Greyhound racing supporters ready lawsuit to ‘overturn’ Amendment 13
“The greyhound industry … was arbitrarily eliminated.”
By Jim Rosicaon | June 3, 2019
The head of a pro-greyhound racing group now says supporters will file suit in federal court next month to “overturn” the constitutional amendment effectively banning dog racing in Florida.
Jennifer Newcome, who was chair of the Committee to Support Greyhounds, announced the move last Thursday in a public post on Facebook. It was on behalf of the offshoot “Support Working Animals” organization, online as Overturn13.org.
“With the abundance of information for (the legal team) to go through in order to prepare both the outline and body of the case, we are looking at filing in July,” she wrote. Plans for the lawsuit were first announced on YouTube.
Amendment 13, passed with 69 percent ‘yes’ votes in November, outlaws placing bets on greyhound and other dog races, such as at the state’s pari-mutuels, effective the beginning of 2021.
Many tracks already have stopped racing in the meantime; the measure allows other gambling at tracks, such as card games, to continue even after dog racing ends.
The amendment was placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), as opposed to a citizen initiative or by the Legislature.
It was championed by then-Attorney General Pam Bondi, who also sat on the commission and regularly brought shelter dogs to state Cabinet meetings to get them adopted.
According to the Overturn13 website, the “greyhound industry in Florida, a legal trade and industry, was arbitrarily eliminated in Florida without proper ‘due process.’ ” Support Working Animals says it represents “trainers, adopters, kennel owners, workers, race dog owners and fanciers.”
“Some have said the CRC was the ‘due process,’ ” it continues. “But as we claim and the evidence CLEARLY shows, the outcome of Amendment 13 was predetermined by the illegal political process within the CRC.”
Requests for comment were sent to former commissioners and to representatives for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents breeders and owners.
Jack Cory, the FGA’s Tallahassee-based lobbyist and spokesman, previously said that “overturning a voter-approved constitutional amendment is not a viable option in Florida.”
Christine Dorchak, president and general counsel, of Grey2K USA Worldwide, one of the anti-racing groups that fought for Amendment 13’s passage, called its approval the result of a “compassionate vote.”
Now, “months after the vote, a small number of greyhound breeders are now trying to undo the will of the people,” she said in a statement. “Their misguided lawsuit is a slap in the face of every voter and has zero chance of success. This is just sour grapes from a losing campaign.”
The Overturn13 website, however, says “Greyhound Nation did not back down before, and we refuse to stop until the last judge says ‘NO.’ “
Updated Monday — Newcome also sent this follow-up statement:
“We are an all volunteer group made up of adopters and greyhound racing enthusiasts working towards a legal solution to allow racing to continue in Florida. We want to protect the history of greyhound racing and also thereby preserve the unique American racing greyhound.
“Our supporters include adopters, some racing owners, some kennel owners, trainers, assistants and enthusiasts, as well as people who don’t even own any greyhounds, but own and work with other breeds and other working animals. We are standing up for the hundreds of hard working people who love these dogs and will lose their livelihoods and everything they love as a result of this Unconstitutional Amendment.
“We have found that many other animal entities have been slandered and victimized of the same misleading types of propaganda from the same entities who campaigned for passage of Amendment 13 and have since moved on.
“Our primary focus right now is the legal suit. We have retained a legal team who are preparing to rectify a situation that should not have happened in the first place. What drives us is a thought. We don’t want to wake up on January 1, 2021 and wonder what if we kept fighting for the greyhounds. Some may say we’re out of touch, or that the people have spoken, or that we’re grasping at straws.
“Well, we’re not letting go of those straws until they take us where we need to go in order to keep greyhounds racing in Florida.”
As racing ends, thousands of Greyhounds to need homes
Greyhound racing ending in Florida after ban, decline in interest
Story and photos by Greg Cima
Posted May 29, 2019
Dr. Donald Beck leans on a railing as he watches eight Greyhounds round a curve at 40 mph.
