Irish Greyhound Board chairman in photo next to handler banned for blooding

14 Apr

sporting press crop chirs connolly.jpg

A man banned from greyhound racing in Australia after he was filmed at a “barbaric and inhumane” live animal baiting session appears on the front page of this week’s Sporting Press newspaper alongside Irish Greyhound Board chairman, Phil Meaney.

Chris Connolly, who was disqualified in Victoria until 2020, is photographed with a greyhound who won a race at Limerick greyhound stadium last weekend. Also in the photo with Connolly and the IGB Chairman is JP McManus who sponsored the race.

Footage of the horrific greyhound blooding was broadcast on RTE’s Prime Time last month. It showed greyhound handler Chris Connolly (then 21 years old) with a “greyhound trainer of the year”, Darren McDonald, at an animal baiting session. The November 2014 undercover footage, originally aired on Australian investigative news programme Four Corners, captured the moment the men remove muzzles from two greyhounds before the dogs proceed to attack a piglet who had been tied down and pulled in front of them. The piglet’s screams of agony can be clearly heard.

As reported on the Greyhound Racing Victoria website on 12th June 2015, “The independent Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board (RADB) heard the matter of Mr Christopher Connolly today. Greyhound Racing Victoria Stewards laid 6 charges against Mr Connolly in respect of allegations of live baiting at the Tooradin Trial Track on 18 November 2014. The charges were for serious offences contrary to Local Rule 18.5 and GAR 86(af). Mr Connolly did not appear before the RADB. Greyhound Racing Victoria understands that Mr Connolly returned to Ireland in February. Upon consideration of the matter and the submissions on behalf of the Stewards, the RADB found Mr Connolly guilty on all charges and imposed a penalty of life disqualification for the charges that Stewards sought a penalty on.”

At a hearing of the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal last May (2016) – Connolly V Greyhound Racing Victoria Stewards – this life disqualification was appealed. The outcome was that the life disqualification was reduced to “an order that the applicant [Connolly] be disqualified for a period of 10 years as from 13 February 2015 with five years of that period of disqualification to be suspended subject to the Applicant remaining of good behaviour during that total period of disqualification.” The effective period of disqualificaiton was set at 13th February 2015 until 12th February 2020.

In a document relating to the tribunal hearing, it is stated that “the practice of live baiting is understandably forbidden by the rules applicable in the greyhound racing industry. It is a practice which would be regarded as abhorrent by any right thinking member of our community.”

The tribunal noted details of the live baiting as follows: “[Greyhound trainer] McDonald produced a hessian bag containing a live piglet which he and Mills [who conducted the Tooradin Trial Track facility] then secured by leather straps to the greyhound lure device. The surveillance video showed the Applicant [Connolly] and McDonald to sequentially trial three pairs of greyhounds after the greyhound lure had been baited with the piglet. The surveillance video contained distressing material including audio where the piglet’s terrified squealing could clearly be heard. It was most distressing to view. I did not observe the Applicant at any stage handle the piglet or assist in it being secured to the lure.”

The tribunal heard that Chris Connolly “left home at age 16 to work full-time with Mr Pat Buckley of Tipperary, Ireland, a greyhound trainer.” He worked with Pat Buckley as an assistant trainer and in an affidavit, stated: “Pat Buckley has many top class and expensive racing greyhounds in his care.”

In the affidavit, Connolly went on to state: “I have been refused an International Kennel Handler’s Licence by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain which Pat Buckley applied for to enable me to travel with his dogs to England to contest in the English Derby. I understand the attitude of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain is that while I am banned in Australia I will be banned in Great Britain.”

In his findings, tribunal vice-president Judge Dyer concluded: “I do accept in this case, on the balance of probability, that the role played by the Applicant was a lesser one than that by McDonald and Mills. Nevertheless any involvement in such a barbaric and inhumane activity such as live animal baiting is abhorrent, vile and horrific. It is truly offending of a most serious nature.”

Judge Dyer went on to say that “the fact that no attempt was made by the Applicant [Connolly] to expose this appalling treatment of a sentient being, and no comment was offered to the Chief Steward when the Applicant was first approached, weighs against a finding that a person is expressing true remorse and contrition for their own participation. The Applicant’s involvement requires a harsh penalty and the concept of denunciation must be given much weight in indicating that conduct of this type involving the torture of a sentient being for the sake of potential financial gain will simply not be tolerated.”

In outlining the period of disqualification, Judge Dyer said that while the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to order disqualification or suspension from activities involved with greyhound racing conducted outside of the State of Victoria, “it is the intention of the Tribunal that the orders proposed by it should be acknowledged by the parties as expressing the firm intention of the Tribunal that the Applicant [Connolly] will not be involved professionally in the greyhound racing industry in other states of the Commonwealth of Australia or its territories where greyhound racing is legally conducted, nor within the United Kingdom, the member states of the European Union or the United States of America.”

The photograph of Chris Connolly in this week’s Sporting Press features a greyhound trained by the aforementioned Pat Buckley.

This is not the first time that Irish Greyhound Board chairman Phil Meaney has posed for a photograph alongside Chris Connolly. In June 2016 (the year after the live baiting scandal was first aired on Australian TV), both men appeared in a Kerryman newspaper photograph taken after a Boylesports-sponsored race.

According to the Irish Greyhound Board website, Christopher Connolly’s last recorded race as a greyhound owner was on 24th March 2017 when his greyhound, Ballymoney Lass (trained by Pat Buckley) finished second at Limerick greyhound track.

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