IN THE NEWS: On APR 9, 2019
Newshub can reveal the SPCA has laid multiple charges against one of the country's top greyhound trainers for live baiting.
In December 2017, Newshub published images which appear to show animals, possibly a rabbit or hare, being strung up to a lure arm inside a bullring at trainer Brendon Cole's Palmerston North property.
More than a year and a half on, the SPCA says it's "filed charges against a prominent greyhound trainer for live baiting".
Greyhound Protection League spokesperson Emily Robertson says the charges are a "long time in the making".
"It really shows that the SPCA are taking the welfare concerns in the greyhound industry quite seriously, which we are thrilled about."
The greyhound training rules in New Zealand are clear: "Only artificial materials are permitted for use as a lure."
Using animals, either dead or alive, is forbidden - but the practice of using live animals as bait is believed to make dogs run faster.
Newshub spoke to multiple former workers of Cole's who claimed he regularly used live bait as part of his training regime. One said he saw it happen weekly.
"Quite simply, I never saw live animals being tortured by anyone until I worked for Brendon."
Repeated attempts to speak to Cole have been unsuccessful.
Despite the SPCA's lengthy investigation, he's been allowed to continue racing his dogs at the track.
He and his partner made more than $1.2 million so far in the 2018/2019 season with 528 wins - the highest in the country.
"It should send a really clear warning that this type of practice is completely unacceptable," Robertson said.
The Racing Integrity Unit told Newshub last year it would assess whether there have been possible breaches to the rules of racing once the SPCA had completed its investigation.
But on Tuesday, general manager Mike Godber said he won't comment as the matter is before the court.
Newshub asked Greyhound Racing New Zealand whether Cole would be allowed to keep racing.
They didn't answer that question, but in a statement CEO Mauro Barsi said the rules are "explicit", and anyone breaching them would face penalties.
"Greyhound Racing NZ acknowledges that the charge is of a serious nature and we await further details," he told Newshub.
"We will work closely with the RNZSPCA and the Racing Integrity Unit as the matter progresses."