Florida Greyhound Racing Association Moves to Have Dog Racing Ban Struck from Ballot

Posted on: May 18, 2018, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: May 18, 2018, 07:23h.

The Florida Greyhound Racing Association (FGRA) has sued to have a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban greyhound racing wiped from the November ballot.

Florida greyhound racing
Florida has become a hub of greyhound racing in recent years, but many tracks would rather not offer it at all. The proposed constitutional amendment would phase out commercial racing in the state within two years, but there are claims the ballot question is ‘misleading.’ (Image: iStockPhoto)

The amendment would phase out greyhound racing in the state by 2020, through a process known as ‘decoupling.’ This would remove the requirement for the state’s parimutuel tracks to offer a quota of live racing as a condition licensing, a condition many find burdensome and unprofitable.

While greyhound racing has been banned in 40 states on grounds of cruelty, it’s a curious quirk of Florida gambling law that the state obligates the venues to offer it even if they don’t want to.

Instead of racing, the tracks would be able to offer more lucrative gambling games, such as slots and poker.

Could Amendment Reach Beyond Dog Racing?

But in a complaint file Thursday in Leon County, the FGRA argued that the ballot question is inaccurate and misleading.

For example, the measure does not communicate to voters that the tracks would still be allowed to offer simulcast racing – i.e., to broadcast live dog racing from other states, it argues. Nor does it advise voters that the measure would only ban commercial greyhound racing, meaning kennel clubs would still be permitted to organize races.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit expresses concerns with the language of the proposal, which, it says, could have the effect of banning other sports involving other animals, such as horseracing. The measure states that the “humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.”

Would this statement, once adopted by voters who were not informed that it was contained in the amendment, be utilized in the future to limit horse racing? To limit the use of hunting dogs?” asks the lawsuit.

“A voter who favors ending dog racing might very well decline to pass an amendment with such a broadly-stated provision for fear that once adopted as status quo in connection to dog racing, such statement might be expanded to limit or prohibit other activities or livelihoods that involve other animals,” it continues.

Lawsuit ‘Dead on Arrival’

Florida has become the center of greyhound racing in the US, hosting 12 of America’s 19 fully operational tracks, with around 8,000 dogs housed at track kennel compounds across the state, according to figures provided by anti-dog racing activist group GREY2K.

Yet GREY2K has argued that greyhound racing is a dying industry, highlighting financial results that show Florida’s racetracks operated at a total loss of $31.2 million in 2015.

Florida director of The Humane Society of the United States, Kate MacFall said in a statement that the FGRA’s lawsuit was “dead on arrival.”

“It is a desperate attempt to prevent voters from having a voice on whether greyhound confinement and deaths should continue. It was filed because greyhound breeders know that when Amendment 13 appears on the ballot, Floridians will vote yes for the dogs,” she said.