Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Making history for Florida greyhounds


A caged greyhound at Orange Park Kennel Club
By Christine A. Dorchak, President and General Counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide

History awaits the greyhounds this fall. On Election Day, the voters of Florida will have the opportunity to turn back the hands of time and end dog racing in its most established state. As many as 8,000 lucky greyhounds stand to receive the second chance they deserve, closing out nearly 100 years of exploitation and cruelty.

The first recognized commercial greyhound racetrack in the world was opened in 1919 in California. The Blue Star Amusement Park had an oval track and featured a new invention called the mechanical lure. Created by Owen Patrick Smith, the device was intended to offer a more humane alternative to the traditional use of live rabbits in field coursing. By 1930, sixty-seven "flapping" tracks had opened and closed all across the United States – none of them legal. A bid to force approval of dog racing in Kentucky was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1927, but failed. No state would authorize this new business, even during the height of the Great Depression.

But Florida was different. It became the first state to allow dog tracks to operate legally – as long as it received a piece of the action. In 1931, Sunshine State lawmakers passed a racing bill over Governor Doyle E. Carlton’s veto. By 1935, there were ten licensed tracks in operation, some controlled by known criminals such as Meyer Lansky. Oregon and Massachusetts became the next states to authorize dog racing, in 1933 and 1934 respectively. Although church groups, civic and humane organizations rallied in opposition, the new industry of greyhound racing continued to grow and was legalized in a total of nineteen states by 1989.

Greyhounds racing at the Tampa race track

Referred to as the “Sport of Queens,” perhaps in reference to Queen Elizabeth I’s promotion of greyhound coursing in the sixteenth century, dog racing sought to promote itself as elite, glamorous and a good time for all, including the greyhounds themselves.Proponents of dog racing in Florida were perhaps the most enthusiastic of all in emphasizing the “sun and fun” to be had at its facilities. Old time movie heartthrobs, entertainers and sports figures such as Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Janet Leigh (star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”) and even Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, made multiple appearances at dog tracks in the Sunshine State. In 1958, Sinatra filmed a movie about a dog track gambler at the Flagler Kennel Club and one year later, he appeared on the cover of the Greyhound Racing Record along with a woman newly crowned as the “Queen of American Greyhound Racing.” Photographed with them was the winning dog in a race named after the famous singer. 

Those days are long gone and the truth about dog racing has now been revealed in official state documents, financial reports and testimony from dog track workers themselves. Kept in warehouse style kennels, in rows of stacked metal cages for 20-23 hours a day, the dogs are fed a diet based on raw, diseased meat. When let out of their cages to race several times a month, they face the risk of serious injury. Broken legs, crushed skulls, snapped necks, paralysis and heat strokes are common. Some dogs have even been electrocuted while racing. According to information gathered by the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, a greyhound dies every three days at Florida’s eleven racetracks.

Caged greyhounds at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club
Cheating is another hallmark of this industry. Over the past decade, there have been 419 greyhound drug positives, including 68 cocaine positives. Greyhounds have also been found with pain killers and opiates like novocaine and oxymorphone in their systems. Females are routinely given anabolic steroids to build muscle and prevent loss of race days during their heat cycles, a practice which triggers both animal welfare and race fixing concerns.

Thankfully, dog racing is now illegal in 40 states and since 1990, the amount of money wagered on dog racing in the Sunshine State has plummeted by 74%. Tax revenue has declined by 98% and the tracks themselves now lose a combined $34 million. If it were not for a state mandate requiring racetracks to offer a minimum number of races as the platform for other, more popular forms of gambling, this antiquated activity would have ended long ago. Until it does, the state will continue to waste as much as $3.3 million per year regulating a dying industry.  