The sun is setting during the first of 15 races on a clear March evening at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, Florida. The dogs kick fountains of sand as they chase a cloth rabbit 550 yards around the track.
As the track veterinarian, Dr. Beck watches for falls and signs of injury or strain. He checks the dogs at weigh-in to make sure they are fit to run, administers vaccines, and gives female racers testosterone treatments to keep them out of heat.
After more than 30 years at the track, he is preparing for the end of Greyhound racing statewide. Florida voters decided in November 2018 to amend the state constitution and ban dog racing after December 2020. At the time of the vote, Florida was home to most of the country's Greyhound tracks.
Groups that led the campaign against Greyhound racing accused the racing industry of subjecting dogs to cruel conditions and injuries, charges owners of the dogs deny as false or exaggerated.
Since the ban was passed, people in racing seem depressed, as though waiting for the end to come, Dr. Beck said. Some are losing the only jobs they know.
Thousands of dogs will need homes, and track veterinarians will need new jobs.
Derby Lane's president, Richard B. Winning, said he plans to run races until New Year's Eve in 2020, as long as kennels can bring in sufficient numbers of dogs. But he ended Friday matinees in January 2019 because kennels are already short of dogs.
Dr. Beck said breeding is down and racing kennels are having trouble finding replacements. He sees the possible loss of racing-bred Greyhounds, which are leaner than their show dog relatives.
"If you don't breed for these characteristics, it's not going to happen," he said.
Since the amendment passed, Derby Lane's website has added a notice that the on-track adoption group needs money to place retired racers, likely until at least 2023.
Investment, rewards down
Cal Holland is the third generation of a five-generation Greyhound racing legacy. His grandfather started racing at Derby Lane in 1925, and his grandson races dogs today.
During a matinee, he stands in the shade on Derby Lane's concrete lower deck to watch the races. His dogs would run seven races that afternoon and win three.
In March, Holland was already short of dogs, down to 50 from his usual 68. The 74-year-old plans to wind down his kennel and retire.
"How long I'll last, I don't have a clue," he said.
Like most kennel owners, Holland races dogs that belong to clients. One is a friend who bred Greyhounds in Colorado for more than 30 years but stopped to avoid becoming stuck with expensive pets.
By the time a dog first reaches a Florida track, its owners have spent about $3,000 on it, Holland said.
Even before the Florida amendment passed, breeders were registering fewer puppies each year. From 1988-2018, the number of Greyhounds bred for racing each year dropped from 38,000 to fewer than 7,000, according to Jim Gartland, executive director of the National Greyhound Association.
As athletes, racing Greyhounds need specialized diets to stay within 1.5 pounds of their set weight to remain eligible to race. They need veterinary care and vaccinations. And, as the cost of caring for these dogs rises, only half the dogs that race on any given day will bring in money, he said.
Race purses are based, in part, on the amount of money bet.
Betting on Florida's Greyhounds topped $1 billion in two fiscal years—1987-88 and 1988-89—according to figures from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. That would be about $2 billion today, after adjusting for inflation.
In each of those years, tracks paid $30 million, worth more than $60 million today, in purses to dog owners. From July 2017 through June 2018, the total was down to $26 million.
In terms of buying power, though, betting on Greyhound racing peaked during the 1973-74 fiscal year, when tracks took in wagers of $603 million, worth $3.1 billion today. In 2017-18, tracks took in about $212 million in bets, a 93% drop from the peak.
Winning attributes the decline in interest to competition from casinos and lotteries, as well as lower interest among younger generations in handicapping and gambling on Greyhound and horse racing.
A 2015 report by Grey2K USA Worldwide, which advocates against Greyhound racing, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals describes media coverage since the 1970s reporting on allegations of cruelty in dog racing, use of live rabbits for races and training, and the destruction of unwanted dogs.
Athletes becoming pets
Derby Lane has an on-site adoption kennel run by Greyhound Pets of America.
