Greyhound racing is no good for greyhounds, so it is wonderful news that Florida is moving towards abolishing a law that forces tracks to hold more races than they otherwise would.
A state Senate committee heard testimony on February 4th about “decoupling” dog races and card room licenses. The connection between the two is a Florida law that requires dog tracks that have card room licenses, which permit them to run poker games, to run almost as many races — 90% — as they did the year they got the card licenses. Decoupling would sever the connection and free Florida’s 13 dog racing tracks to hold fewer greyhound races.
The decoupling movement has manufactured a strange alliance between greyhound advocates and race track owners. Race tracks generally want to hold fewer races than the law currently requires because they are losing money on them. The profits are now in poker games, while interest in dog racing is waning, as GREY2K USA has written at Care2 Causes:
Greyhound racing is a dying industry. Nationally, the dog racing industry has been cut in half in five years and now only exists in seven states. In Florida, the amount gambled on live dog racing declined by 57 percent between 2002 and 2010. Similarly, state revenue from live greyhound racing has declined by nearly 97 percent since 1990, and now represents less than $3 million statewide.
This explains why track owners support decoupling and gives the state incentive to enact it. Greyhound advocates have a different priority: ending the inhumane treatment of racing dogs. As I have written on this site,
from poor living conditions to illegal drugs, racing dogs lead unenviable lives. On top of that, they tend to be short lives. Racers live for only a few years: they “are usually put down if they fail to finish in the top three for five consecutive races,” reports the South China Morning Post.
GREY2K reports that in Florida alone,
thousands of greyhounds endure lives of confinement and many suffer serious injuries. … Across the country, there is increasing public opposition to greyhound racing due to humane concerns. Massachusetts citizens overwhelmingly voted to prohibit dog racing in 2008, and state Legislatures in New Hampshire and Rhode Island prohibited live greyhound racing in 2010.
Carey Theil, Executive Director of GREY2K USA, testified to the state Senate that “in a six-week period in 2011, 28 greyhounds at [one Florida track] suffered ‘substantial injuries’ and 10 were euthanized,” according to The News Herald.
Theil also told the Senate committee that “breeders are the only group against decoupling because the required racing days acts as a subsidy for the breeders.”
There is no reason that for-profit gambling facilities that make their money off of poker should be forced to subsidize for-profit greyhound breeders to continue businesses that have no value to society and that hurt animals. In this instance, the profit motive is on the same side as animal welfare.
While it is good news that the Florida legislature is considering decoupling, the bad news is that it won’t happen this year. “The issue likely will be addressed in the 2014 session, as both Senate and House leaders have indicated comprehensive legislation will not be undertaken this year,” The News Herald reports. Florida’s legislature considered decoupling in 2011, but the law did not pass.