A Mardi Gras Casino greyhound tested positive for cocaine, but the dog's trainer apparently got off on a bureaucratic technicality regarding the Division of Para-Mutuel Wagering's inspection manual.
On December 14, 2014, a urine sample was taken from a greyhound named Waylon Hambone just before the dog entered into the ninth race of the day. Waylon Hambone ended up finishing third that day, and inspectors found traces of Benzoylecgonine — a metabolite of cocaine — in the animal's urine sample.
According to a report filed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, inspectors paid trainer Brian J. Webb a visit several weeks later to interview him about Waylon Hambone testing positive for the illegal drug. In an interview conducted on January 8, Webb told inspectors he didn't know how the greyhound had come in contact with cocaine and claimed there had been no changes in the dog's intake of food, medicine, or vitamins where he was kept, at Brindle Kennel, located at the Florida Kennel Compound in Hialeah.
Webb also told investigators that only he and his two assistants, Tyus Hall and Ghloam Quintero, had handled the dog and that neither of the men is authorized to give any greyhound medication of any kind. The next day, inspectors returned to interview Hall and Quintero, who denied ever giving Waylon Hambone any drugs. The two men also claimed they had no knowledge of any illegal drugs at the kennel.
Just before the interviews, Webb was served with a Notice of Violation from Canine Operations Supervisor Jorge Callejas. But that would seem to be the extent of any kind of discipline the trainer would receive over a greyhound under his care testing positive for cocaine. This, despite the inspectors' records of the dog's urine sample showing that Waylon Hambone had a good concentration of Benzoylecgonine in it.
Yet, Webb's case was dismissed on February 10 by an administrative law judge over a technicality in the inspector's handbook.
The final ruling reads that the division must "immediately discontinue all reliance upon Section 3 [of the Greyhound Veterinary Assistant Procedural Manual], or any substantially similar statement, as a basis for agency action."
The ruling goes on to say that since the positive sample was collected from Waylon Hambone prior to the race performances in accordance with Section 3 of the Greyhound Veterinary Assistant Procedural Manual, the division could not rely on the sample on the basis for agency action.
In other words, Section 3 of the inspection manual was found to be invalid and, therefore, unusable. Basically, only post-race tests could be relied upon to test for impermissible substances.
Since then, however, the rule the judge referenced has been amended.
"As part of the judge’s order, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering could not rely on samples collected prior to races being performed, regardless of the evidence collected," Chelsea Eagle, Deputy Director of Communications for Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation tells New Times.
But now, after the rule was amended on June 15, the Division has the authority to test both pre and post-race samples for illegal substances.
"This rule was modernized to conform to the needs of the pari-mutuel wagering industry," Eagle says.
Still, Webb's case has gotten lost in the bureaucratic shuffle of antiquated rules, even in the face of at least twenty greyhounds that have tested for cocaine in recent years.
"We now have evidence of 20 greyhounds that have tested positive for cocaine at Florida dog tracks since 2008," Carey Theil, executive director of the nonprofit Grey2K, tells New Times. "This is yet another reason why greyhound racing must end. Unfortunately, because of a legal technicality, this individual was not disciplined in any way for having a dog test positive for cocaine."
"Cocaine is a dangerous narcotic," Theil added. "And this is a significant animal-welfare issue."
Moreover, according to records, Webb is no stranger to run-ins with the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering in the past. On March 24, he was fined by the state for an unspecified incident recorded on December 17, 2014 — three days after Waylon Hambone's positive test result.
Further records show that a Brian Webb from the Dubuque, Iowa, Greyhound Park was suspended in 2009 for 32 days for "the use of profanity, fighting, threatening, and intimidating behavior on facility premises." Webb was cited after he "made intimidating and threatening physical contact with another licensee."
According to the office of investigations report on Waylon Hambone, Webb has a P.O. box address in Dubuque, Iowa.
Meanwhile, Grey2K has been working diligently to get legislators to pass what is called "decoupling," a law that would have casinos give up dog racing at their facilities.
Florida remains one of seven states that still has greyhound racing, including Broward County's Mardi Gras Casino. Florida law states that gambling is allowed only at facilities that offer racing. Casinos like Mardi Gras keep greyhound racing so they can offer lucrative slots and poker, even though the tracks have been known to lose money on dog racing. A "decoupling" law would allow casinos to offer gambling without dog racing.
In February, Coral Springs Rep. Jared Moskowitz met with lawmakers in Tallahassee to discuss a plan to draw up a bill.
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"Florida is the largest of the seven states that still has greyhound racing," Moskowitz told New Times. "That's 60 percent of the races nationwide. And what we've learned is that from May through December of last year, 75 dogs died racing in Florida."
As Moskowitz puts it, basically in most cases, the greyhounds are running for their lives during these races.
And cases like Waylon Hambone are getting lost in bureaucratic entanglements. For the time being, only a bill that requires owners to report greyhound injuries to the state has been passed.