TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Today in Tallahassee, state lawmakers heard graphic details about greyhound deaths, with anti-dog racing organizations GREY2K USA and the ASPCA trying to drum up support for stricter regulation of Florida's dog tracks.
Lawmakers saw a video and heard testimony detailing what occurs at tracks around the state, with several senators coming out in support of the proposed measures even though the bills won't come up for a vote this week.
The groups presented a report documenting 74 greyhound deaths that occurred statewide in the 7 months from May to December of 2013. They hope to urge lawmakers to eliminate the mandate requiring gaming facilities hold dog races if they want to continue to offer other, more lucrative services like hosting card rooms. The groups are also pushing for a law forcing tack operators to report injuries and the cause of death for every dog that dies at a track.
"We know in a state where the injury reporting is mandated the number of injures go down, and the number of deaths go down, because someone's paying attention," said Ann Church of the ASPCA.
Operators currently only have to report when a death happens, but not how it occurred. Of the 74 greyhound deaths we were able to verify, at least five occurred in Sarasota. We were also able to uncovered how some of those dogs died: Two were euthanized after breaking a leg during a race, state documents indicate another may have had a heart attack and a broken neck, and the other two were killed by what remain unknown causes.
In response to the deaths, the American Greyhound Council sent us this statement:
"Fewer than one-half of one percent of all racing starts result in injuries, and only a tiny fraction of those result in a greyhound fatality. Florida's 13 tracks saw an estimated 400,000 racing starts in 2013."
Many dog racing supporters worry more regulations could result in dog track closures.
"it seems like every dog track they're trying to close them down and I don't think that's fair," said racing fan Linda Holuba. She says she grew up around dog racing -- her father currently has several dogs racing at the Sarasota Kennel Club -- and Holuba says seeing those dogs is one of the reasons she visits the Suncoast.
"The reason why I come here is to watch [my father's] dog race," she says. "We have friends that come down; it brings money in. I would be really really disappointed if they close it down."