Statewide polling shows that Florida voters will vote to end dog racing if they are fully informed about its humane and economic problems. You can help the greyhounds by learning learn more about Amendment 13 and by spreading the word that it’s time to set the greyhounds free. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Let the greyhounds go home


Robert and Jennifer with Cortland the greyhound
Robert and Jennifer adopted Cortland the greyhound
By Christine Dorchak, President and General Counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide

Recently, we asked you to share your greyhound’s story. As with our annual calendar contest, we received entries describing lucky hounds who had been adopted from anti-racing groups, pro-racing groups and groups that claim no position on dog racing.  

This is something we must all celebrate!

In fact, greyhound adoption should never be politicized. The only two questions that should be raised in placing an unwanted puppy or a finished racer are 1) How soon can this dog be transitioned out of the racetrack and 2) Where is the closest, bona fide, adoption group located? 

Unfortunately, having sensed its coming dissolution for nearly twenty years, the commercial dog racing industry has begun holding greyhounds hostage and purposely limiting access to select adoption groups. In an attempt to blunt criticism, such groups may be required by contract not to speak critically about racing. Nor can they tell about the condition of the injured or sick greyhounds that they receive. Industry bullying is so effective that groups even refuse donations and avoid inclusion on any referral pages deemed to be against racing.

Sonia Stratemann of Elite Greyhound Adoptions of South Florida learned the hard way that speaking out rouses complaints not only from kennel operators but also from fellow adopters:

“In the past, I only posted photos of dogs that looked good. If one came in that was especially thin or injured, I usually just posted a head shot. For years, I took in sick dogs that other groups would not and I always stayed quiet. But recently, I posted about one dog’s condition on Facebook, and when another dog from the same kennel was no longer wanted, he was left at a vet’s office to be killed. Out of spite, the kennel worker had refused adoption! The only reason greyhound Holly is still alive is because my friend begged for her life. Ironically, when she dropped Holly off, my friend told me that she hoped I had finally “learned my lesson” and to keep quiet! She hates racing too, but stays neutral to keep them happy. Here’s a photo of Holly, seconds after arriving.”

Holly the greyhound

This kind of psychological warfare must stop. As one adoption advocate in the Pacific Northwest put it, “The racing industry has succeeded in coercing many rescue groups into changing their public position on racing from 'against' to 'neutral.' These groups can’t even use the word 'rescue.' IMO, we should be allowed to help regardless of our feelings about dog racing – pro or con – ESPECIALLY if anyone is expected to believe the racing industry is pro-greyhound.” 

Another defense mechanism used to prolong the cruelty of dog racing is the panic-inducing talking point that thousands of greyhounds will die should a track or tracks close. It is true that the number of dogs available for release increases in the wake of a track’s closure, but that increase is temporary. The immediate problem is real, but it’s one that is expected and can be prepared for in advance. The benefits of a track closing are permanent and far-reaching. This is because the cycle of over breeding and killing stops. For good. This is particularly important in Florida, which has an abundance of dogs at breeding farms and racetracks throughout the state. On November 6, when voters decide whether dog racing should be phased out, the historic Miami track will already have stopped dog racing, three other tracks will have ended their final season, and the remaining facilities will have twenty-six months to wind down and release their dogs to waiting adoption groups both in and out-of-state.

It is important to understand that the recent claims by Florida kennel operators that dogs “will be killed” is not a passive statement. This is all about control and anyone who utters these words is literally threatening to kill his or her own dogs. Think about that. Just as greyhound adoption groups are bullied, kennel operators are now also trying to bully the general public into voting against helping dogs.

Empty threats like these must be considered for the scare tactic that they are. We have heard the same cynicism in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona and every other state that has rightfully voted to end commercial dog racing. When Tucson Greyhound Park closed, for example, we worked directly with the track owners to fund adoption. In our home state of Massachusetts, there was a record year for adoption following voter approval of the phase-out of dog racing.

