SYDNEY (AFP) - Fifty-five dead greyhounds have been found dumped in Australia and spent rifle cartridges seen nearby, the police said on Thursday, with the grisly discovery coming on the heels of a live baiting scandal rocking the dog racing industry.
The carcasses were in various states of decomposition when found by a member of the public near Bundaberg, 360km north of Brisbane in Queensland state, on Tuesday.
Detective Superintendent Mark Ainsworth said the mass killing was "nothing short of abhorrent". "I appeal to people within the greyhound racing industry in Queensland, you know who you are, you know what you've been involved in, and now is the time to stand up and be counted and come forward before we start knocking on your door," he said.
Post-mortem examinations will reveal the cause of death but Ainsworth said: "I will say that a number of spent .22 cartridge shells were found in the vicinity as well."
The deaths are being investigated by the Joint Greyhound Racing Inquiry Taskforce, established to probe live baiting using possums, rabbits and piglets to train some of the country's most successful dogs.
It was prompted by a television expose in February that showed the animals being fixed to mechanical lures before being chased and torn apart during training sessions.
A lure is traditionally an artificial hare or rabbit.
So far, eight people have been charged with 31 offences by the Queensland taskforce, Ainsworth said.
Bundaberg Greyhound Club president Stephen Bland took to Facebook to express shock at the discovery.
"We are appalled by the news and are doing all we can to find whomever is responsible for this disgraceful act," he said.
Greyhounds usually have relaxed, amicable temperaments and the state's Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller used social media to note her outrage.
"Absolutely sickened that @QPSmedia & @RSPCAQld have found the remains of 55 greyhounds. Animal cruelty in Qld won't be tolerated," she tweeted.
Australia has one of the largest greyhound racing industries in the world. Live baiting has been banned and criminalised for decades.