Famed St. Pete dog track to remain open until 2020 ban takes effect

Famed St. Pete dog track to remain open until 2020 ban takes effect
Thousands of racing greyhounds in Florida will need new homes by end of 2020
Amendment 13, which needed 60-percent approval to become law, got more than 5.3 million votes on Tuesday, good for 69 percent.

Passage of the sweeping measure means 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 theyll find these unemployed greyhounds new homes.

Jim Gartland, executive director of the dog racing industrys 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.

The measure was placed on the ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, a panel chosen by the governor, legislative leaders and the Supreme Court chief justice. The commission meets every 20 years.

Derby Lane has to figure out whats next now that voters have approved greyhound racing ban

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, at the forefront of Amendment 13 campaigning, said her phone has been ringing off the hook on Wednesday with calls from prospective greyhound owners.

There are only a few dog-racing tracks in the United States, and nearly all of them are in Florida. The practice is seen as cruel to the dogs. Banning dog racing would not impact slot machines and other forms of gaming.

Theyre amazing pets, so gentle and sweet, MacFall said. They really are gentle giants.

Opponents of the Amendment included the Florida Chamber of Commer and the Florida Greyhound Association. 

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.

Florida votes to end greyhound racing; fate uncertain for more than 6,000 dogs

With a majority of the nations dog tracks slated to close by the end of 2020, young greyhounds that never make it to the track will need homes too.

Greyhound racings popularity has waned in recent years. In the early 1990s it was estimated that dog tracks brought in an estimated $3.5 billion a year, which has fallen to $500 million today. The decrease in popularity is in part due to the often barbaric treatment of animals. Florida resident and amendment 13 advocate Sonia Stratemann has adopted over 2,000 animals since 2003, hundreds of which suffered broken bones, chronic pain and evidence of mistreatment. In an ESPN report she outlined one incident in which she saved a dog who suffered a broken leg who was laying on the track without any attention, because it was the owners intention to kill the animal.

Video: Florida voters ban greyhound racing

Several Florida amendments passed in midterm election | AP

“This will be a burden. Were mobilizing now,” said Stumpf, whose group arranges 50 to 100 greyhound adoptions a year — but will now aim for an annual goal of 200. “Well do the best we can. Some of these dogs might end up at shelters and theyre not all no-kill. Thats the scary part.”

Video: Video: Amendment 13: What happens to the dogs if Greyhound racing now that the amendment is passed?

Florida Amendment 13: How you can help adopt former racing dogs

All of these Florida active-racing greyhounds wont be cut loose immediately, as dog racing wont be illegal in the Sunshine State for another 25 ½ months. Both sides expect a gradual shutdown of these tracks in the next two years.

The process of winding down the tracks and finding animals homes will take some time, however if youre interested in adopting a greyhound there are numerous organizations operating inside Florida you can contact.

The state is home to 11 of Americas 17 dog tracks, with greyhounds also running in West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Iowa.

We saw the bone sticking out of the skin, Stratemann says, recalling the first time she saw Bart at the veterinarian. They didnt treat him with anything because they were taking him in to kill him.

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Even before Tuesdays vote, dog racing in Florida has been losing business for years. Back in 1992, there were $1.5 billion in dog-racing bets, adjusted for inflation, compared to just $200 million in 2017, according to state records.

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.

Florida approves constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing

We thought itd be close, we didnt think itd be that high. It turned out to be a landslide, MacFall said. I mean we cant agree on anything here in Florida. But on this, we had bipartisan support.

David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News. Hes previously worked for The New York Post, Oakland Tribune and Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

Commercial dog racing to end by 2020 with passage of Amendment 13

As of 11 p.m., with nearly 99 percent of the vote counted, the amendment had passed by around 69 to 31 percent.

Tracks, such as the Palm Beach Kennel Club, would not be forced to close as they would still be able to offer slot machines and poker games.

Greyhound racing was first introduced in Palm Beach County in 1932 in a facility owned by the Carmichael family. Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, bought the track in 1970 across from Palm Beach International Airport on Belvedere Road. Later, he turned over operations to his five sons, two who live in Palm Beach Gardens.

Posted in St. Petersburg