Historically speaking, when a dog track closes, countless volunteers are mobilized to find homes for any and all displaced dogs. Drivers from hundreds of miles away converge on the track and pick up dogs to be taken to adoption groups and foster homes. For example, when Plainfield Greyhound Park in Connecticut closed in 2005 volunteers from as far away as the Midwest and Canada sent rescuers. The closure of Multnomah Greyhound Park in Oregon in 2004 and Geneva Lakes Greyhound Park in Wisconsin in 2006 sparked a similar response. While some dogs were sent on to race elsewhere, many others were made available for adoption. 

Later, with the closure of Mile High Park in Colorado (Winter 2008) and The Woodlands in Kansas (Fall 2008), all the dogs were safely moved out. Greyhound advocates, including board members of GREY2K USA, joined hands with track adoption groups to help the dogs. In December 2009, the 200 remaining dogs at Raynham Park were re-homed, and a similar number had been transferred out of Wonderland, also of Massachusetts, when that track held its last season in September of that year.

It’s no secret that greyhounds often pay with their lives while competing. They break their necks, suffer paralysis and some are even electrocuted. In Florida, state records show that an innocent greyhound dies every three days. This cannot and should not go on. 

Years ago, as I first thought about this issue, I consulted with one of GREY2K USA’s founders, Dr. Jill Hopfenbeck. She once served as the president of a local greyhound adoption group and had treated over 1,000 rescued racers by that time. She listened to me expressing at length my concern about the industry’s threat to kill dogs should our 2008 Massachusetts ballot question pass. She paused and then looked me straight in the eyes and said with all the certainty of her many years of saving greyhounds: “Christine, the best thing that can happen to a greyhound is for racing to end. The injuries stop, the cages open and greyhounds get to become just dogs again. Don’t ever forget that.” 

Whether one agrees with Jill or thinks dog racing is the best invention of 1919, the truth is that we all love our greyhounds. Now it’s time to show it.

We applaud independent networks like that the Greyhound Adoption Action Alliance for saving dogs now and for preparing to help even more greyhounds as tracks wind down operations in Florida. When Amendment 13 passes and as other tracks also close around the country, let’s work together to promote adoption and put the dogs first.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Biggest Fight to End Greyhound Racing Worldwide

Twelve of the remaining 18 American dog tracks may soon close.
By Christine Dorchak, President and General Counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide


November 6, 2018 may well be the biggest moment ever in the worldwide fight to save greyhounds. On that day, the citizens of Florida will go to the ballot box and have the power to end the cruelty of dog racing in the Sunshine State once and for all. You can help, too! Please sign our petition for Florida greyhounds now.


It’s no secret that greyhounds used in racing often pay with their lives. They break their necks, suffer paralysis and some are even electrocuted. A greyhound named TNT Quiet Riot “fractured her spine” and died at the Sanford Orlando track on July 13, 2017. The very next day Rem’s Carmex also broke her back at another track in Pensacola. PorPorPitifullMe was one of several dogs who fell into the live rail and was electrocuted. On average a racing dog dies every three days in Florida! 

These poor dogs deserved better. They were just 1 and 2 years old. In their deaths, we see the cost of dog racing in its most heartless terms. 


Since May 2013, nearly 500 young, Florida racing dogs have lost their lives. Many suffered catastrophic injuries and died on the spot. The others could have been saved! But instead of receiving medical care for their broken legs or sprains, these gentle hounds were “given the needle.” Their bodies were placed in plastic bags and tossed away, just like trash. Industry reports call this “euthanasia” but we call it cruelty.

