Greyhound racing in Florida may see an early retirement after voters voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment banning commercial dog racing in the state.
On Tuesday, voters passed Amendment 13 by a margin of 69-31 percent, ensuring that commercial dog racing could not be wagered on across the state. The amendment will phase out racing by 2020, leaving dog tracks and adoption agencies little time to figure out what to do with more than 8,000 dogs in the industry.
Florida has 11 of the 17 active greyhound tracks in the country, and is one of only five states where greyhound racing is legal.
St. Petersburg is home to one of the oldest greyhound tracks in the nation. The Derby Lane Greyhound Racetrack hosted its inaugural race on January 3, 1925. It has since taken on a poker room to offer visitors. Whether the track can continue to function off its profitable side businesses is still up for consideration.
The arguments over the amendment has been a proverbial dog fight pitting animal advocacy groups against greyhound adoption organizations.
The Greyhound Pets of America / Tampa Bay offers dogs that will be retired from racing up for adoption. It had staunchly opposed the amendment, citing the bill does not outline what will happen to the dogs when the racing ends.
"As a non-profit greyhound adoption agency with over 25 years in the Tampa Bay area, Greyhound Pets of America / Tampa Bay volunteers have been asked about Amendment 13, which states it will 'end dog racing,'" the adoption agency's website stated. "It is GPA/Tampa Bay's position that Amendment 13 does not serve the best interest of greyhounds and request that you vote NO in November to save the greyhound breed."
But other animal rights groups have fiercely defended the amendment, citing poor living conditions and the inherent danger of dog racing. GREY2K USA, one of the country's largest greyhound protection groups, lobbied for the amendment to be placed on the ballot. Executive director Carey Theil, told the Orlando Sentinel that the amendment was a huge boon for the welfare of the dogs.
"The historical consequences of this are incredibly significant," Theil told the paper. "We're seeing one of the highest approvals of any animal welfare measure in the nation."
This amendment also has made for strange bedfellows, placing adoption organizations around the state in line with the National Rifle Association and gambling advocacy groups.