Break the link between dog racing and gambling

Reiter / MCT


Whether they’re trained to herd, protect, guide or simply be a companion, domesticated dogs have been an integral part of human civilization for more than 5,000 years. In fact, some historians trace the lineage of the greyhound breed to ancient Egypt. Mummified remains of greyhound-like dogs have been found in tombs next to their owners, who apparently wished to keep them as companions — even in the afterlife.

All that changed about a hundred years ago.

In 1919, the first greyhounds were raced for sport on oval tracks in California. And in 1931, gambling on racing greyhounds was legalized in Florida. Today, dog races are held at 12 tracks across the state. Thanks to a report prepared for the Legislature by the Spectrum Gaming Group, we now know that these facilities lost a combined $35 million in 2012. In addition, the state lost as much as $3.3 million on this cruel and unpopular activity that year because regulatory costs exceeded revenues.

And now, reports of mistreatment and multiple greyhound deaths have caused many to question why dog racing is sanctioned by the state at all.

According to official state records, a dog dies every three days at one of Florida’s racetracks. From May 31, 2013 through mid-February 2014, at least 95 greyhounds died. Some died from heat strokes others were electrocuted when they were pushed into the wires that run around the track.

On June 20, 2013 a greyhound named Royal Runner died in one of his first trials. The 18-month-old dog was entered that day into a training event, but had never officially raced. In the final moments of his life, the white and brindle greyhound collided with other dogs, fell into the racetrack rail, and died after making contact with the live wire.

The revenues from dog racing have been on a steady decline for many years, and it’s now indisputable that racing dogs is harmful and cruel to the animals.

So why do we allow this “sport” to persist?

Simple: Florida’s law requires dog racing tracks to conduct races in order to be allowed to offer other forms of gaming such as card rooms or slot machines.

We can and should change that law now. “Decoupling” will allow dog-track owners to stop racing dogs but still be allowed to conduct other activities at their establishment. Animal-protection groups and shelters across the state, including the Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations, the Jacksonville Humane Society and SPCA Tampa Bay, joined by the Florida Animal Control Association, support decoupling. And so do the many citizens who have made their voices heard.

When the Senate Gaming Committee asked for public input last fall, nearly 80 percent of comments received came from Floridians calling for greyhound decoupling.

In an attempt to perpetuate their state subsidy program, greyhound breeders have said that the passage of decoupling will somehow harm dogs. This is a scare tactic that the industry has used in other states, and that has repeatedly been proven false. When greyhound decoupling is approved, dog racing will not immediately end. Instead, it will wind down over several years. Nonprofit adoption programs have already committed to help find loving homes for Florida greyhounds during this process.

Those concerned about the expansion of gambling should also support greyhound decoupling. The Spectrum Report clarifies that greyhound decoupling will reduce gambling in the state by an estimated $23 million annually. While the state Legislature might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, it can certainly change an old law that’s doing more harm than good — and it should.

Maria Sachs represents Florida’s 34th Senate District. She is the vice-chair of the Senate Gaming Committee. Christine A. Dorchak is president and general counsel of GREY2K USA, the nation’s largest greyhound advocacy and protection organization.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

Tony Lesesne


    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

Delrish Moss


    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.


    Bill Diggs: Hurt officer’s feelings

    “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, and if I wanted to do nothing else, I wanted to make my mom happy. I was living for my parents, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to go to work and not have to put on steel-toe boots. And here I am in Atlanta, I have finally grown to a particular level of affluence. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was a college kid, wearing a suit, driving a nice BMW going to work everyday. Can’t beat that. I would leave my house, drive up Highway 78, the Stone Mountain area, grab some coffee, go to work. So on this particular morning, there’s a cop who’s rustling up this homeless guy outside the gas station where I was filling up. I’m shaking my head, the cop looks at me. This homeless guy is there every morning. I get in my car and on to the expressway. The police officer comes shooting up behind me. I doing 65, 70. He gets up behind me, I notice he’s following me. I get in one lane, he gets in the lane, I get in another lane, he gets in that lane. He finally flips his lights on, he comes up to the car. I’ve been pulled over for speeding before, I know the drill. Got my hands up here, don’t want to get shot, and I think he’s going to say what I’ve heard before: ‘License and registration, please.’ He says ‘Get out of the car!’ and he reaches in and grabs me by my shirt. He says, ‘So you’re a smart ass, huh?’ Finally he says, ‘License and registration.’ I tell him it’s in the car. He says, ‘Get it for me!’ He goes back to his car, comes back and asks, ‘So where did you get the car from?’ I say ‘It’s a friend of mine’s.” He says, ‘Is it stolen? What are you doing driving your friend’s car?’ I finally asked, ‘Is there a reason you stopped me? You followed me, what’s up, man?’ He says, ‘I’m going to let you go with a warning, but if you see me doing what I’ve got to do for my job, don’t you ever f---ing worry about it.”

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