Recent news about the doping of greyhounds with cocaine is only the latest example of an industry that sacrifices animal welfare for profit. In the first four months of 2017, there were eighteen cocaine positives at Florida’s Orange Park Kennel Club. In January, cocaine was found in five greyhounds at Derby Lane, another Florida track.
Racing greyhound Mega Caliente falls at Orange Park in Jacksonville, Florida.
But Florida is not alone in its cruel race-fixing schemes. Other states and countries are reporting drug-positive dogs at levels never seen before in a wildly callous attempt to make some of the fastest mammals on earth run even faster.
Life in a cage
When not at the track, racing greyhounds endure lives of terrible confinement. They are kept inside warehouse-style kennels inside stacked cages that are barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around -- for twenty or more hours a day! There are no toys for them and no play.
The minimum size for dog track cages is 32 inches high by 31 inches wide by 42 inches deep, with some slightly larger. According to the American Greyhound Council, greyhounds stand between 23 inches and 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between fifty and eighty-five pounds. Using these dimensions provided by the industry, this means that large greyhounds cannot stand fully erect in their cages.
Caged greyhounds at Daytona Kennel Club in Florida.
Since there are no required turn-out times, the only extended period that a racing greyhound is outside of his cage is afforded when he is trucked over to the track to perform several times a month. Otherwise, “home” is marked by the four sides of his cage.
Greyhound racing breeds misery

A mother and her puppies at an American greyhound breeding farm.
Another essential problem with dog racing is that thousands of dogs are bred every year in an effort to find younger, faster dogs. The older ones are then displaced, and their very lives put in immediate jeopardy. Will they be rescued or will they be destroyed? The lucky ones who do reach adoption will then displace other needy animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, others) also seeking homes. In this significant way, the racing industry aggravates a homeless animal population which is already overwhelming and immensely sad. We believe that best answer is to get to the root of the problem and end dog racing as quickly as possible.
A dying industry
Even as this cruelty continues, attendance is shrinking by the year. The Association of Racing Commissioners International reports a 70% decline in wagering on dog racing since 2001, the year GREY2K USA was founded. Where there were nearly fifty dog tracks in fifteen states at that time, today there remain a total of eighteen facilities operating in just six states. Similarly, state revenue from greyhound racing continues to drop catastrophically. Between 2001 and 2014, state dog race revenue declined by more than 82% nationwide. In Florida, the country’s biggest dog racing state, regulatory costs have now exceeded revenues by as much as $3.3 million yet dog tracks continue to receive tax breaks and other incentives. States like West Virginia continue to subsidize live racing with tens of millions of dollars per year. This is money that would be better spent on schools, law enforcement, infrastructure and other important community needs.

Our work
Greyhound advocates rally for the dogs.
In recent years, GREY2K USA has phased-out dog racing in many states and successfully prevented its introduction to countries such as South Africa, Jamaica and the Philippines. The organization’s most rewarding campaign involved a voter referendum in which four million people were asked to shut down the two tracks of our home state. In November 2008, Massachusetts citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of the greyhounds, starting a chain of events that quickly led to the prohibition of dog racing in our sister states of New Hampshire and Rhode Island and more recently, Colorado and Arizona.
Volunteers protest against cocaine-positive dogs found at Orange Park, Florida.
All told, we have helped close two-thirds of all US tracks, and we are now looking to apply our strategy to help end dog racing worldwide. Please sign our petition to the leaders of the eight dog racing countries today.
The key to our efforts is a reliance on bona fide, official documentation only. Where previous efforts to end dog racing often amounted to a “he-said she-said” debate, today we let the greyhounds speak for themselves through their own track records and photographs. 
You can help the greyhounds
Lulu of Florida.
It’s time for a change, and we would like your help in making that change. Check out our campaign gear and please join us in our fight to end dog racing.
My greyhound Gina is truly one of the lucky ones. She gives life to this struggle and reminds me that every dog deserves to be loved and protected. To learn more about dog racing, and to work with us to save greyhounds, please go to GREY2KUSA.org. Please sign our petitions, find us on Facebook and Twitter, and join the team that is working to give greyhounds the second chance they deserve. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Every Dog Deserves a Home

Darren Rigg with his greyhound York
By Darren Rigg, GREY2K USA Worldwide Board Member

I love dogs, especially greyhounds. Caring for them has been my passion for more than three decades. I am motivated to help these dogs by collaborating with people who share the passion, the love of greyhounds, and a belief that each dog deserves a quality home. 

