Two former jai alai fronton operators will be allowed to convert their pari-mutuel licenses to allow dog racing. On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court announced that it had ruled in favor of allowing dog tracks to open in Volusia and Palm Beach counties. There had been an effort to shut down all dog track racing in FL earlier this year. This effort was being pushed by many politicos including Senator Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach), but it lost ground and Senator Sachs was forced to withdraw the measure at the last minute,
The ruling Wednesday reverses an appeals court decision that called the law unconstitutional. The appeals court said the legislation was a special law, rather than a general law because it only affected Volusia and Palm Beach counties.
The Florida Constitution requires the Legislature to give advance notice before passing a special law or require voter approval in the affected areas. But the Supreme Court said the 2010 law is valid.
This week’s reversal comes as a surprise due to the 2014 campaign promises of FL elected leaders. Pam Bondi recently won re-election as Attorney General in Florida. Ms. Bondi, while campaigning for votes from animal rescue enthusiasts, was endorsed by both Grey2K and the Humane Society. The Grey2K voter appeal announced:
Pam is a true leader on the humane treatment of animals, and has fought hard for stronger laws to protect greyhounds. Next year we expect the biggest debate yet over greyhound decoupling and injury reporting, when the state legislative session opens in Tallahassee. To win these important reforms, we will need lawmakers who are both compassionate and tough. Pam Bondi is both. She also understands that animal cruelty is a serious issue, and that abusers should be held accountable for their actions.
Ms. Bondi has not commented on this week’s ruling by the Florida Supreme Court. Greyhound rescue enthusiasts find it disturbing that this new ruling came about after Ms. Bondi won re-election. The case affects West Volusia Racing Inc., formerly known as Volusia Jai Alai Inc., and License Acquisitions LLC, doing business as Palm Beach Greyhound Racing. Neither has conducted jai alai games for more than a decade.
What is “decoupling”? In Florida, casinos are basically forced to have greyhound racing thanks to an antiquated state law that says gambling is allowed only at facilities that offer racing. So tracks keep greyhound racing so they can offer lucrative slots and poker, even though they lose money on dog racing. Decoupling would allow gambling without the dog races and was one of the items included in Senator Sach’s bill.
This is a terrible turn of events for greyhound rescues across the country. This year, according to the Herald Tribune, on just one track in one day,
“one greyhound died in a violent “cartwheel” tumble after colliding with another racer. Two dogs were euthanized after breaking legs during competitions. Another was put down after separating her shoulder during a race. ”
According to Grey2K USA, in 39 states, commercial dog racing is illegal. In just seven states, pari-mutuel dog racing remains legal and operational. Florida is one of those states. The others are AZ, IA, WV, TX, AR and AL.
Jack Cory, a lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents dog breeders, owners, trainers and kennel operators, argues that the state simply needs to make greyhound tracks safer.
In opposition to that idea is Marina, H, who has been involved in FL greyhound rescue for almost 20 years and has had many of these beautiful couch-potatoes in her home during that time.
“Physically, racing takes a terrible toll on the dogs. The conditions are still very harsh, Many dogs are injured or die. Dogs that can’t race or aren’t fast enough are destroyed. These dogs make such wonderful pets and are so loving of people, it is a shame they are forced to run just for money.”
Marina adopted from a local Greyhound group in Orlando decades ago, but prefers the name of the group to remain anonymous to prevent backlash against them from local dog tracks and trainers. She explained, “rescue groups have to be racing neutral in order to keep on with their work.”
Currently the group’s leader has three greyhounds with broken legs recuperating in her home. The group sends dogs to northern states, and have connections with rescue groups in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania among others.
Naples resident Ellen Schmidt reported that while attending a greyhound adoption event she witnessed a young female dog fall during a race. The 3-year-old greyhound was sprinting about 45 mph.
She was making the turn around the track and she hit something and went down. It was just horrible,” Schmidt recalled. “You could just hear her. They brought her down and put her to sleep, but there are other horrific injuries that go on there. Spinal injuries, neck injuries, broken legs.
If decoupling doesn’t happen statewide, and the Supreme Court decision is NOT overturned, Naples rescue enthusiasts like Chuck Danielian believe that
“Florida should at least have a greyhound injury reporting law on the books,”
Massachusetts, for instance, approved a greyhound injury reporting law in 2001 and in the first year the number of dogs euthanized declined by 43 percent. Massachusetts voters outlawed dog racing in 2008. “To me, it’s common sense,” Danielian said. “If you say you are a safe sport, what are you hiding by not making injuries public? They do it in the NFL and in sports.”
Senate Bill 742 was the greyhound injury reporting law, which passed as an amendment in the FL Senate May 5, 2014, but died in the FL House later that same day. If you would like to keep updated on the status of greyhound racing across the country, and the efforts to bring it to a close, visit Grey2KUSA.
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