A proposal to ban greyhound racing in Florida received unanimous approval from a commission panel on Thursday, pushing the measure closer to being put on the November 2018 ballot, according to CBS Miami.
The Florida Constitution Commission panel has the power to put the proposal directly on the ballot, something animal rights activists have failed to achieve at this point.
Supporters of the proposal have raised issues such as greyhound injuries and deaths in their argument to shut down the decades-long staple of the state’s gambling industry, pointing to more than 400 racing greyhound deaths at Florida tracks since 2013.
While state law doesn’t require tracks to report causes of death, activists believe that inhumane treatment, including malnourishment and lax treatment of injuries are to blame in a lot of the cases, according to Spectrum Bay News 9.
Twenty-two greyhounds in Florida also tested positive for cocaine earlier this year, records show.
The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon,, predicts an overwhelming approval by voters should it reach the ballot. He also told the CRC’s General Provisions Committee before the vote that the greyhound racing industry had repeatedly thwarted attempts to end races at Florida’s 13 dog tracks by attaching them to gaming reform, which has also proved elusive, Bay News 9 reports.
Locally, the Sarasota Kennel Club, at 5400 Bradenton Road, Sarasota, has hosted greyhound races since its opening in 1929. The club did not have a comment on the ban.
“This is, for me, a matter of conscience,” Sen. Lee said. “Our society has changed. We are evolving as a people. We are becoming more sensitive to those who occupy this world with us, regardless of their species, and to those who are going to follow us for generations to come. And that’s a good thing. And as we’ve evolved, we’ve banned all sorts of activities that have been considered cruel to animals — bullfighting and cockfighting and all kinds of things. To me, this is just the next step on that plane of becoming more sensitive to this kind of inhumanity.”
The dog racing industry disputes that any of Florida’s 8,000 racing greyhounds are mistreated and say that a ban would result in a loss of about 3,000 jobs. While business has declined at the tracks over the past several years, the races still bring in about $80 million annually, reports Bay News 9.
The proposal will go to the commission’s Executive Committee before it can be considered by the full 37-member commission. If approved by voters, the proposal (Proposal 67) would ban all greyhound racing as of Dec. 31, 2019.