Non Raceday Inquiry – Written Penalty Decision dated 11 August 2023 – Graeme Telfer
On The Papers
Penalty: Trainer Graeme Telfer, fined $1,500
Information No. A16920 alleges that, on the 4th day of July 2023 at Timaru, when conducting an Animal Welfare Audit at the training premises of the Respondent, Holder of Licence to Train, Graeme Cameron Telfer, Stewards located in his stable, a homemade metal boring pole wrapped with barbed wire, gear which may cause pain, injury or distress to a horse.
The Respondent has endorsed the Statement by the Respondent on the information form “I do admit a breach of the rule”. The Respondent has indicated that he does not wish to appear to be heard on the charge, and he has agreed to a hearing “on the papers” (determined solely on the basis of the documents and evidence filed by the parties, without the need for an oral hearing). The Adjudicative Committee is satisfied that is appropriate.
The Respondent has since, by email to the Executive Officer of the Racing Integrity Board, in response to an invitation to file in writing any submissions in relation to the charge or penalty indicated that he “will not be submitting any submissions”.
Accordingly, the Adjudicative Committee has proceeded by way of a hearing “on the papers” filed by the Applicant.
The Adjudicative Committee’s Decision is as follows.
The relevant rule is Rule 1001(1) of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing which provides:
- Every person commits a serious racing offence within the meaning of these Rules, who, in New Zealand or in any other country:-
(r) (ii) at any time has in their possession any gear, equipment or device that has been modified in a manner which may cause pain, injury or distress to a horse
The Rule was added by an amendment in October 2018.
SUMMARY OF FACTS:
1. The Respondent, Graeme Cameron Telfer, is 73 years old and is the holder of an HRNZ Licence to Train and Graduation Driver’s Licence. He has held a Trainer’s Licence since 2001, having had 990 lifetime starts. He trains from his property in Claremont, near Timaru.
2. On the 4th of July 2023, RIB Stewards conducted an Animal Welfare Audit at Mr Telfer’s property, by appointment.
3. In a cabinet, while inspecting the stable area, Stipendiary Stewards observed a galvanised steel pipe with a portion of barbed wire coiled around a section of the pipe and secured by electrical tape, with a short leather strap attached to the opposite end.
4. It was obvious to the Stewards that this was a homemade boring pole for use in educating and training harness horses.
5. Also in the cabinet, Stewards located a further length of barbed wire, curled as if it had been moulded around a pipe or pole.
6. When questioned by Stewards, Mr Telfer advised he had used the boring pole on a horse “some time ago” and stated, “it’s better that than sending them to the meat works”.
7. Mr Telfer also advised that he had been looking for the item prior to the audit to remove it, indicating that he was aware it was not permitted.
8. In 2017 an advisory was sent to all Licenceholders through the Trainers and Drivers Association and HRNZ expressing concern regarding similar gear found in stable inspections:
“Recently a series of Stable Inspections was undertaken in the Southland area. Of extreme concern to the Stewards was the number of trainers who still find it appropriate to use gear which has been modified to include nails, tacks, screws and/or pins in an apparent attempt to ‘educate’ their horses. Many of these were covered in hair and blood which suggest they had been recently applied to an animal.
In today’s climate of public and media attention on animal welfare this is not acceptable. I draw your attention to the following Rule 1001(1), which states:
Every person commits a serious racing offence within the meaning of these Rules, who, in New Zealand or in any other country:
- at any time uses or permits or causes to be used or attempts to use or to cause to be used on or in relation to any horse any electrical, mechanical or galvanic device, equipment, appliance or apparatus which may affect either at the time of use or attempted use or subsequently the speed, stamina, courage or conduct of such horse; or
(ii) inflicts undue suffering by any other means; or
Future occurrences being discovered will be dealt with as an extremely serious matter. ‘Old school’ practices such as this no longer have any place in the training of Standardbreds. Your members will be aware of the impact this being brought into the public eye would have on our industry.
