QRIC Safety Spotlight: Dr Stacey Flynn
Principal Veterinary Officer
Experienced Veterinary Officer Dr Stacey Flynn says that safety is a team effort when she is at the track for race meetings.
Dr Flynn is one of QRIC’s Veterinary Officers, who must be present at every race meeting in Queensland to ensure animal welfare through routine check-ups and by responding to incidents and injuries.
“There are a lot of risks. With horses, you are working with a volume of large animals that may be unpredictable because they know they are going to race,” said Dr Flynn.
“There is a risk of being kicked, bitten, pinned or struck, especially if something has gone wrong with an animal on the track, because it is distressed and without a handler.
“Staff like barrier attendants, starters, track staff and farriers are sometimes among the first people to get to animals when an incident occurs. They will often secure the area to ensure I can tend to the animal safely.
“Team work is important at greyhound meetings, too. Sometimes, when dogs are injured on the track, staff and licensees will help to take the animal off the track in a safe manner, in accordance with my physical limitations.”
Dr Flynn often relies on the support of race day staff and track staff.
“I have to be super mobile for this job. I walk 10 to 15 kilometres when I’m on the track!
“I am often at the far reaches of my physical ability because of my height, so I’m always thankful for the people who step in and help me with my physical limitations.”
Dr Flynn says taking the time to be familiar with the track she is working at will help to keep her safe. She determines where she can safely stand and observe each race without getting in the way of progressing events.
Veterinary Officers spend much of their time outdoors on race days, and protection from heatstroke is an important consideration. Dr Flynn says that a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a neckchief and lots of water are essential items on race days.
Dr Flynn’s role is to ensure animal welfare, assessing animals for their fitness to run on race days, and responding to any issues or injuries. She also works with the dogs within QRIC’s Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP).
“I’m here to look after the animals, but I’m also here to protect people. When thinking about whether a horse or greyhound can start a race, their health and welfare is my priority, but I also consider the safety of the jockeys and drivers as a matter of utmost importance.”
The high level of responsibility can create mental health challenges.
“I’ve been mentally prepared for dealing with animal incidents – that’s what I signed up for, but I know a lot of the young participants quite well.
“As a mother, if a jockey has a fall it often plays on my mind, even if they’re ok. I think, that’s someone’s daughter, or that’s someone’s son; I care a lot about the participants and the licensees.
“I have had mental health challenges. I deal with it by talking to people who I know will help me. I get out and talk to people as soon as I know these issues are playing on my mind.”
Dr Flynn also takes care of her wellbeing by staying active.
“I play AusTag and touch football, I’ve taken up pilates, and I ride horses.
“Horse riding is great for my mental health. I’ve taken three horses off the track that are my personal horses!”