Greyhound racing banned in New South Wales after damning investigation reveals 'systemic cruelty'
* Greyhound racing to be banned next year
* Decision follows inquiry which uncovered cruelty
* Industry "devastated" by decision
Greyhound racing will be outlawed in the Australian state of New South Wales from next year after a damning investigation into the sport uncovered reports of systemic animal cruelty, including mass killings and live baiting.
State Premier Mike Baird said the findings of a commission of inquiry had left the government with "no acceptable course of action except to close the industry down".
The sport would be outlawed by July 1, 2017, Baird said in a statement.
"Greyhound racing has been banned in many countries and many states of the U.S. and is legal in only eight countries around the world. NSW will be the first state in Australia to ban it," Baird wrote in a separate post on his Facebook page.
"Over the coming months, we will consult with the industry to help minimise the pain as best we can for the innocent industry participants as we work towards an orderly industry shutdown."
Greyhound Racing New South Wales (GRNSW) said in a statement that the industry had been "devastated" by the shock news and announced a suspension of racing for seven days.
The decision caused shares in betting company Tabcorp to fall by around five percent to A$4.34 ($3.26) on Thursday, though it said in a statement that greyhound racing only accounted for about five percent of their wagering turnover.
The inquiry, led by Australian lawyer Michael McHugh QC, found that up to 68,000 greyhounds bred in the past 12 years had been destroyed because they were considered uncompetitive.
That amounted to about half the greyhound population, the report said.
It also said that evidence suggested up to 20 percent of trainers engaged in the practice of 'live baiting', where animals such as rabbits are chased by dogs during training sessions.
McHugh's report added that "many trainers" did not seek proper or adequate veterinary treatment for injured dogs, instead preferring "cheap and sometimes painful methods of treating greyhound injuries".
It added the industry had turned a blind eye to reports of animal cruelty.
The state government will consult with the industry and animal welfare authorities to implement a shutdown plan over the next 12 months.
"I feel much empathy for innocent trainers and those who will lose their job or hobby as a result of this," Baird said.
"And I understand the disappointment of people who enjoy having a punt on the dogs. But we simply cannot and will not stand by and allow the widespread and systemic mistreatment of animals."
GRNSW said the industry had "transformed" the regulation of the sport over the last 16 months.
"Today is an extremely sad day for the NSW greyhound racing industry and the people involved in it."