Consider this email a severe warning to all participants that the use of such gear will not be tolerated. It is disappointing that a notification of this nature is required, and you can be assured RIU officials will be very vigilant in their future checking of stables and the equipment present.”
9. In October 2018, HRNZ amended the Rule (see above).
10. To be effective, the use of barbed wire as a “pricker” on a boring pole to make a horse run straight, must cause some pain to the horse.
11. In addition, under the HRNZ Regulation Approved Gear (Effective 28 September 2016), it is clearly detailed that barbed wire used as a pricker is not permitted.
50 Prickers – Cheek, Neck, Rein, Bit (Prickers shall be dulled so as not to cause injury, Metal Prickers not permitted)
12. At the time of the audit, Mr Telfer had no horses in training.
13. Mr Telfer has no previous Non Raceday charges.
The Respondent having admitted the breach, it is deemed proved.
SUBMISSIONS FOR PENALTY:
1. The Respondent, Graeme Cameron Telfer, is 73 years old and is the holder of a HRNZ Licence to Train and Graduation Driver’s Licence. He has held a Trainer’s Licence since 2001, having had 990 lifetime starts. He trains from his property in Claremont, near Timaru.
2. Mr Telfer has admitted a breach of Rule 1001(1)(r)(ii) in relation to having present in his stable, a homemade metal boring pole wrapped with barbed wire, and a further length of barbed wire, curled as if it had been moulded around a pipe or pole, gear which may cause pain, injury or distress to a horse.
3. The penalties which apply to this case are detailed under Rule 1001(2):
Every person who commits a serious racing offence shall be liable to the following penalties:
- a fine not exceeding $30,000; and/or
- suspension from holding or obtaining a licence, for any specific period or for life; and/or
- disqualification for a specific period or for life.
4. Aggravating Factors –
- Mr Telfer has been a Trainer for over 20 years and should be familiar with the Rules of Harness Racing.
RIB stable audits have been conducted for several months and Trainers were aware they were happening. Mr Telfer was given one week’s notice prior to his audit being conducted, giving him sufficient time to assess and remove anything that would be contrary to the Rules. During this time, he could have consulted with a member of the RIB or another Licenceholder to see what the process entailed and in particular what was going to be looked at if he was unsure.
- Animal welfare has been at the forefront of the Industry, with media attention in all three Codes of Racing, and Trainers should be cognisant of their role in ensuring that they are above reproach.
- Mr Telfer’s comment to the Stewards, when the item was discovered, indicate that he was aware it was not permitted.
5. Mitigating Factors –
5.1 Mr Telfer has been cooperative throughout the RIB process and has admitted the charge at the first available opportunity.
- Mr Telfer has no previous breaches of this Rule.
6. Similar Cases –
There are no similar cases in Harness Racing, however the following cases of Drivers being in possession of unapproved or modified gear, may provide some assistance regarding penalty:
RIU v M J Stratford (2015) – Old Rule 866(a) – checked out with a metal-lined whip – fined $1,000.
RIU v K Smith (2013) – Old Rule 866(a) – checked out with an unapproved whip, being a piece of barberry painted black – fined $400.
7. Conclusion –
When determining penalty, the RIB submits that the Adjudicative Committee has regard to the purpose of the proceedings, which includes to ensure the Rules are complied with, to uphold and maintain the high standards expected of Trainers, and to protect the integrity of Harness Racing, giving confidence to the betting public that animal welfare is a priority in all matters concerning Racing.
The RIB submits that the breach can be dealt with by way of a monetary penalty, in the vicinity of $1,000.
The RIB is not seeking costs.
REASONS FOR PENALTY:
1. Rule 1001(1)(r)(ii) was introduced in October 2018 by Harness Racing New Zealand as part of its Animal Welfare Program. The reasons for its introduction are obvious.
2. The Racing Integrity Board announced in early 2023 that it was committed to doing 100 Harness Stable Audits (15% of the 654 Registered Trainers) around the country in 2023, “to measure the facilities’ compliance with the HRNZ Horse Care Regulations and will be along the lines of a robust stable inspection”.
