“Last financial year RSPCA Victoria investigated 1,712 reports from the public relating to horses, which involved an estimated 10,000 horses.
“Around 67 per cent of all horse-related reports made to our Inspectorate related to underweight animals, insufficient feed or insufficient water.
“The introduction of a national horse register and mandatory microchipping would significantly improve our ability to investigate and address concerns around horse welfare.”
Western Australia minister for racing Paul Papalia will write to federal agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie to pursue the implementation of a register that traces all horses, not just racehorses, throughout their entire lives after Victorian racing minister Martin Pakula’s agenda item at the Australasian Racing Minister Conference gained unanimous support.
In that correspondence, racing ministers will propose that racing officials from the senior officers’ working group – which is comprised of a nominated representative from the relevant government agency, responsible for the racing portfolio in each state and territory – should work with Racing Australia and Harness Racing Australia to develop the concept.
Those parties would need to determine who will pay for the national traceability register.
An ABC 7.30 report last month revealed the extent of racing’s ‘wastage’ issue that sees excess retired horses end up at abattoirs, but authorities have been exploring the feasibility of a national traceability register for a long time.
Part of the historical push comes as a result of the tragic death of 18-year-old Sarah Kate Waugh, who died in March 2009 during a TAFE course in which she fell from an untrained ex-racehorse that bolted.
RSPCA Victoria said a national register would help identify horses and their owners and “would also assist in management and communication during emergencies, such as bushfires or natural disasters”.
A Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport is due to produce a report on the feasibility of such a scheme by December 5 after holding three public hearings – September 4, 20 and November 11 – and receiving 70 public submissions.
Damien Ractliffe is the Chief Racing Reporter for The Age.