Animal activists in Florida are calling for measures to protect greyhounds in the state’s large racing industry.
Florida is home to 12 of the last 21 greyhound tracks in the nation.
Last month, sixteen animal protection organizations sent a letter to the Florida House and Senate Gaming Committees, calling for the passage of two greyhound protection measures. The letter asked lawmakers to pass a greyhound injury reporting law and to eliminate a state mandate requiring gaming facilities to hold live dog races.
Executive Director of the greyhound protection agency, GREY2K USA, Carey Theil, said dogs across Florida are suffering serious injuries on Florida tracks and believes the law should change.
According to the letter sent to lawmakers, Florida is only one of two states, other than Alabama, where dog tracks don’t greyhound injuries to the public.
Theil said he doesn’t understand why these two states have opted out of this procedure.
“Greyhound breeders say this is not a problem…that injuries are rare,” he said. “If that’s the case, they should support Greyhound injury reporting because it would prove their point and it would help the industry.”
However, based on data from other states and public information, Theil suspects that greyhound injuries are common in Florida.
He said similar injury reporting laws passed in other states have helped reduced the number of greyhounds euthanized. However, Theil said there is no way to show how effective these laws would be in Florida because no one is keeping record of any injuries.
As of May 2013, Florida greyhound tracks are required to report to the state any deaths of racing greyhounds that occur at a track or kennel. Theil said Florida needs to now pass an injury reporting law.
“It’s a law that will literally save Greyhound lives,” he said.
Still, according to Jack Cory, lobbyist and a representative for the Florida Greyhound Association, racing is a unique tourist attraction to the state and eliminating the sport would affect more than Florida’s diversity of entertainment.
“It would cost the state $22 million dollars in direct revenue,” Cory said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in indirect revenue, thousands of jobs, and we’d put over 8,000 beautiful greyhounds at risk.”
He said saving the lives of greyhounds requires more than filing an injury report.
“Having a politically motivated reporting process does not stop the injuries on animals or athletes whether it be on a football field or a baseball field,” Cory said.
He said the state needs to have better track conditions to stop injuries before they actually happen.
Regardless of revenue, organizations, like GREY2K, claim dogs are paying a price higher than any profit the industry may contribute to Florida’s economy.
“These race tracks really have become poker rooms that happen to have dogs running around in circles with no embedding on the dogs,” Theil said. ”A report that just came out by a company called Spectrum showed that in 2012, Florida’s dog tracks lost 35 million dollars on greyhound racing while at the same time, turning in a profit of 39 million dollars on their poker rooms.”
Jody Houston, the Outreach Coordinator of Goldcoast Greyhounds Adoptions, said she disagrees with GREY2K and believes the organization may have other interests in mind.
“They make a great deal of money and they give a great deal of money to present their opinions to our government,” Houston said. “I don’t necessarily feel they have the best interest of greyhounds in mind when they are talking about shutting down racing in the state of Florida.”
She added that these animals experience common injuries on Florida tracks like professional athletes do in sports today.
“They do suffer injuries,” Houston said. “They are going up to 45 miles an hour. If they trip or if they have a pile up, they get hurt. It’s quite a bit close to the numbers of injuries from professional football or professional baseball.” Houston said.
The Florida House and Senate Gaming Committees have yet to form a decision on proposed measures.