Constitutional amendment proposed to ban greyhound racing

A proposed constitutional amendment could bring an end to the sport.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If you're against greyhound racing, you could have the chance to ban it when you head to the polls next November.

This week, Florida Senator Tom Lee filed an amendment to the state constitution to ban dog racing by 2021. If adopted, Florida will join 40 other states in putting an end to the practice.          

Don Goldstein with Greyhound Rescue and Adoptions of Tampa Bay, has been fighting to protect greyhounds since he first adopted one 24 years ago.

Some of the dogs came to him in bad shape, like Crown. You can see all the scars on his body.

“They're from racing," Goldstein says. "They just get bumped or sometimes they hit rails."

For the last five years, Goldstein has traveled to Tallahassee during each legislative session to make sure greyhounds aren't forgotten.

“Last year, we got very close to getting a steroid bill through. Right now, female greyhounds are given anabolic steroids, testosterone, in particular, to keep them from going into season,” he says.

It's not just steroid use. Many are given drugs like cocaine to heighten their performance.

In May, longtime greyhound trainer Malcolm McAllister had his license revoked after several of his dogs tested positive for the drug.

Per the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, it's legal to inject testosterone or testosterone-like substances into female greyhounds to prevent them from going into the season.

Instead of going through state lawmakers, if the Florida Constitution Revision Commission approves ending greyhound racing, then the voters will have the final decision.

“If they saw how these dogs are confined, what they were fed and the number of racing injuries and deaths, I don't think they would support this industry,” he says.

After years of fighting for these dogs to be free, Goldstein hopes. this will finally be the end, he said.

Jack Cory, who represents The Florida Greyhound Association, responded to the proposed amendment.

"Live Greyhound Racing is good for Florida and it is good for the Greyhounds,” he said.

  • Over $80 Million was bet on live greyhound racing at the tracks last year.
  • Over $2.5 Billion was bet at Out of State Advanced Deposit Wagering Facilities that is owned by 3 Florida greyhound tracks. 
  • $11 million was generated in state revenue.
  • Over 3,000 Florida jobs
  • Over 8,000 beautiful greyhounds with over 95 percent adopted to loving families or returned to the farms to live out their lives.

"If Tom Lee wants to turn 19 greyhound tracks into 19 mini-casinos he should say so," Cory said. "This is an issue that should be decided by the Florida Legislature not “'lipped into the Constitution' so future Legislatures cannot change it."

In order for the amendment to be on the 2018 ballot, it would need to be approved by 22 of the 37
Constitution Revision Commission members. It would then need 60 percent of votes to pass.

Stats compiled by the state show that 367 dogs died at tracks in Florida since 2013, 52 of them at the track in Orange Park.

The following are numbers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

  • 11,722 greyhound injuries.  More than 3,000 dogs have suffered broken legs and other injuries such as crushed skulls, broken backs, paralysis,and electrocutions.
  • 909 racing greyhound deaths. The true number of deaths is likely higher as there are no verifiable statistics on the fate of greyhounds who survive racing but are disposed of each year when injured or no longer competitive.
  • 27 cases of greyhound cruelty and neglect. This figure captures the number of dogs who were starved to death, denied veterinary care, or endured poor track kennel conditions. Additionally, 16 racing greyhounds tested positive for cocaine.
  • 2,200 state disciplinary rulings have been issued since 2008. Racing commissions have a history of regulatory failures and industry attempts at self-regulating have proven to be ineffective.
  • More than 80,000 young greyhounds have entered the racing industry. 

Editor's note: This story inadvertently linked to the Florida Department of State. Rather, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has purview over greyhound racing, not the department of state.

 

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