My thoughts and feelings about greyhound racing may surprise you. You might assume that I despise all people who are “pro-racing.” I don’t. I’ve collaborated with dozens of racing greyhound owners, breeders, kennel operators, track workers, dog haulers and countless adoption organizations. I have yet to encounter anyone who got into the business of greyhound racing with deliberate intention to cause suffering to the dogs. What I have encountered, however, is a collective culture within greyhound racing to accept and normalize the cruel circumstances in which racing dogs live and die.

Greyhound racing may seem like an innocent sport, and greyhounds love to run, right? Not true. Greyhound racing is NOT a sport; it is a for-profit business and the greyhounds themselves are simply commodities. The quality of daily life for each dog is dictated by economies of scale. The dogs are “produced” on farms – yes, greyhound farms where, I suspect, they are treated without much individual nurturing, in other words -- less like dogs, more like cattle. They are often ear-tagged, like cattle. Suffer parasite infestation, like cattle. Are taken to auction, like cattle. Housed in smelly barns, like cattle can be on some farms, and worst of all, many greyhounds have to endure lives of extreme confinement in cages. So no, I am not so much against the actual running of dogs around a track during greyhound racing — as if that is not bad enough; what keeps me awake at night is the thought of all those dogs suffering because of an industry that has normalized cruelty. (And why do we treat cattle "like cattle" - a bigger question for another day!)


Fortunately, public opinion is now turning against the cruelty of betting on the dogs. People who want to gamble have many places from which to choose, and most choose not to frequent dog tracks.


I know for a fact that the greyhound-racing industry within the Western world is in rapid decline. This is largely due to so many motivated dog lovers who are stepping into the political effort to end greyhound racing, as well as to discourage new dog racing in developing nations, and both these efforts are being spearheaded by the amazing, hard-working people at GREY2K USA Worldwide.


Which is the reason I recently joined the board of directors of GREY2K USA Worldwide. I am also still serving on the board of Greyhound Adoption Center. While this is a personal collaboration between me and GREY2K USA Worldwide, I remain 100% dedicated to GAC and will always be mindful to avoid conflicts of interest.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Greyhound Racing: A Bad Bet For Kansas




By Fred Barton, GREY2K USA Worldwide Board Member


There’s an old saying attributed to Alfred Einstein that goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It’s a saying that should be put on a big banner and hung in the Kansas legislature because lawmakers there are considering bringing greyhound racing back to the state.

House Bill 2545 would use casino gambling profits to subsidize greyhound racing. The fact that the legislature knows greyhound racing will need to be subsidized to survive should send up red flags. Why would they want to bring back an industry they know can’t make it on its own? Surely some of the legislators must remember Kansas’ previous experience. Greyhound racing started there in 1989 with two tracks, Wichita Greyhound Park and The Woodlands. A third track, Camptown Greyhound Park, opened in 1995, but went out of business in only six months. Things weren’t much better for the other tracks and by the time they closed in 2008 revenue from greyhound racing had shrunk 95% from when they started.

Hence the need to prop up racing with subsidies. But the reality is that subsidies don’t work. They have failed in every other state that has tried them. Every. One. In Rhode Island the Twin River Casino complained that racing cost them $9 million in annual subsidies, but only brought in $1.75 million. They ended racing in 2009.

In Iowa the casinos subsidized racing to the tune of $14 million a year while betting at the two tracks combined had shrunk to just $5.9 million by 2012. The Iowa legislature allowed the casinos to walk away from racing in 2014.

In West Virginia betting has declined 55% over a ten year period forcing lawmakers to make up the difference with annual handouts. Betting there is still trending down putting more pressure on the state’s breeding and purse fund accounts to carry the weight of a failing business. A bill has been introduced to sever this arrangement moving forward.

