With a historic law we helped pass that bans greyhound racing in Florida about to take effect at the beginning of 2021, the last three remaining racetracks in the state have announced the dates for their final races in December. It would not be a stretch to say that once the dogs cross the finish line at the Palm Beach racetrack on Dec. 31st, this inhumane “sport” will be all but dead not just in Florida but across the United States.
Earlier this year, Alabama and Texas closed their last racetracks. Forty-one states, including Florida, have banned greyhound racing. The last track in Arkansas will close in 2021, leaving just two more states with greyhound racetracks—West Virginia and Iowa. In these states too, the sport is in a downward spiral, shored up by taxpayer funds.
This day couldn’t have come sooner, and we are proud for the role we have played in making it happen. Over the decades that greyhound racing flourished in the United States, it came at a terrible cost to the animals who were its supposed stars. Just since 2013, when Florida began tracking greyhound deaths, 493 dogs have died on its tracks. Ninety-four percent of these dogs were three years old or younger. It was estimated that in 2018, when 11 tracks were operating in the state, one dog died every three days on a Florida track.
The living conditions of the animals are not much better—dogs at racetracks are typically confined to stacked, warehouse-style metal cages barely large enough for them to turn around in, usually for 20 to 23 hours each day.
As awareness about this cruelty grew, spectators abandoned greyhound racing and the animals often ran in front of near-empty bleachers. Momentum to end racing in Florida, considered the last remaining stronghold of this industry, was so strong that when we and our partners Grey2K USA Worldwide and Doris Day Animal League (the largest donor to the campaign because this was a legacy issue for Doris Day), pushed for Amendment 13 to ban greyhound racing in the state in 2018, the measure passed by nearly 70 percent. And this happened despite the deep pockets and strident opposition of some powerful groups that lobbied against this measure, including the American Kennel Club, the NRA and the Farm Bureau.
Earlier this year the law survived a legal challenge brought forward by the industry.
Greyhound racing was never a good idea, and fortunately, it will soon be a dead one. According to a recent National Geographic article, although greyhound adoption agencies are trying to find homes for the dogs racing at the last three remaining tracks, the industry will not accept assistance from any adoption group that supported the ban.
Fortunately, hardworking rescue organizations are doing all they can to save the lives of these animals. The Humane Society of the United States has awarded more than $15,000 to help rescued greyhounds transition to their forever homes. We look forward to the day when each of these companion animals is in the care of a loving family, spending their days romping around, asking for treats, and cuddling on a couch.