelihoods and thousands of much-loved dogs will be killed under Mr Baird’s plan”.

Legislation to ban the greyhound racing industry in NSW from July next year is due to be tabled in state Parliament on August 2.

The ACT government has also moved to ban the sport.

Naremburn resident Kylie Field, a greyhound owner and a long-time Labor voter, accused Mr Foley of opposing the ban to gain marginal votes.

“These dogs need our support,” she said at the rally. “Using this as a political opportunity to secure marginal votes is appalling.

“People are really annoyed about this. We were so offended after supporting this [Labor] party all our lives. This industry cannot reform. They have been given every opportunity to reform and they have turned a blind eye to systemic cruelty.”

Mel O’Sullivan, a greyhound owner and supporter of the ban, said the Premier had made a brave decision, one he was surprised a politician could make.

“The people who support the ban are a bit more aware of the efforts that have been made to get the industry to get its house in order,” he said. “There have been many shots across the bow.”