Prior to May 2013, dog tracks in Florida were not required by law to report any dog deaths related to the activity. However, in May of 2013 legislators passed a law requiring dog race tracks to report any dog death that occurs on the track grounds. Just 10 days after the passage of the law, the first greyhound named Facebook passed away due to an injury sustained on the track.
Facebook would not be the only dog to die on the tracks. WKMG reports that between May 2013 and July 2014, the deaths of 149 greyhounds were reported at Florida’s 13 dog tracks. That is an average of one greyhound death every three days. Carla Wilson, an animal rights activist who volunteers with GREY2K USA, says that the public has a right to know what is going on in these race tracks on a daily basis.
“These are dogs, not racing machines. And the public has a right to know what this industry is really like.”
Carla’s husband Bryan says that they always knew that many dogs were dying on the race tracks, but prior to reporting requirements, they never knew exactly how many. Bryan said that sadly it appears they had underestimated the true scope of how many deaths could be attributed to racing.
“Now that we have the State of Florida requiring this reporting, it turns out we were under-guessing and not over-guessing on how deadly dog racing at the tracks really is.”
Jack Cory, a lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents dog owners, told WKMG that the number of deaths needs to be put into perspective. Cory notes that there are currently 8,000 greyhounds in the dog racing community in Florida, so the rate of death from all causes is only two percent. One former Florida Lieutenant Governor, Jeff Kottkamp, who also works as a lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, points out that the many of the death notifications submitted to the state do not specify how the greyhounds died. The state only requires that the dog’s name, track location, time of death, and contact information be included. Only half of the 149 reports provide any additional details about the fatality.
“It could be cancer. It could be old age. There are a lot of things that dogs die from.”
However, animal rights activists note that Kottkamp is not exactly correct in his assessment as racing dogs are young in age. In fact, GREY2K USA Executive Director Carey Theil notes that, “According to state records, nearly 99 percent of the racing greyhounds that died in Florida over the past year were four years old or younger.” This means that the dogs are not dying of old age, but rather other causes.
Of the reports that note cause of death, reports indicate that 32 percent are from fractured bones that were sustained during a race. Dogs may collide with one another or trip, causing the injuries. In fact, the death of a dog can happen multiple times within just days of each other on the same track. In July 2014, Classy Sassy died after its leg was shattered at the Ebro Greyhound Park. Less than two weeks later, the same thing happened at the same facility to a dog named Cruizin Ann. Electrocution is another cause of death. In June 2013, a greyhound named Royal Runner was “bumped into the rail and electrocuted” by the 220 volt wire that powers the rabbit lure at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Death during a race is not the only concern of animal rights activists and greyhound racing. The Sun Sentinel reported that greyhound abuse by trainers can go on for years before actions are taken against the trainer. The state has the authority to suspend or revoke occupational licenses of dog-track employees and owners who have abused greyhounds or have felony convictions. But a disturbing report by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times found that when greyhounds are abused or neglected, it takes years for the state to take action or impose penalties. One trainer, Osman Martinez, was charged with felony cruelty to animals in 2009, but continued to work training greyhounds for racing until June 2012.
What do you think legislators should do to end the unnecessary death of greyhounds on Florida race tracks and to address abuse allegations?
[Image Source: Wikipedia]