3. It was stated that a team of Officials will visit stables and check animal health, as well as any facilities used for the training/care/containment of horses. The visits would be announced, and Trainers will be notified via email in the days prior to the audit.
4. An audit was carried out at the property of the Respondent on 4th July 2023 and, in the course of such audit, as stated in the Summary of Facts, Stewards discovered a galvanised steel pipe with a portion of barbed wire coiled around a section of the pipe and secured by electrical pipe, with a short leather strap attached to the opposite end. This was identified by Stewards as a homemade boring pole for use in educating and training horses. They also discovered a further length of barbed wire, curled as if it had been moulded around a pipe or pole.
5. A boring pole is explained on the HRNZ website as an item of gear that “attaches from the top of the harness to the bridle and sits next to a horse’s neck. It is designed to keep a horse’s head straight and help ensure it runs in a straight line”.
6. The Respondent did not deny that he had used the piece of equipment found at his property as a boring pole on a horse stating, “it’s better than sending them to the meat works”.
7. Clause 8 of the Summary Facts refers to an “advisory” sent in 2017 to all Licenceholders which stated that it was no longer acceptable to use gear modified to include “nails, tacks, screws and/or pins in an apparent attempt to educate their horses”, so called “old school practices”. The Adjudicative Committee has no difficulty in finding that a modified boring pole with barbed wire is included. Neither does the Adjudicative Committee have any difficulty in finding that the modified boring pole may cause “pain, injury or distress” to a horse (Rule 1001(1)(r)(ii).
8. A breach of the Rule is deemed to be a “Serious Racing Offence” for which penalties are provided in Rule 1001(2) – see above.
9. It is necessary, when considering penalty, to look at relevant aggravating and mitigating factors.
10. It is an aggravating factor that, not only did the Respondent have the offending item of gear in his possession, but also, he admitted to having used it, albeit “some time ago”, he claimed. It may or not have been used since the introduction of Rule 1001(1)(r)(ii), but the offence is having it in his possession. Furthermore, the Respondent was clearly aware that it was a breach of the Rule to have it in his possession when he, somewhat naively, informed Stewards that he had tried to locate the whereabouts of the item prior to the audit to remove it. This showed an indifference on the Respondent’s part.
11. Mitigating factors are the Respondent’s previous unblemished record over 21 years as the Holder of a Licence to Train, his prompt admission of the breach and his cooperation during the investigation of the charge. He is entitled to credit for these factors.
12. In the Health and Animal Welfare Policy promulgated by HRNZ it is stated, as part of its Policy Statement:
“HRNZ is committed to the health and welfare of horses involved in the wide range of harness racing related activities in New Zealand. HRNZ considers that the health and animal welfare standards in the industry should exceed those standards legally required in New Zealand, to ensure the ongoing sustainability and integrity of the New Zealand Harness Racing industry”. Such a statement sets a high bar for industry participants.
13. The Adjudicative Committee believes that the charge against the Respondent is the first to be brought under the Rule. This being the case, there are obviously no precedents available to the Adjudicative Committee by way of a guide to penalty.
14. The two cases, both involving a modified whip, referred to in the Applicant’s penalty submissions are of only very limited value. It is understood that, in neither case, was the offending whip actually used in the race. Furthermore, they both pre-date Rule 1001(1)(r)(ii) the Animal Welfare Policy.
15. Having said that, the Adjudicative Committee adopts a starting point for penalty in this case of $1,800 which reflects the serious nature of the breach and the disapproval from an Animal Welfare point of view.
16. From that starting point, the Adjudicative Committee applies an uplift of $200 for the aggravating factors referred to in para 10 (above) – that the equipment had, by the Respondent’ s own admission, actually been used and his attitude of indifference.
17. For the mitigating factors (para 11 above), the Adjudicative Committee applies a discount of 25%, or $500.
CONCLUSION – PENALTY:
The Respondent, Holder of Licence to Train, Graeme Telfer, is fined $1,500.
Decision Date: 10/08/2023
Publish Date: 14/08/2023