Florida’s dog racing tracks are cruel and voters should ban them

greyhound
A greyhound dog

The dogs “love to run.” That’s just one of dubious arguments peddled by the tone-deaf Florida gambling relics who are still trying to sell a disinterested public on the idea of greyhound racing.

We can’t interview the dogs, obviously, to check the veracity of that claim. But in general, it appears most dogs love to run. Through a grassy field. Chasing a ball. Or a squirrel. That’s not what’s happening at dog tracks.

These dogs are stacked in cages for 20 or more hours each day. A review of state inspections found that greyhounds at Florida dog tracks have been drugged with cocaine, injured, killed, muzzled, and sprayed with an industrial termite killer not meant for dogs.

This litany of sad facts was uncovered by Grey2KUSA Worldwide, a group dedicated to ending the cruel “sport.”

According to state records reviewed by Grey2KUSA, a racing greyhound dies every three days in Florida – most of the deaths are caused by racing-related injuries, including broken bones, electrocution, and heat exhaustion.

All these dead and injured dogs – and for what?

Florida voters may have a chance to end this animal abuse on Nov. 6, when Amendment 13 appears on the statewide ballot. It would phase out dog tracks by 2020. The amendment is embroiled in a legal  fight that the Florida Supreme Court will hear on Aug. 29.

It is shameful that we allow this cruelty in Florida, and even more galling is that we have more dog tracks  (11) than any state in the U.S. Greyhound racing is already illegal in 40 states and now is the time to add Florida to the list.

The lobbyists on the side of the greyhound breeders are old school-style Tallahassee – Jack Cory and his wife Keyna –  shilling in our state Capitol for industries that have money to push regulators out of the way. Not only do they represent the greyhound racing industry, but they also represent world-class polluter DuPont, and Altria – the parent company of Phillip Morris tobacco.

Should you be concerned that a giant garbage dump might spring up next to your house, be aware that Keyna Cory has made sure you will have a hard time fighting it. Of her accomplishments, she notes that she “defeated legislation that would restrict where a solid waste management facility could be permitted.” According to her bio, she was chief lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida and also part of the lobbying scrum that worked to kill stronger standards on the sewage, manure, and fertilizer pollution that’s sparking the eco-nightmare of fluorescent green algae along the state’s southeast and southwest coasts. Like other members of Team Polluter, she prefers to refer to the swill by the softer-sounding term “nutrients.”

Greyhound racing still exists in Florida because of a weird deal struck in Tallahassee many years ago. Under the deal, our state government intentionally props up a dying industry, free market be damned.

The government has a mandate requiring these tracks to conduct one activity so they can offer another. Because of this odd requirement, gambling establishments have to keep money-losing greyhound racing around so they can offer more popular and lucrative games, like slots and poker. It makes for a surreal scene; while gamblers crowd inside playing slots or cards, the dogs run around a track where the stands are mostly empty.

In a gambit to save the greyhounds from their inhumane fate, Grey2KUSA, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have tried to undo the deal and get the Florida Legislature to separate dog racing from other forms of gambling. But every year they get out-gunned by the gambling lobby.

It’s one of those stubborn Tallahassee legislative oddities that makes everybody scratch their heads and say WTH? And whisper conspiracy theories. There doesn’t even appear to be financial incentive to keep dog tracks around.  Since 1990, the amount wagered on greyhound racing in Florida has declined by 74 percent and tax revenue from dog racing has dropped by a whopping 98 percent, according to the Humane Society of the U.S. .

The Supreme Court fight hinges on whether the wording of Amendment 13 is misleading to voters. The greyhound association contends it is misleading, and Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled in the association’s favor and against the animal advocates pushing for the racing ban.

Greyhound industry lobbyist Jack Cory crowed a bunch of “gotchas” after the court ruling.

No doubt he was relieved that the press was now reporting on something other than the misery endured by the poor dogs at the center of the fight.

 

Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

6 COMMENTS

  1. SO…upon reading “tone deaf Florida gambling relics” I just had to smile and settle back for an excellent read which would have made me happy had it not been for the accurate description of the miserable and dangerous existence led by these dogs. Thank you Ms. Hauserman…you have captured the evil essence, bottled it and shelved it next to samples from Florida’s once pristine waterways. But, we will win this fight.

  2. So greyhound racing is being propped up by other gambling gaming…by being linked to this crazy law that allows gambling in places other than on seminole “reservations.” Blatant trickery and abuse of power. I am surprised it was allowed and hasn’t caused a stink til now. It’s bad that suffering dogs are a byproduct of yet another corrupt governmental shenanigan that harms Florida.

    Thank you for the article exposing a sorry situation I knew little about.

  3. I hope the courts allow the amendment on the ballot. The argument about wagering on dog races in other places outside Florida does not change the fact that banning wagering on dog races in Florida would save dogs.

  4. This is such a misguided and uneducated commentary. Let’s look at the facts. An anti greyhound group passes on complete disinformation and this girl writes about this one sided bias. What a joke. Did she mention that she never took the time to do ANY RESEARCH WHATSOEVER. People like this should be ashamed of writing anything for public consumtion. Any journalist should fact check and find from both sides before making ANY opinion. What a joke!

  5. Interesting that Jim did not check his facts before calling this journalist of 30 years a ‘girl’ prior to making his opinions public. Neither does he state where he obtained her “zero research” statistic…… I doubt Jim will ever be put up for a Pulitzer prize somehow…… Dog and horse racing across the whole world is evil even in the best regulated animal care environments with the fewest corrupt gambling set ups. Not one animal should be put at risk of injury or death for the sake of gambling, despite any laws allowing it. It is immoral and speaks volumes about the inhumanity of anyone who supports it.

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