In Arkansas the legislature mandated a giveaway for the one track, Southland, in 2006. Since that time betting has dropped from a high of $212 million in 1989 to a little over $18 million by 2013 in spite of this arrangement.

In Florida, the largest racing state, the situation is no different. One track in Miami loses $5 million a year because the owner is forced to have racing. In all, Florida tracks lose over $30 million on live racing each year.

If Kansas legislators know racing will need to be propped up with subsidies, they should also know those subsidies will ultimately fail. Even billionaire casino mogul Phil Ruffin, the Wichita man behind House Bill 2545, has seen the writing on the wall. He recently admitted to the state Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board ...”[P]arimutuel is not a viable business anymore anywhere in the country...Parimutuel (horse racing) is dead and Greyhound is even worse.”

Greyhound racing is even worse than dead, and yet the Kansas Legislature is considering bringing it back to the state. How many different ways does an idea have to present itself as bad before legislators see it for what it is?  How many other times does it have to fail before someone says, that probably won’t work here either. It shouldn’t take an Einstein to answer those questions.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Steroids: Putting Greyhounds At Risk For Profit

Steroids are endemic to the greyhound racing industry
By Fred Barton, GREY2K USA Worldwide Board Member

The use of anabolic steroids to interrupt the estrus cycle of female racing greyhounds is a common practice in the greyhound industry. As trainer James “Barney” O’Donnell said in a 2014 interview, “We use testosterone on our females, yes...We’ve been using it for years and years and years.” While not quite as headline-grabbing as greyhounds who test positive for cocaine, the industry practice of using steroids deserves equal attention for its impact on the health and well being of female racers.

A female greyhound’s complete cycle lasts 15 weeks. According to Care of the Racing & Retired Greyhound, a female can only safely race three of these weeks if left untreated. So to avoid the loss of productive racing time, female greyhounds are routinely given anabolic steroids. But what effect does this continued exposure to steroids have on the health of the dogs? The industry will tell you none. It’s just like birth control they say, trying to equate the issue with human contraception. Besides, they argue, the dosages are so small as to be irrelevant to the health of the animal.

However, when you look at the science of what happens when dogs are given these drugs you reach a different answer. The Merck Veterinary Manual states, “[L]ongterm suppression of estrus by using androgens is not advised ... the safety and efficacy of injectable testosterone, as is practiced commonly in racing Greyhounds, has not been supported by controlled studies and is not advised.” According to the racing industry’s own handbook, Care of the Racing & Retired Greyhound, anabolic steroids can cause serious side effects including increased aggression and virilization. Steroid use has also been shown to have a negative effect on dogs’ heart functions, and some studies have even linked steroid use to liver, kidney and cartilage damage, gastrointestinal problems, and shock. In addition to these deleterious health effects, there is some evidence that steroids can affect performance. Dr. Richard Sams of the University of Florida Racing Laboratory, has said that anabolic steroids such as stanozolol would be “excellent” for enhancing greyhound race performance.

Other countries have begun to recognize the dangers of anabolic steroids. In 2014, the Irish Greyhound Board outlawed all steroid use. In Australia, testosterone is considered an illegal substance and in New Zealand all forms of steroids have been banned.

This is not the case in the United States. In the past month, Florida Senator Kevin Rader filed a bill that would formally legalize the use of anabolic steroids in racing greyhounds. Interestingly, Senator Dana Young has filed a bill that would do the exact opposite by outlawing the use of anabolic steroids altogether. Consequently, from a Florida legislative viewpoint the issue remains up for debate.

