It’s been a hot-button issue, even here on Life with Dogs, since passing, but this week Florida voters dealt a surprisingly decisive blow to greyhound racing, approving a measure that’ll ban the sport in their state by the end of 2020.
Amendment 13, which needed 60-percent approval to become law, got more than 5.3 million votes on Tuesday, roughly 69 percent.
What does it mean? Dog racing at 11 Florida tracks, with anywhere between 5,000 to 7,000 greyhounds, will be out of business by Dec. 31, 2020.
Officials on both sides of the ballot measure on Wednesday promised they’ll find these unemployed greyhounds new homes throughout and after the stage-down.
Jim Gartland, executive director of the dog racing industry’s umbrella group National Greyhound Association, said 98 percent of retired racers are regularly adopted to families. And an overwhelming majority of the remaining 2 percent live out their days on farms, working as breeders, he added.
“We will do everything we can do to make sure that every one of them gets adopted,” Gartland told NBC News on Wednesday.
Humane Society Florida Director Kate MacFall, who was a vehement proponent of Amendment 13 during the campaign, said her phone has been ringing off the hook on Wednesday with calls from prospective greyhound owners.
“They’re amazing pets, so gentle and sweet,” MacFall said. “They really are gentle giants.”
But Brooke Stumpf, president of the adoption group GreytHounds of Eastern Michigan, said she worries about untold thousands of greyhounds now at breeding farms throughout the South and Midwest.
With a majority of the nation’s dog tracks slated to close by the end of 2020, young greyhounds that never make it to the track will need homes too.
“This will be a burden. We’re mobilizing now,” said Stumpf, whose group arranges 50 to 100 greyhound adoptions a year — but will now aim for an annual goal of 200. “We’ll do the best we can. Some of these dogs might end up at shelters and they’re not all no-kill. That’s the scary part.”
The dogs won’t be retired immediately; dog racing will continue in Florida for the next 25+ months. There will be a gradual track shut-down over these two years.
America only has 17 dog tracks left; 11 are in Florida.
It should be noted, however, the Florida’s dog racing business has been in decline for years. In 1992, bets totaled more than a billion dollars. In 2017, just $200,000.
“This is a crushing blow to this industry,” MacFall said. “This (vote) shows people care about dogs and people know this (dog racing) is cruel and inhumane.”
MacFall admitted she and other supporters were surprised by the final margin of victory.
“We thought it’d be close, we didn’t think it’d be that high. It turned out to be a landslide,” MacFall said. “I mean we can’t agree on anything here in Florida. But on this, we had bipartisan support.”