Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: No break for greyhounds, thanks to Tallahassee

Greyhound racing has been legal in Florida for more than 80 years. That may end, but not this year — lawmakers killed a measure in Tallahassee that could have hastened the end of racing.

Associated Press (2007)

Greyhound racing has been legal in Florida for more than 80 years. That may end, but not this year — lawmakers killed a measure in Tallahassee that could have hastened the end of racing.

There's this classic 1960s scene from an episode of Mad Men: The Drapers, out on a family car trip, finish an idyllic roadside picnic under the trees.

Dad takes his last gulp of beer — and then throws the can as far as he can wing it. Mom shakes out the picnic blanket. With the kids, they pile into the car, leaving behind all their trash — napkins, plates, assorted garbage — strewn across the grass as they drive away, unconcerned.

Remember how we did things before we knew better?

Florida's outdated dog tracks remind me of this, except there's not so much to be amused about.

We are home to 13 remaining greyhound tracks, more than any other state, where the sleek dogs are run in races so people can bet on them. It has been legal here for more than 80 years.

Some people wax nostalgic that there is a dusty, old Florida charm in this, and of course there's the lure of winning some money. But more than kitschy gambling at iconic old tracks is at stake.

The numbers are staggering. Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reported earlier this year that between May 31 and Dec. 31 of last year — amazingly, the first time dog tracks were required to report greyhound deaths — 74 dogs died on racetrack property. That's an average of one dog every three days.

They died for reasons like getting hurt while sprinting in the predawn dark for practice, or were euthanized after being hurt while racing, or with few details given. Also amazingly, injury specifics weren't required.

Animal-rights advocates and rescue groups have long said racing dogs live in confinement and suffer terrible injuries. All these years later, aren't we better than this?

During this year's soon-to-be-over legislative session, lawmakers were expected to consider a measure that could hasten the phaseout of this archaic and dying "sport."

The proposed amendment would have ended an outdated requirement that track operators run a certain number of races in order to also run lucrative card rooms. A 1997 law intended to bolster the racing industry says dog tracks have to operate 90 percent of the races they ran back then to be allowed poker rooms, too.

Doesn't it follow that more races put more dogs at risk?

The proposal would have "decoupled" the two matters, untying poker rooms to the number of races and allowing tracks to cut back race schedules — something that could ultimately end dog racing. Tracks would have the option of operating more profitable card rooms and not racing dogs at all.

But as happens when gambling is the subject, power, influence, infighting and opposing interests get in the mix. The measure was killed in Tallahassee in a parliamentary move, a procedural vote, and it appears this step forward won't happen this year.

If there is a glimmer of good for greyhounds, it's in a less-restrictive bill that moved forward requiring dog trainers and track operators to report injuries to state gaming regulators. It seems unconscionable this wasn't already a condition for using dogs for sport, but it's a step.

So for at least another year, the dogs will be run as before, even though the world has moved forward, even though we have options, even though by now we should be better than this.

Carlton: No break for greyhounds, thanks to Tallahassee 04/29/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 7:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  2. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  4. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  5. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2.