The greyhound industry knows that anabolic steroids are potentially harmful but uses them anyway. This can be seen most clearly in a recently adopted rule by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, an industry group which writes model rules for the American horse and greyhound industries. Anabolic steroids have always been classified as Class 3 illegal drugs according to ARCI’s Uniform Classification Guidelines for Foreign Substances. While they are still classified as such, ARCI rule 018-020 (16), which was quietly added on December 8, 2017, states, “Any usage of anabolic steroids involving racing greyhounds is prohibited, except that the administration of oral, or as otherwise prescribed by a licensed veterinarian, testosterone shall be permitted for the control of estrus in female racing greyhounds provided it is validly prescribed and properly labeled.” Only the greyhound industry would be so bold to both prohibit and allow a serious narcotic in the same set of guidelines.

The duplicity of the ARCI Guideline is symptomatic of the priorities of the greyhound racing industry; an industry that puts profits above all else. As long as greyhound racing continues, those who participate in it will try to cheat the system.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Tactics Of Desperation


Caged greyhounds at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club in Florida
By Fred Barton, GREY2K USA Worldwide Board Member

Recently state Senator Tom Lee proposed a Constitutional amendment that would end greyhound racing in the state of Florida. While the proposed amendment still has several legal steps to go before it reaches the ballot, some early polling suggests it would be approved by more than the required 60% of voters.

Predictably, the greyhound racing industry has reached into its tired rhetorical grab bag in an attempt to muddy the waters on what is a straight forward effort to end the unnecessary suffering, injury and needless deaths of innocent greyhounds. Their basic strategy has always involved the following: change the subject and/or, predict economic catastrophe while at the same time engaging in personal attacks.

The proposal is still in the initial stages of development and we have already seen racing proponents question the motivations of those supporting it as well as attempt to move the discussion away from greyhound welfare to topics like no kill shelters. It would seem if anyone’s motivation needed to be questioned it would be those who stand to make a profit from the continued exploitation of helpless greyhounds trapped in racing gulags across the state. With depressing regularity we read stories of greyhounds being drugged, abused and abandoned. Who could honestly argue for the continuation of this situation? What are their motivations? Another tactic the industry employs is to point the finger at other aspects of animal cruelty, for example the number of strays put down in shelters. Certainly no kill shelters are a good idea and should be pursued, but that is a separate conversation — especially since greyhounds seldom end up in shelters — which has nothing to do with ending racing. What are the motivations of those who would attempt to sideline the discussion of Senator Lee’s amendment for a different topic altogether?

Every time the racing supporters perceive a threat they clamor that there will be massive unemployment and commercial devastation because of the indirect impact the industry has on local economies. The truth is most jobs are part time, low wage and offer few if any benefits. The real money is made by those at the top. For example, in West Virginia a study found that nearly half of the $15 million the state pays out in subsidies goes to 10 individuals. Certainly if greyhound racing ends in Florida some will lose their jobs, but the same thing happened in Iowa when the state withdrew its support, yet made sure that those who were adversely affected received a soft landing to help them transition. There is no reason to think the same wouldn’t happen in Florida. And while the industry does have an indirect effect on the economies around it, that effect is mitigated by the fact that it has to be propped up with subsidies from states and local casinos. In 2013, Florida spent as much as $3.3 million more regulating the so called sport than it took in through taxes.

We predict that as this amendment moves through the process Senator Lee and those who stand with him will come under increasing personal attacks. Actually, it’s already started. I commented on an article about the amendment and I’ve been called a con man and a white collar criminal, accused of working for a ponzi scheme and challenged to meet “face to face” for what I imagine would not be a rational discussion of the issue. Verbal intimidation and name calling are common industry responses and are another attempt to change the subject. 

Florida political observer Joe Henderson gives the proposal no more than a 2 in 5 chance of success, but regardless of the odds it’s a sure bet the industry will pull out all the stops in its campaign of distraction, dissembling and character assassination. We cannot let this happen. Those who favor greyhound racing should be forced to account for the institutionalized cruelty, the callous disregard of health and welfare and the unnecessary pain and suffering endured by the helpless dogs in their so called care. The central question is this: Does a business that relies on the heartless exploitation of innocent living creatures for profit, and then abandons those creatures when they are no longer profitable have a place in Florida society today?