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By Taylor Gilmour, MPP
I was first confronted with the grim reality of greyhound racing two decades ago, while working as a veterinary technician at a local animal hospital in Altmonte Springs. The clinic took in a pair of three-year-old greyhounds, a brother and sister, who had been discarded by a trainer at nearby Sanford Orlando Kennel Club. I walked and fed them both, and particularly connected with the male, a sweet 92-pound fawn dog named Allan.
One day, I arrived at work to a ghastly sight: a black body bag containing the remains of Allan’s sister. I was stunned and immediately asked whether Allan was still alive. He was, but the paperwork to end his life had already been completed. I stepped in to prevent his death and took him home with me that night.
Allan gave my family years of love and companionship. We gave him life.
Some people might say that Carla Wilson’s experience with Allan was an anomaly; that those are rare incidences we shouldn’t consider to be the normal standard in dog racing. Those people would be right. Normally, the story doesn’t include a character like Carla to save the surrendered dog at the last minute. Normally, these dogs don’t have a voice to advocate for them. Normally, they are trained until their bodies are beaten and broken, and then discarded at the young age of three to be euthanized as though their only purpose was to race on a track.
Although greyhound racing tracks have closed all around the country, Florida still holds 11 of our nation’s 17 remaining dog tracks. That’s 7,000 racing dogs with futures like Allan’s. Florida State records indicate that nearly 500 dogs have died on track premises since 2013, when record keeping began. This average of nearly one death every three days does not even include off-track deaths. In the past 15 months alone, there have been over 70 recorded on-track greyhound injuries, most of which include broken bones.
While it presumably surprises many Floridians to learn that there are even any dog races still going on in our state, it is even more surprising that, according to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, Florida held 44,364 dog races in the 2015-16 fiscal year alone. Yet, the Division also reported that gambling on dog races has declined over 60% in the last decade.
Why then has the market not solved this animal welfare issue?
This situation is the result of previously passed Florida legislation, which requires betting facilities to utilize the tracks to operate their highly lucrative card rooms. The 1997 Florida statute stipulates that licenses would go only to existing “pari-mutuel” betting facilities: horse tracks, jai alai courts, and, yes, dog tracks. The result is that the 7,000 racing greyhounds in Florida are running over 44,000 races each year merely to keep the poker tables full.
This November, Floridians will have the opportunity to vote on an amendment in the Florida Constitution to end commercial dog racing. The passing of Amendment 13 would phase out all dog racing in Florida by 2020, and save thousands of lives in the process.
The Humane Society of the Treasure Coast proudly endorses the Yes on Amendment 13 campaign, and asks that you too become an educated voter this fall. To find more information about this campaign and the statistics surrounding this issue, please visit www.ProtectDogs.org.
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