While travelling Ireland’s Ring of Kerry last year, I met a man who was walking a stunning greyhound and we struck up a conversation. It turns out he retired from a career of training greyhounds at racetracks in Dublin and started a greyhound adoption organization. He shared with me his firsthand knowledge of the atrocities committed against these gentle dogs in the name of entertainment and greed. Whether here in the USA or “across the pond” in Ireland, greyhounds are dealing with immense suffering and advocates are stepping up their game in order to stop it.
There are currently two bills making their way through the system in Tallahassee. These bills would bring The Sunshine State into the new millennium and leave the old ways behind. Currently, there are only seven states where greyhound racing is still ongoing. Sad to say, Florida is one of them. The rest of the country seems to know something Florida has yet to learn: Greyhound racing is a cruel and dying industry and Florida needs to get with the program, according to Grey2KUSA, a greyhound advocate group. Florida has the embarrassing distinction of being the state with the most greyhound tracks, 13 of 22 operational tracks in the United States are in Florida. It doesn’t make good financial sense to keep these tracks open since gambling on dogs decreased by 57 percent since 2001 (source: grey2kusa.org). Why Florida is perpetuating this cruel industry is a mystery.
First, a few facts about why greyhound racing should go away. There are approximately 8,000 greyhounds being housed in substandard kennels around the state. These kennels are substandard because the dogs are kept in small crates or pens with dirt floors, unless they are stacked, and small turn-out areas where the dogs can relieve themselves. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation does not have any rules governing the sizes of the cages, and so there is no uniform standard. Furthermore, many greyhounds suffer painful and debilitating injuries, but the State does not require the tracks report the injuries to the public. Efforts to change that legislation has been vehemently opposed by the industry. It’s not as though the State is profiting all that much from greyhounds, statistics show that since 2004, tax revenues from greyhound racetracks went from around $8 million annually to just under $2 million.
In November, 2010, 38 greyhounds were found dead at Ebro Greyhound Park in Washington County, Florida. Said Washington County Sheriff Bobby Haddock “This is the worst case of cruelty to animals that I’ve ever seen. It’s just unreal.” According to WJHG, the region’s NBC affiliate, Walton County Sheriff’s officials were concerned that Ronnie Williams, the trainer tasked with the care of these animals, was also responsible for the death of eight greyhounds found under the Highway 20 bridge southwest of Ebro about a week before.
According to a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals factsheet, “In 2002, the remains of approximately 3,000 greyhounds from Florida racetracks were discovered on the Alabama property of a former racetrack security guard who had been “retiring” unwanted greyhounds with a .22-caliber rifle for more than 40 years. The attorney for the accused, who faced up to 10 years in prison on felony cruelty-to-animals charges, said, “If there’s anybody to be indicted here, it’s the industry, because this is what they’re doing to these animals. The misery begins the day they’re born. The misery ends when my client gets ahold of them and puts a bullet in their head.” A very sad commentary indeed.
The point is, if not for the media, these incidents would not have been brought to the attention of an outraged public becuase the industry is not required to report anything.
Florida needs to get real with regard to whether greyhound racing is really good for the state. The public becomes infuriated when stories of greyhound deaths and injuries hit the airwaves. The public has also spoken loud and clear about this industry, it doesn’t want it. The proof is the fact that greyhound revenue is down.
Now, back to the bills. House Bill 641 and Senate Bill 382 would decouple live greyhound racing. Decoupling means that Florida would no longer have a mandatory racing requirement that forces greyhound tracks to offer live greyhound racing as a “loss leader” for other, more practical forms of gambling. Those tracks who want to do away with live greyhound racing in favor of more lucrative gambling practices such as casinos would be allowed to do so under the new laws. If passed, this legislation would save the lives of millions of greyhounds.
To join the fight, visit Vote for the Dogs and take action.