Right now, Floridians have a chance to finally put a stop to one of the cruelest "sports" left in America ó greyhound racing.
Two past Florida Senate presidents, Tom Lee and Don Gaetz, have introduced an amendment that would phase out greyhound racing in the Sunshine State to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, the 37-member body that meets every 20 years to recommend changes to our state Constitution. The proposal would go into full effect on July 1, 2021, and would phase out greyhound racing operations over three years.
With 12 of the 18 dog tracks nationwide in our state, Florida has the most dog racing operations in the United States, thanks to our state governmentís actions to prop up the industry. Greyhound racing is illegal in 40 states. It is now time to add Florida to the list.
On average, a racing greyhound dies in Florida every three days. Many more are injured. Even if dogs donít end up injured or dead, their lives are ones of abject misery. They are fed meat that comes from diseased and dying cows (a substandard beef grade known as 4-D) and confined 20 to 23 hours a day in cages too small for them to stand up normally. Since 2008, state investigators have documented at least eight cases of cruelty and severe neglect at Florida dog tracks and associated track kennels, including a 2010 case where state investigators found 37 dead greyhounds at a kennel compound and another five severely emaciated live dogs.
Just this year, two more cases of dog "doping" have been added to the long list of violations. In one case, two trainers at a Jacksonville-area track were cited when dozens of greyhound blood tests came up positive for cocaine, with one greyhound testing positive six different times.
The total amount gambled on live racing at Florida dog tracks declined by 56 percent between 2006 and 2016. State tax revenue from dog racing also continues to drop, with revenue declining by 81 percent from 2006 to 2016.
The Constitution Revision Commission must first approve Lee and Gaetzís proposal to place it on the November 2018 election ballot. Floridians should support phasing out greyhound racing and ending this cruelty once and for all.
The dogs racing in Florida pay the price for a long-ago political deal that makes no sense in todayís economy. The government forces businesses to conduct one activity so they can offer another. Because of this antiquated mandate, tracks keep money-losing greyhound racing around so they can offer more popular and lucrative games like slots and poker. While patrons crowd inside playing slots or cards, the dogs run around a track in front of largely empty stands. Legislative attempts to separate dog racing from other forms of gambling have been unsuccessful.
This proposal before the Constitution Revision Commission is a chance to do the right thing and make history.
Kate MacFall is Florida state director of the Humane Society of the United States.