Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Greyhound Racetracks: A Plan To Turn Them Into Casinos In The Name of "Dog Saftey"

Over the past two years there has been a concerted effort to expand gambling at greyhound racetracks in Florida.  This effort has been promoted with a misinformation campaign that would make any Minister of Propaganda proud.

Rather than openly push for the expansion of gambling, many of those behind this effort have pushed for the elimination of live greyhound racing at greyhound racetracks in the name of “dog safety.” The real goal is to operate the tracks as mini-casinos with slot machines despite the fact that the tracks were approved only for operation as greyhound racing facilities.

The expansion of gambling effort has also enlisted the help of several national “animal protection” organizations.  In reality, these organizations are primarily fundraising tools that do little to help animals or stop the high kill rate in Florida’s animal shelters.

By contrast, thanks to the efforts of the owners of racing greyhounds, over 90 percent of all racing greyhounds are adopted to loving families or returned to the farm to live out their lives.

The number of racing greyhounds that died from abuse or neglect last year was – zero, according to information provided to the state by greyhound race tracks.

Why?  Because the owners of the more than 8,000 racing greyhounds in Florida care about their dogs.  As a group, greyhound owners have a “zero tolerance” policy for anyone found guilty of harming a racing greyhound.

The information provided to the state by tracks did reveal that 70 racing greyhounds (or less than 1 percent of all racing greyhounds in Florida) died last year.  Over 50 percent of those greyhounds died as the result of track related conditions or track management failures. Natural causes or non-racing related incidents accounted for nearly all of the other deaths. One animal dying prematurely is one too many.

Because most racing-greyhound deaths are caused by track conditions, greyhound owners have pushed for passage of a three-point safety plan at tracks.  The safety plan is straightforward.  First, tracks must maintain a proper track surface.  Second, they must install a lure safety device.  Third, they must insulate their 240-volt middle rail.

It is time to separate the effort to expand gambling from legitimate efforts to protect racing greyhounds.  For those truly interested in the safety of racing greyhounds — adoption of the safety plan should be a priority. 

Jeff Kottkamp served as Florida's 17th Lieutenant Governor, from 2007 to 2011. Kottkamp, a Republican, served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2006.  Column courtesy of Context Florida

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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