Greyhound racing banned in New South Wales from July 2017

SYDNEY (AP) Greyhound racing will be shut down in the Australian state of New South Wales from July 2017 after a state parliamentary inquiry found overwhelming evidence of animal cruelty.

The inquiry's report, released Thursday, found between 48,000 and 68,000 greyhounds were killed in the state in the past 12 years because they were deemed uncompetitive.

It also found up to 20 percent of trainers had engaged in ''live baiting'' - feeding live animals to the dogs - and that on average 180 greyhounds a year suffered critical injuries during races.

The inquiry was launched last year following reports of live baiting and mass killings in the greyhound industry.

State Premier Mike Baird said ''in response to widespread illegal and unconscionable activity ... I can today announce an end to greyhound racing.''

Baird said his government, the first state administration to ban greyhound racing in the country, would announce detailed plans for the shutdown later this year following consultation with the industry and animal welfare organizations.

He said the move would include a welfare plan for existing greyhounds, including opportunities for re-homing, a transition arrangement for existing Greyhound Racing NSW assets, including race tracks to ensure they are used as open public space.

Baird said the state would be following many jurisdictions across the United States and the world which have banned greyhound racing to protect animal welfare.

Greyhound trainer Bob Whitelaw, from the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, said he was devastated by the news.

''I can assure you that the industry will fight this to the finish. I have got no doubt,'' he said.

But Baird said his government was left with ''no acceptable course of action except to close this industry down.''

In Queensland, animal welfare groups immediately called for a similar ban in that state.

Greyhound racing is also banned in 38 U.S. states, and in South Africa and Italy, according to Australia's Fairfax Media.

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