The head of Tasmania’s racing authority was ordered to attend communications training after an “intense” argument with industry participants over the state’s greyhound adoption program.
- A complaint was filed against TasRacing chief executive Paul Eriksson after a heated meeting about greyhounds
- The conversation became “intense” after Mr Eriksson was asked about behavioural problems in a dog rehoming program
- An investigation into the case upheld that Mr Eriksson acted “unprofessionally”
The Launceston Greyhound Racing Club filed a complaint about TasRacing chief executive Paul Eriksson in April this year after a meeting about one month earlier turned sour.
According to minutes from the meeting of the state’s Greyhound Reference Group, seen by the ABC, greyhound trainers quizzed TasRacing representatives over the effectiveness of the Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP).
About 140 dogs were rehomed through the TasRacing-administered program in 2019–20.
Also last year, new rules came into effect making it more difficult to euthanise greyhounds. The dogs can no longer be euthanised without written permission from the Office of Racing Integrity and owners are required to keep evidence of their efforts to find suitable long-term homes for their animals.
Meeting discussion became ‘intense’
Speaking at the March meeting, the Greyhound Owners Trainers Breeders Association’s Neville Allison questioned Mr Eriksson about how many greyhounds in GAP had behavioural problems and the expertise of staff to retrain them.
Discussion between Launceston trainer Trudy Williams, Mr Allison and Mr Eriksson over the management of the program then “became intense”, leading to intervention from the meeting’s chairperson, who “reminded members of expected meeting behaviour”.
According to the minutes, Mr Eriksson told Mr Allison that “there are very few people in Tasmania who are qualified in that area and those who are qualified don’t want anything to do with the racing industry”.
“[Mr Eriksson] advised that the first part of GAP working properly was to appoint a manager and she commences on April 12, and the second part is to engage a behaviourist,” the minutes said.
“While TasRacing had canvassed a number of persons around Tasmania for that position, they had no qualifications.”
The Launceston Greyhound Racing Club, Ms Williams and Mr Allison declined to comment on the argument.
However, the ABC has obtained TasRacing’s response to the complaint lodged by the Launceston Greyhound Racing Club, which was sent to TasRacing, Mr Eriksson and Racing Minister Jane Howlett.
An investigator from consultancy firm Wise Workplace was appointed to look into the complaint.
The investigator dismissed several allegations but upheld that Mr Eriksson “addressed one of our representatives in a manner that can only be described as inappropriate, unprofessional and completely uncalled for”.
The club was told: “Wise Workplace found [the allegation] is partially substantiated in that it was inappropriate and unprofessional, but not completely uncalled for.
In the letter, TasRacing complaints manager Ann Swain said action would be taken to address the allegation.
“The board of TasRacing has pursued professional development for the CEO to enhance his communications style,” Ms Swain wrote.
A spokesperson for TasRacing said the investigation had concluded with the total cost of $7,500.
They said of the four allegations made, three were found to be “not substantiated” and the fourth partially substantiated and that Mr Eriksson has been counselled accordingly.
“An exchange occurred between representatives of the Launceston Greyhound Racing Club and Tasracing CEO Paul Eriksson at a quarterly Greyhound Reference Group meeting,” the spokesperson said.
“It is agreed by all that this was a heated discussion about the Greyhound Adoption Program.
“When a complaint was received about this exchange from the LGRC, Tasracing implemented its complaints management process and engaged an independent, external firm to investigate the matter.”
Ms Howlett’s office was contacted for comment.
Since the March meeting, GAP has announced plans for a new behaviour modification program and acknowledged the support of a canine behaviour specialist on the mainland in helping with assessments via video.