Vera Rasnake, spokeswoman for GPA, said dog and kennel owners have known for years that racing was in decline, and she thinks they and GPA are prepared to help former racers find homes. Her organization has been placing Greyhounds in foster and permanent homes since the 1980s, when the organization's leaders approached tracks, trainers, and farmers to adopt unwanted animals.
Rasnake said that retired racers need different treatment than other dogs. They can't be off leash, for example.
Dr. Beck, who also works three days a week for the nonprofit Animal Coalition of Tampa, said he has seen privately owned Greyhounds with unusual injuries, such as impalements from sticks and pads worn raw.
Rasnake said their personalities are unique, too, and that former racers are relaxed and trusting like no other dogs she has seen.
Winning, who owns two Greyhounds, described them as "45-mph couch potatoes" that love running and sitting. He has no plans to take another home by the time the track closes, but he concedes the temptation may be too great.
"I'd love to have one, but I'm getting to a point where I'd like to travel, if I can," he said.
Holland has taken home one dog: Kentucky Hotspot, a sweetheart of a dog who broke her leg during a race. On May 2, 2018, she was in first place when she fell and tumbled in the dirt.
Holland also is president of the 15-kennel Tampa Bay Greyhound Association, and he said adoption groups from across the country will take in Florida's Greyhounds once racing ends.
"No one should really worry about the Greyhounds because they're all going to have a home," he said. "They're all going to be adopted out or go to other tracks to race—or sent home for breeding."
As of April, about 865 dogs lived in Derby Lane's kennels, 615 of them active. They run 105 races a week, eight dogs per race.
When those that remain need homes, Holland said, none of his dogs will go to rescue groups. He rejects any implication his dogs need to be rescued.
A fight over care
Kelly Faircloth, president of Greyhound Rescue & Adoptions of Tampa Bay, which goes by the name GREAT Inc., said her organization stopped receiving Greyhounds from kennel owners and trainers more than two years ago, when kennel owners and trainers grew nervous over anti-racing campaigns. GREAT campaigned for the constitutional amendment to ban racing.
"We are on the blacklist," she said. "In fact, we were the first group on the list."
Campaigning for Florida's constitutional amendment, Faircloth argued that Greyhounds typically spend 20-plus hours daily in crates with little bedding and short breaks for water, hundreds have died at Florida tracks since the state began requiring reporting in 2013, injuries often go unreported to state authorities, and dogs have tested positive for prohibited substances including cocaine. In annual reports from the past 20 years, state authorities indicated that tests for banned substances yielded about 1,100 positive results for 780,000 race-day urine samples. A fifth of those positive results involved cocaine metabolites.
Grey2K also alleged that racing Greyhounds suffered from collisions, falls, unnecessary euthanasia, and criminal neglect.
Florida does not track Greyhound injuries, although at least one county—Seminole—does. The 2015 report by Grey2K and the ASPCA indicates other states that do track injuries recorded about 12,000 from 2008-14, a quarter involving broken legs. About 760 dogs died or were euthanized after on-track injuries during that period.
Florida began requiring reports on racing-related deaths in 2013 and, as of May 2019, counted 531, according to the DBPR.
At the time of the Grey2K-ASPCA report, 39 states prohibited Greyhound racing.
Faircloth said her organization is ready to help find dogs new homes, if their owners ask. Florida was the engine of Greyhound racing, and she predicts its end in Florida will lead to its end in other states.
"Greyhound racing is a relic of the past, and we're very happy that people want that to end," Faircloth said.
Dr. Beck disputes the accounts of mistreatment, describing walks throughout each day, crates similar to those used in veterinary clinics, and trainers who spend long hours with the dogs and provide care for any injuries. He also cites financial motives for trainers to provide good care for their dogs.
"It's really hard to be cruel to your dog and get them to run around a circle in 30 seconds and keep doing it—and bring them back every three or four days and have them run," he said.
