Greyhound racing seems like something straight out of 1955 -- a track full of dudes in dapper hats all smoking cigarettes and bitching about their wives. It's over the hill; old school; a blast from the past (in a bad way -- like segregation).
The stats support racing's decline -- it's been outlawed in all but seven states (of which Florida is one) and tax revenue has decreased by 98 percent since 1990. Basically, it's jumped the shark. Yet, the practice still lingers, largely due to antiquated legislation that forces gambling establishments to continue if they want to offer other forms of gaming.
Enter greyhound decoupling, legislation that would end the dysfunctional relationship between dogs and slot machines. It's now on the table in Florida, and the The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is urging people to show support.
If you're unfamiliar with the ins and outs of greyhound racing, it's an ugly business.
Thousands of greyhounds are bred for racing each year, but only a handful make it to the track, says ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. The others are discarded, IE, killed (or "who knows what happens to them; it's all done behind closed doors," Anthony says).
Of those who do make the spotlight, they only race for an average of two years. Once they've outlived their profitability, they're discarded, too. Not to mention the dogs who succumb to devastating injuries from racing, including broken limbs, being pushed into electrical wires, collisions and heat stroke, among others.
Rescue groups like South Florida's Friends of Greyhounds can only re-home a fraction of the dogs in need.
The decoupling legislation would allow tracks to decrease their race offerings while still maintaining slot machines and other, more profitable gaming options. More games, fewer dogs.
Racing doesn't reap profits for anyone -- even the state, Anthony says. Florida lost more than $3 million on greyhound racing last year. So why the hell are we still doing it?
"This is one of the very few times when animal advocates and greyhound track owners are on the same page. Everybody wants to cut the number of dog races. They want to make money, and we want to cut the tragedy of dog racing. The goal is the same."
ARFF is asking Miamians to contact State Senator Gwen Margolis via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (850-487-5035) and urge her to vote for this bill. They offer the following example:
"Dear Senator Margolis,
I am a resident of District 35. I am calling to ask you to please SUPPORT the decoupling of greyhound racing from other forms of gambling.This is a common sense proposal that will save greyhound lives."
The legislators are only in session for 60 days from March through May (workaholics), so time is short.
"If all of these things don't pass by the first week in May, when the legislative session ends, we'll have to wait for another full year before it can possibly be put on the legislative agenda again," Anthony says.
(There's also a bill that would require the state to keep track of racing injuries (which is already a requirement in every other state but Alabama), and ARFF urges support for that as well.)