Battle intensifies over Florida greyhound racing

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Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 5:03 pm | Updated: 5:41 pm, Fri Apr 11, 2014.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A new report from GREY2K USA, an agency lobbying for more regulation of the dog racing industry, has spawned quite a bit of controversy. As we detailed yesterday, GREY2K says that 74 greyhounds died at Florida race tracks from May to December of 2013.

That figure has led to much debate about the tracks, including laws in place that require operators continue putting on greyhound races if they want to keep their doors open for other activities.

In addition to pushing for more regulation, GREY2K's Christine Dorchak highlights a measure called "decoupling," which would allow track owners to cut back the number of races without having to also cut back their hours.

"The dog track owners have their hands tied. They can not let go of dog racing because the state says you have to keep offering live dog racing or your out of business," Dorchak says.

According to Florida law, if the owner of a dog track license wants to offer other services -- like, say, a highly lucrative poker room -- they must also offer at least 90 percent of the dog races they offered before opening the card room. This rule ties the hands of track owners who very well may want to cut back on the races -- not out of a sense of altruism, but because of basic economics.

"Greyhound racing is a losing business both for the track owners and for the greyhound themselves," Dorchak says. She's backed up by a gambling impact study released by state legislature that shows about a 90-percent decline in live handling racing revenues since 1990.

GREY2K officials say track operators are forced to take the loss if they want to continue to operate the profitable sections of their business, i.e. the card rooms.

"Basically, greyhound racing is a loss-leader to other activities occurring at the track," Dorchak says. "This is contrary to the free market principles of this country, and business owners should be able to make their own decisions. That's what decoupling is about."

GREY2K hopes to bring a decoupling bill to a vote in the coming months, but some worry the change might put an end greyhound racing altogether. That's a change that racing fans don't exactly view as a positive.

"I come down here to watch his dogs race, we go with friends who come down," says racing fan Linda Holuba. "It brings money here. I would really be disappointed if they closed it down."

Area visitor Pat McChehey agrees. "We enjoy as snowbird coming here and watching the racing and the dogs ... it's a good industry," he says.

And while organizations like the American Greyhound Council couldn't comment directly on the decoupling issue, they did say in a previous interview that they question all efforts made by GREY2K.

"There's a core audience that really loves the sport and as long as people are enjoying it and the industry is behaving responsibly, as it certainly is, I don't see any real motivation for closing the industry down," says American Greyhound Council's Marsha Kelly.

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  • ferrygirl posted at 7:23 pm on Wed, Feb 19, 2014.

    ferrygirl Posts: 1

    It is not just the USA that greyhounds are subjected to pain and suffering. Australia sends their dogs to countries that drag their dogs behind cars, set them on fire, hang them upside down on fences, and beat them to death because they can't run fast enough and bring shame to the owners. It is well documented, but still Australia sends these poor dogs to these disgusting countries.

  • Kent posted at 5:01 pm on Wed, Feb 19, 2014.

    Kent Posts: 1

    It's way past time to end this cruel "sport' where these loving dogs are treated like disposable trash. The industry has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted so the only option is to shut it down completely. Anyone who stands up for dog racing is either ignorant to the facts or getting paid.

  • Vanna posted at 10:42 am on Wed, Feb 19, 2014.

    Vanna Posts: 1

    Well, the people may be "enjoying" dog racing; the dogs certainly are not. They are crated 20 hours a day in small crates, drugged, electrocuted "accidently" and do not enjoy human attention, warm beds, toys, walks, etc. Forcing business to do something is unAmerican, isn't it?

  • julesinboston posted at 5:38 am on Wed, Feb 19, 2014.

    julesinboston Posts: 1

    Greyhound dog racing is a cruel and inhumane existence for these loving dogs. I think these people who attend these races should get a volunteer job helping others, including helping these retired racing dogs find loving homes.

  • tessmcgee posted at 10:18 pm on Tue, Feb 18, 2014.

    tessmcgee Posts: 1

    If all those snowbirds knew how horrible the dogs were treated and how many die, I wonder if they'd be so eager to attend races. I've been blessed with two greyhound companions so far in my life. They are magnifecent, loving creatures and do not deserve to be abused. Put the track owners and the Florida racing commission and the legislators and the breeders out there in cages and make them run. That would be infinitely better than mistreating dogs. Shameful. No two ways about it.

  • Eric_NM posted at 10:18 pm on Tue, Feb 18, 2014.

    Eric_NM Posts: 2

    Marsha Kelly apparently considers it completely acceptable for 74 greyhounds to die at the track or in racing kennels in only seven months. As long as somebody enjoys it? That's not an acceptable answer any more. Greyhounds deserve better. It's time to end racing in Florida.

  • whippetdoc posted at 10:15 pm on Tue, Feb 18, 2014.

    whippetdoc Posts: 1

    The greyhound racing industry is not -- and never has-- acted responsibly. As a veterinarian I was involved with a small rescue organization yrs ago - they would get a call late at night that a given number of dogs were going to be put down (killed) first thing in the morning - they would take what they could house and leave - knowing the ones left behind would be dead in a few hours. The condition of these poor dogs when they would get them to me was appalling - Have you ever seen dogs covered with ticks as big as grapes??? The industry is dying - let it die! The decoupling bill is the best idea -- the tracks can remain open for all sorts of other gambling activities for those who choose to indulge. Just stop the cruelty to the dogs!!! For those people who still go to races - some of you just have no idea what these precious dogs go through - and I know you would not go to races if you did: Please educate yourselves. For those who are well aware and still think it is ok - there are words requested to not be posted to describe you - so I'll just say "Karma"…. Dog racing is a completely inhumane blood sport. FL is, unfortunately, one of the few states where it is still legal. If people want to gamble - let them do it on human sporting events, cards, or games, etc -- leave the innocent dogs out of it.


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