Rasnake said supporters of the racing ban gave an exaggerated image of the injuries that occur in racing, and she suggested that few people know the care that goes into racing dogs. Winning suspects contamination from the environment or food caused many of the positive results reported for tests for banned substances, and he doubts trainers would risk their livelihoods to give dogs an edge.
Voters passed the amendment almost 70%-30%.
Florida has six racetracks, down from 11 last year, but it still runs half the tracks in the U.S., according to the National Greyhound Association. The rest are in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia.
Derby Lane will keep taking bets on races broadcast from other tracks and running a poker room while deciding what to do with the 130-acre property, Winning said. It could become houses, apartments, or corporate headquarters. He has read speculation that the property would be a good site for a stadium.
"Where the kennels go, I don't know," he said. "Some may pick up and move to other states, if they can, and some may just go retire."
4 closed, 7 still open; Greyhound tracks reveal their plans to stop racing
Amendment 13 passed by almost 70% of the voters in Florida in November 2018. It says greyhound racing must shut down by the end of 2020. A look at which tracks are closed already and which will race to the end.
Author: Jeannie Blaylock
Published: 9:39 PM EDT May 20, 2019
Updated: 11:51 PM EDT May 20, 2019
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's clear that voters in Florida want greyhound racing to stop. Amendment 13 passed by 69 percent of the voters in November 2018. It says greyhound tracks must close down by the end of 2020.
Four of 11 tracks in Florida have closed already. The first to close was the well-known Hollywood track in Broward County. Manager Danny Adkins says he's glad to be shut down.
"It was costing us," he said. "We lost $3 million a year to keep open greyhound racing," Adkins says. What used to be a booming sport is no longer, he says.
Other tracks shut down voluntarily before the deadline: Pensacola, Melbourne, and Sarasota.
But another famous track will race to the deadline -- Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. Alexis Winning says it's her family's business.
"Derby Lane opened in 1925, the world's longest, continuous operating greyhound track," Winning said. "Why break that tradition?"
In Palm Beach, Theresa Hume says their track will race to the end, as well. "We're keeping people's jobs," she said.
Naples plans to race to the deadline, as well. However, these tracks tell First Coast News they will "try" to race to the end: Ebro, Orlando and Daytona.
One manager says it may depend if they can find enough dogs to race.
But what about BestBet in Orange Park? What are there plans? President Jamie Shelton says he is choosing not to comment on any plans.
Director Rick Ducharme with First Coast No More Homeless Pets says, "I wish the tracks would just close."
He thinks racing to the end is just stubbornness on the parts of the track owners.
"Let them go to a loving home to be part of a family," he says about the greyhounds.
Ducharme is also upset about new lab reports uncovered by First Coast News showing multiple drug violations in racing greyhounds at BestBet in Orange Park.
These are new drug violations on top of the almost two dozen reports of signs of cocaine in greyhounds racing at BestBet in our previous reports. First Coast News will have that new investigation on Tuesday, May 21 at 11 p.m.
After 90 years, greyhound racing comes to an end in Sarasota
By Timothy Fanning, Staff Writer
Posted May 4, 2019 at 8:24 PM | Updated May 6, 2019 at 8:23 AM
Florida voters decided to abolish live greyhound racing by the end of 2020. The Sarasota Kennel Club is stopping a year early.
SARASOTA — Airplanes will still rumble overhead as they take off at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. Cars and trucks will still whoosh by. The buses will still groan as they stop in front of the Sarasota Kennel Club.
But after this weekend, the sounds along Bradenton Road and University Parkway will never be the same.
That’s because the dogs are going away.
That means no more crescendo of barks as the lean greyhounds are led from the kennel to the track.
That means no more bugle call.
“Swifty,” the mechanical rabbit that leads the dogs to the finish line, will be gone, too. So will the sound of those guys leaning against the wire fence — the guys who yell, “Come on four, get back on it. Get in there four.”
Perhaps that’s what led Jean McCormick and thousands of others to the Sarasota Kennel Club on Saturday. It was a chance to place one last bet and take in the end of a Sarasota tradition since 1929.
