Wagering on greyhound racing has been declining for years. No secret there. Everyone from breeders and kennel operators to Florida revenue officials would agree.
But what’s also no secret is the fact that many of the dogs still running on the state’s 12 operational tracks suffer sometimes crippling and even fatal injuries.
Yet, the state of Florida — along with Alabama — does not require reports to be filed about injuries to racing greyhounds. A coalition of groups, led by GREY2K USA and the Humane Society of the United States, is trying to change that — again.
And this time, Florida legislators should listen. According to Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 129, injuries to racing greyhounds would have to be reported to the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering within seven days by track veterinarians or owners, trainers or kennel operators, depending on where the injury occurs.
And all indications are that the Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, will be one of the first measures passed by the full Senate when the annual legislative session starts next month. The Victoria Q. Gaetz Racing Greyhound Protection Act, is named after animal rights supporter Vicky Gaetz, the wife of Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville — and mother of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.
Similar bills died at the end of the last legislative session after becoming embroiled in larger issues surrounding the pari-mutuel industry — read that, gambling expansion.
This year, the bills’ sponsors — including Democratic Sens. Jeff Clemens, of Lake Worth, and Maria Sachs, of Delray Beach, and Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Lake Worth — are armed with a sobering new report that should move legislators toward passage.
We hope it does.
The report, released last week by GREY2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, documents nearly 12,000 injuries to racing greyhounds and 909 deaths from 2008 to 2014. What’s more, it cites at least 27 cases of greyhound neglect and 16 race dogs found to have tested positive for cocaine.
“We’re not saying that these are intentional acts of cruelty,” Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA, told The Post Editorial Board on Monday, “but (greyhound racing) is essentially a Depression-era relic that peaked in 1991.”
The groups have made Florida the first stop on a national barnstorming tour because it has more than half of the nation’s 21 remaining dog tracks, and does not require the injury reports. Moreover, the state has lost as much as $3.3 million a year regulating the industry.
The Palm Beach Kennel Club supports “reasonable measures that would require reporting of racing-related injuries,” and is committed to making “meaningful progress on this front,” Kennel Club spokeswoman Sarah Mears wrote in an email to The Post’s Christine Stapleton this week.
“PBKC has made significant progress in attempting to reduce serious greyhound injuries at the track through various measures, including improvements to track surfaces, new safer lure technologies, safer fencing, widening of turns and other techniques,” Mears wrote. “Greyhound racing is proud of these advances, but we also recognize that further improvement is needed.”
We agree, as this is about the safety and protection of the dogs. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee last month approved Sobel’s bill. She said supporters are not “planning to build a whole new bureaucracy to investigate dog injuries” and estimated that carrying out the bill would cost about $60,000. The state already requires reporting of greyhound deaths.
Last year, legislation died due largely to lack of support in the House. But this year’s HB 129, thus far, boasts bipartisan support and leaves the issue of decoupling greyhound racing from other forms of gambling to be dealt with separately.
This should leave legislators enough room to finally do the humane and logical thing: require the injury reports.