Greyhound Racing’s Lawsuit Challenging Florida Ban Thrown Out of Court

Posted on: August 16, 2021, 08:31h. 

Last updated on: August 17, 2021, 12:31h.

A gambit by the greyhound racing industry to have Florida’s ban on dog racing declared unconstitutional was rejected late last week by a federal appeals court.

greyhound racing
An image taken from the final day of greyhound racing in Florida at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in December. (Image: Palm Beach Post)

In October 2019, a group calling itself “Support Working Animals Inc.” sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, and State AG Ashley Moody over a 2018 voter-approved ballot measure that axed commercial greyhound racing in the state.

The group argued that the measure, Amendment 13, amounted to a “taking” of property under the Fifth Amendment. That’s because it deprived the greyhound industry of “substantially all economically beneficial or productive use of their property and return on their investments,” according to the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs also argued the ban violated their equal protection rights because the State of Florida continued to allow betting on horse racing. Dog racing had been singled out because it was “politically unpopular,” the lawsuit claimed.

Dog’s Chance

In April 2020, Chief US District Judge Mark Walker rejected the equal protection argument because he said the greyhound racing ban did not “involve suspect classes such as race, gender, or national origin.”

He also ruled that Florida had used its police powers to prevent “plaintiffs’ property from being used in a particular manner that the State has determined to be contrary to the health, morals, or safety of the community.”

Walker dismissed a subsequent amended complaint on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not have “standing” to sue State AG Moody.

While the panel of appellate judges did not address the constitutional argument, they upheld the dismissal on the same grounds.

“The plaintiffs’ real problem, as we understand their complaint, is with (the amendment) itself — its existence — and the economic consequences that its passage has visited or will visit on their businesses,” the panel wrote. “None of that, though, appears to be due to any past, present, or likely future conduct of the attorney general.”

Fade to Gray

Florida was home to 11 of America’s 17 remaining dog tracks when voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure in November 2018. This was largely thanks to a quirky Florida law that required pari-mutuel venues to offer a quota of racing — whether they desired to or not — as a condition of their license to offer card games.

Amendment 13 allowed the pari-mutuels to “decouple” themselves from dog racing and required commercial racing to be phased out completely by January 2021.

Once the mecca of dog racing in America, Florida’s final race ran at the Palm Beach Kennel Club on December 31, 2020.