Saturday was like the old days, McCormick said with a smile, back when she fell in love with Dan, who later became her husband. Back before the lottery, when the ladies wore peacock hats and lined the fence, hands clutching betting slips or beer cans or both.
McCormick worked the concession stand for 23 years. She loved the characters. The heavy-betters, the rugged greyhound trainers, even the unique personality of each dog.
Before the first race kicked off at 12:30 p.m., McCormick sat at the table closest to the kennels. She wanted to watch them as they pulled the gangly teenage handlers to the track, “hungry for a run.”
The memories, she said, were too powerful to describe.
She hadn’t been back since Dan died in 2006. She left soon after, moving to Port Charlotte.
“I think the heart of this today are the people that made this place special,” said McCormick, nodding toward a tall man flanked by TV cameras near the track.
That’s Tom Bowersox, 74, he’s director of racing operations. He’s been here a long time.
In front of the cameras, he talked about the decision voters made in November that put racing in Florida on its last legs.
He talked about the Collins family, who have operated the track since 1944, and their decision to end things before the 2020 deadline.
Later, in his office, Bowersox, who has worked for the Collins family for 58 years, doing “every job you can imagine,” talked about the layoffs. Hundreds of layoffs. Bowersox thinks he’ll stick around for a little while longer.
It’s hard to say how many at the Sarasota Kennel Club at this point, he said.
“Just know that for many of us, it’s the only job we’ve ever known,” Bowersox said.
The industry has operated in the state for almost a century but has dwindled to 11 tracks. Outside of Florida, just six greyhound tracks in five U.S. states remain.
Experts in the industry anticipate 3,000 lost jobs statewide, 5,000 to 8,000 greyhounds who need homes and $11 million in lost revenue to the state once racing ends.
After this weekend, the club plans on expanding its popular poker room, possibly moving to a more central location in Sarasota County, and hopes to add sports gambling, should it become legal in Florida.
Many of the dogs have already been shipped to tracks and kennels in the Panhandle.
“If you want to know the heart and the people most affected by this change,” Bowersox said, “you need to talk to Deb.”
Everybody from Sarasota to Ebro, a small town outside of Panama City, knows Deb Linn. It’s the bright, goldfish-colored shirts she wears. It’s the baseball caps she sports to keep her blonde hair out of her eyes. It’s the Wisconsin accent she can’t seem to shake.
Shortly after high school, the 50-year-old owner of De-N-De, a kennel business, fell in love with greyhound racing. It was the dogs.
She loved it so much that 28 years ago, she wrestled the money to start her own business. For Linn, it’s not a job. It’s a lifestyle. No health care, pension or retirement plan. All she makes goes into the dogs
But that’s about to change.
Linn has to junk or donate everything. The trailers, the kennels, the medicine. The dogs, which she helped train since they were 14 months old, will have to go, too.
“I haven’t cried yet because I’ve been way too busy preparing for the end,” Linn said. “I think the day it will hit me is the day I wake up to the sound of silence. No barking, no playing, no goofy greyhound stuff.”
The Collins family had no plans Saturday to address the more than 7,000 spectators after the final race. There would be no commencement or big send-off, said Chris Collins, 53, the grandson of Jerry Collins, the man who took the track over in 1944.
The family would relax and let every one soak in the finish.
“But for me, the eerie thing will be coming out here on a Friday night, and hearing nothing but silence,” Collins said. “It’s going to be quiet.”
Pensacola Greyhound Track discontinues live dog races
Kevin Robinson, Pensacola News Journal
Published 1:32 p.m. CT Jan. 31, 2019
The Pensacola Greyhound Track & Poker Room is discontinuing its live greyhound racing. (Photo: Getty Images/Flickr Select)There will be no more live dog races in Pensacola.
The Pensacola Greyhound Track & Poker Room's fall greyhound racing season ended Sept. 30, 2018, and races were supposed to resume Jan. 18, 2019. However, in November, Florida voters passed an amendment that will phase out live greyhound races statewide by 2021, so Pensacola track owner, PCI Gaming, has opted not to resume live races.
