Greyhound protection groups from all over the country strongly advocated for an amendment that could have ended live greyhound racing in Florida, but the amendment was ruled "non-germane" and did not see a vote.
In Florida, home to more than half the dog tracks in the country, current law requires tracks to race dogs at least 180 days a year to legally operate slot machines or poker rooms. The amendment, filed by Sen. Charlie Justice of St. Petersburg and attached to Senate Bill 382 (a larger bill dealing with agricultural issues), would have given track operators the option to end live racing and continue operating as a pari-mutuel.
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I spoke with Christine Dorchak, president of the Massachusetts-based anti-dog-racing group Grey2K USA, minutes before a vote on the bill was to take place.
"Today's vote is the most important vote for Florida greyhounds ever taken, since dog racing was first legalized in 1931," she told me. "We are hoping that modern-day lawmakers will see that making these gentle dogs run around in circles for people to bet on them should be a thing of the past. While dog racing is in catastrophic decline nationwide, Florida, with 13 dog tracks, is truly the heart of this cruel industry."
There are now only 24 operational dog tracks in the United States, 13 of them in is certainly a moribund "sport." The industry has been cut in half over the last five years and banned in several states.Florida. The amount of tax money collected by the state from live racing has dropped by 93 percent since 1989, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Without subsidies from slot machines and poker rakes, the industry likely would have gone bankrupt long ago.
After the amendment was removed from the bill, Dorchak told me: "This is the beginning of a long battle, and we will keep fighting until dog racing ends in Florida and nationwide."