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‘Johnny’ and ‘Twiggy’ make the pitch to end greyhound racing

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

"Johnny"

A pair of greyhounds did the marketing this morning for activists in the Capitol pushing an animal-friendly agenda.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, had “Johnny” and “Twiggy” on hand at a press conference for their proposal to allow dog tracks to keep their card rooms and other gambling activities but put an end to greyhound racing.

Sachs, whose district is home to the Palm Beach Kennel Club, said the state needs to quit subsidizing the dying industry and allow the pari-mutuels to stop the dog races that have become just an excuse to offer more lucrative poker games.

And, the bipartisan pair said, their “decoupling” bills (SB 382, HB 641) will put an end to the inhumane treatment of some greyhounds at smaller tracks. The pari-mutuel industry also supports the measures.

“It’s just not where we’re at as a people anymore,” Sachs said.

A similar proposal died on the last day of last year’s session over a dispute about tax breaks for the dog tracks, including PBKC.

The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and GREY2K USA are also backing a measure (SB 488, HB 527) that would allow counties to charge an extra $10 for animal cruelty fines and let the money be spent on spay and neuter programs.

The animal rights groups are opposing a proposal (SB 1184, HB 1021) dubbed the “ag gag” bill that would make it a crime to take pictures or video of agricultural property.

Animal lovers revive push end to greyhound racing in Florida

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Two animal-loving groups are pushing a bill that would allow greyhound tracks to stop racing dogs but allow the tracks to keep operating the more lucrative card rooms.

Dog racing attendance has declined, as have revenues, and most people who go to the tracks ignore the greyhounds in favor of placing their bets on poker.

GREY2K USA, a group formed to end dog racing around the country, and the national American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, are both behind a measure sponsored by Delray Beach Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs, who sponsored a similar “decoupling” proposal earlier this year.

The ASPCA this morning released a poll showing that a majority of voters view the dog racing industry unfavorably. And GREY2K released a report documenting abuse and neglect of the dogs since 2004.

And the attendance and revenues have dropped dramatically at the tracks since 2004, according to data provided by state agencies included in the report.

Since 2004, the total amount gambled on racing at Florida’s 13 greyhound tracks, including the Palm Beach Kennel Club, decreased by 35 percent, paid attendance went down by 69 percent, and state tax revenues declined by 72 percent, the report found.

At many tracks, the dogs are forced to live in small cages and state regulators have written up at least nine cases of severe neglect associated with the kennels over the past seven years, the report found.

“Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane and must end,” GREY2K USA president and general counsel Christine Dorchak told reporters at a press conference outside the House chambers this morning.

Forcing dog track operators to run the greyhounds so they can keep their card rooms open “is a mandate for cruelty,” ASPCA director of government relations Ann Church said.

PBKC owners won’t stop racing the dogs and support the measure, as they did earlier this year, in part because it will make their races more lucrative. Only three of the state’s existing 13 dog tracks, including PBKC, are expected to continue to keep running the dogs if the bill becomes law. Supporters of the bill say it was not intended to end dog racing but to allow struggling tracks to stay open with other betting options.

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End to greyhound racing in sight

Friday, April 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Dog tracks would no longer have to run dog races but could continue to operate the more lucrative card rooms under a measure passed by the Senate and awaiting secondary House approval.

Sen. Maria Sachs, the bill sponsor, said the bill is needed so the state can stop bailing out the dying greyhound racing industry while keeping the tracks alive.

Palm Beach Kennel Club owners support the measure in part because fewer races will make their dog races more valuable when broadcast over simulcast at other tracks. Only three of the state’s existing 16 dog tracks, including PBKC, are expected to continue to keep running the dogs if the bill becomes law.

The measure would also benefit PBKC because it is one of the seven tracks that now purchase tax credits from other tracks who are eligible for the tax breaks but don’t generate enough revenue to use them.

Critics of the measure include the dog owners and breeders, who claim that doing away with the races will put thousands of workers out of a job.

But Sachs, D-Delray Beach, said the state would no longer have to subsidize “a business model that’s no longer profitable” through tax breaks as public interest in the races – and revenues from them – decline. Revenues generated for the state from dog racing have plummeted by more than half over the past 10 years, from about $40 million in 2000 to about $5.2 million last year.

The measure created a stir on the floor as some Republicans tried to amend the bill to accommodate the state’s thoroghbred industry.
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