Australia: Victorian greyhound trainer Rinaldo Divirgilio, suspended for live possum 'blooding', says he and son were set up - - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia Victorian greyhound trainer Rinaldo Divirgilio, suspended for live possum 'blooding', says he and son were set up

15:40  13 november  2019
15:40  13 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Three greyhound trainers have been suspended for baiting their dogs with live possums , throwing the sport's Victorian racing industry into another crisis. The marsupials were reportedly used to spark the dogs' desire to chase, initiating a new live -baiting scandal.

Martin Pakula, Victoria ’s racing minister, said the revelations of live baiting were “shocking Asked if he supported GRV, Pakula said : “Today is not the day to be expressing full confidence in GRV. Chalk said the greyhound racing industry “kills dogs at a whim as soon as they are no longer

a person wearing a uniform: Ben Divirgilio is among three people suspended from greyhound racing. (Supplied)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Ben Divirgilio is among three people suspended from greyhound racing. (Supplied)

A father-and-son training team is at the centre of a fresh greyhound racing scandal involving the alleged use of live possums as bait.

An ABC investigation can reveal two of the three Victorian greyhound racing figures suspended from the sport are Rinaldo 'Wren' Divirgilio and his son Ben Divirgilio.

The Divirgilios are at the centre of an alleged live baiting enterprise which involved the delivery of live possums to be used in a barbaric training practice known as "blooding".

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Greyhounds are sprinters and can hit up to 45mph for very short spurts. I live with people with allergies and would love to have another Greyhound , but can’t because of those allergies. Which is vital to our veterinarians. Greyhounds are different, blood levels, body readings, etc. from other dogs.

Greyhounds that have been ' blooded ' in pre- training are too hard to re-home because they are Arrangements are being put in place across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to try to house 'When I told him , you know what they will happen there don't you? And he said "yes I do but

The alleged live baiting activities were discovered around three weeks ago by Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) and are centred on the activities at a private property in Devon Meadows.

The property is occupied by Rinaldo Divirgilio, a veteran greyhound trainer and breeder.

Rinaldo Divirgilio has spoken to the ABC, confirming he was one of the three trainers currently suspended.

'I didn't do anything'

Rinaldo Divirgilio said he was the victim of a "set-up", and that someone else dropped off live possums at his property for live baiting without his knowledge.

"I didn't do anything. I just received something. It [the possums] got dropped off here for someone else," he said.

As soon as the driver entered his property to deliver the possums, racing officials suddenly appeared, he said.

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Greyhound racers are secretly blooding their dogs with live bait as part of systemic and A group of men surround a possum and its baby on the track ahead of the mother being used for live baiting. " Live -baiting is barbaric, abhorrent and illegal – it has absolutely no place in Victoria 's racing industry

"There was a car hiding across the road. Then four cars just drove straight in."

"I was suspended on the spot. They just gave me a piece of paper saying I'm being suspended."

The ABC can also reveal Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) officials confiscated his mobile phone.

"They took my phone, took it for three days. When it came back I looked inside and it had what looked like a second little SIM card next to my SIM card. They're trying to trace my calls, I presume," he said.

He said GRV officials also simultaneously entered his son's property in Nambok, confiscating his mobile phone too.

He said his son had no knowledge of, or involvement in, any live baiting and the officials did not find live animals on his son's property.

"Ben's got nothing to do with this," he said.

The Divirgilios are well known and established greyhound trainers, owners and breeders in Victoria.

Ben Divirgilio is also an official committee member of Greyhound Racing Victoria's Traralgon Racing Club.

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He has continued to race his dogs up until as recently as November 2.

Between 2011 and 2017, Rinaldo and Ben Divirgilio were charged with several racing offences between them, including conduct detrimental to the interest, image, control or promotion of greyhound racing.

Ben Divirgilio also pleaded guilty to another inappropriate conduct offence in 2017.

Undercover operatives deployed in sting

The ABC understands Greyhound Racing Victoria orchestrated and launched its own undercover sting using covert operatives.

According to information obtained by the ABC, a third greyhound racing figure is responsible for capturing and delivering animals for live baiting, including to Rinaldo Divirgilio's Devon Meadows property.

Rinaldo Divirgilio refused to name him, but told the ABC he was "not a trainer — he owns some dogs".

Blooding a greyhound with live animals is believed to increase a dog's prey drive and make them chase a mechanical lure faster during racing.

It is a criminal offence attracting fines of up to $35,000 and jail terms of up to two years in Victoria.

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Opponents of live baiting say the illegal method boosts dogs' prey drive, making them run faster.© ABC News Opponents of live baiting say the illegal method boosts dogs' prey drive, making them run faster.

In 2015, the ABC's Four Corners obtained hundreds of hours of covert vision recorded by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland.

It exposed multiple live baiting rings in action and sparked several government inquiries and dozens of criminal prosecutions.

The NSW Government announced a ban on greyhound racing in the state in 2016, but reversed its decision four months later after sustained pressure from the racing industry and its supporters.

In the wake of the Four Corners expose, governments granted the greyhound racing industry one last chance to stamp out the widespread cruelty, criminality and corruption in the sport.

Most trainers 'doing the right thing'

The RSPCA confirmed it was investigating allegations that trainers engaged in live baiting.

But Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) refused to publicly name any of the trainers suspended from racing or outline the details of its investigation.

"We haven't laid charges yet. They are suspended. The next step is to put together what we've found and basically chase this matter down to its fullest extent," GRV chief executive Alan Clayton told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Mr Clayton would not reveal how they were alerted but said the investigation was ongoing.

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"We found the matter using our intel capability. We've got a combination of intel, analysts, covert [workers], and we use all of that and more in the context of the work that we do."

Mr Clayton said it was "abhorrent" if trainers used animals on lures, which often resulted in dogs mauling them to death.

He said he did not believe the method worked, but acknowledged: "in any industry or sport where there's money involved, people will try to cheat".

"Most greyhound trainers are actually doing the right thing and they're using synthetic lures," he said.

"We've promoted an ethical industry, we've increased our capability in integrity and animal welfare."

Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula said he was encouraged that racing integrity officials had received the allegations instead of the tip-off coming from activists or journalists.

"The test is: can you detect them, can you catch them, can you charge them and can you rub them out?" he said.

"I don't think five years ago greyhound racing had the capacity to do those things. Now it does.

"If the allegations are right, it's cheating in the form of cruelty to animals. It's completely unacceptable."

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