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Beyond the law: Hotel for dogs

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.100

Former County Court judge Gordon Lewis has been a dogged advocate for retired greyhounds. By Patrick Mitchell 

The Hon Gordon Lewis has an impressive CV: executive director of the LIV for 11 years, County Court judge for 14 years and Victoria’s first Road Safety Camera Commissioner since 2012.

But when it comes to his other great passion – the welfare of greyhounds – his successes have been few and far between.

“If people tell you that if you have ‘judge’ in front of your name that you can virtually get anything you want, do not believe them,” Mr Lewis said.

His passion for the breed began in 1996. Fellow board member of Racing and Analytical Services Ltd, Dr Jim Gannon, was attempting to set up Victoria’s first Greyhound Adoption Program and introduced Mr Lewis and wife Rhonda to Hazel.

Hazel was soon joined by Diver and then there was Nicky, who died of cancer last year.

The Lewis couches are currently occupied by 10-year-old Milly and five-year-old Ruby, while there’s another couch with Penny’s name on it when the 18 month-old finishes her racing career.

The Lewises aren’t alone in welcoming ex-racing greyhounds into their home. The Greyhound Adoption Program, established by Dr Gannon, found homes for a record 847 greyhounds in the last financial year and is on track to break the 1000 barrier this year.

But Mr Lewis said it’s not enough. He estimates that of the 5000 to 6000 pups whelped annually for racing, as many as 4000 will be put down before their fifth birthday.

And then there are the welfare issues that the ABC Four Corners program revealed earlier this year.

Mr Lewis doesn’t want to see greyhound racing banned – he believes the industry is “why the breed exists”. He simply wants the dogs looked after throughout their careers and in their retirement.

The revelations of live baiting in the greyhound racing industry have prompted changes including tougher penalties for cruelty, and there has been an overhaul of the governance of Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV).

But the parliamentary inquiry largely ignored the issue of what Mr Lewis, in his inquiry into the Victorian Racing Industry, termed “the unnecessary carnage involving young and healthy dogs”.

He said GRV should consider increasing registration fees on the understanding that most of it will be refunded to trainers if they can show the dog has been given a home when it has retired.

Mr Lewis said he had promising discussions with the state government about removing the law that requires all greyhounds to be muzzled in public.

“In 1999 I got the dogs that had gone through the Greyhound Adoption Program exempt from wearing a muzzle but I wanted it to apply to all domestic greyhounds,” Mr Lewis said.

“I’ve been beating that drum now without success for 15 years.”

But he understands that unlike the sport of greyhound racing, political lobbying requires endurance.

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