"The transition is complete and all team members impacted by the change were offered new job placement within the company," said an emailed statement from a PCI Gaming representative. "With the help of national partners, all greyhounds were successfully placed in good care."
The statement did not state how many employees or dogs were impacted, though a local greyhound adoption agency previously estimated around 300 Pensacola dogs would need permanent homes.
The track's poker room, simulcast wagering and food and beverage operations are continuing as normal. PCI Gaming will also continue operations of Creek Entertainment Gretna, another Panhandle gaming facility that offers live quarter horse racing, poker and simulcast betting.
Parimutuel wagering — which includes dog racing, horse racing and the racquetball-like sport Jai Alai — has seen a steady decrease in both revenue and attendance over time.
According to the most recently available report from the state's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, wagering declined 46.6 percent over the past 10 years, and total state revenue has decreased 57.4 percent.
Since fiscal year 1931-1932 when the state first began tracking and collecting taxes on parimutuel wagering, total paid attendance has fallen from about 1.15 million to about 330,000 in fiscal year 2016-2017.
Dog Track Bracing for End of Racing
BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY JAN 14, 2019
Florida voters approved a dog racing ban in November, but for now season continues as normal at the Sarasota Kennel Club, at least through May. One of 11 working tracks in the state of Florida, the facility kicked off its current season on December 14 and will continue into May. But Thomas Bowersox, director of racing, says the future from there looks more hazy.
The constitutional amendment banning the sport goes into effect at the end of 2020, and the Florida Legislature has yet to consider implementing legislation. But there are more factors at play than just the law. Bowersox says the Sarasota track today serves as home to about 700 greyhounds but that’s already a low number for the amount of activity planned each year. “Some of those are not even of the active list,” he says. “It takes 520 to run a weekend card, and it’s a little tight.”
Meanwhile, the number of people breeding racing dogs has plummeted in recent years, and with the market all but evaporating, that trend likely only accelerates from here.
“It’s also about the availability of greyhounds,” Bowersox says.
All the while, a healthy dog adoption program, Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption, still works with the Sarasota Kennel Club. Dogs typically retire by age 4 but live to about 14, and there’s always a market for the well-trained pets. The adoption organization typically works with potential owners, then comes to the track to find a good fit. But that process too winnows the number of dogs each year that are ready to run.
Passage of the constitutional amendment caught leadership at the Sarasota Kennel Club by surprise, Bowersox says. More than 69 percent of voters statewide approved the ban, well over the 60-percent threshold needed to enshrine the measure in Florida’s Constitution. Yet most public polling available predicted the amendment would fail. In Sarasota County, nearly 71 percent of voters approved the ballot question.
“I guess it’s the will of the voters,” Bowersox says.
Greyhound Racing Kicks Off Final Season in Sarasota
By Jason Lanning Manatee County 6:28 AM ET Dec. 14, 2018December 14, 2018 @6:28 AM
SARASOTA, Fla. — Friday marks the beginning of the last season of greyhound racing at the Sarasota Kennel Club.
It's 74th season will be its last.
Amendment 13 to end commercial dog racing was approved 69 percent to 31 percent by Florida voters in November. That includes racing at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg.
The Sarasota Kennel Club is choosing to end racing at the conclusion of this season in May. Legally it can continue racing the dogs until the end of 2020.
Kennel officials said they need time to downsize the dog racing and adapt to a poker and simulcast-only facility. In a statement, club owner Cole Collins expressed the difficulties of discontinuing racing:
"We were especially discouraged when we found out that there were people who voted to ban greyhound racing in Florida without many knowing the effects of their vote.
"Thousands of greyhounds will be up for adoption and thousands of employees around the state will be laid off."
The club will be working with Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption to help find homes for the soon-to-be retired race dogs.
The final race day in Sarasota will be May 4, 2019.
Active Florida Tracks:
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