Gary Stein: Time to put down greyhound racing

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Among the many things about Florida I still don't understand — the list gets longer by the day — you can add this:

Why on earth do we still have dog racing?

The whole idea is insane, inhumane and essentially a relic of the 1950s, as most states long ago figured out. Only seven states have greyhound racing, and 39 others ban it completely.

We should be No. 40, but that would be way too simple and sensible for our lawmakers.

So this session, they were going to try something called de-coupling. I don't want to be kinky, but that sounds like what Gwyneth Paltrow and her soon-to-be ex-husband did to break up their marriage.

Essentially, the state requires dog tracks to run races in order for them to operate other forms of gambling, like poker and slots. De-coupling would remove the provision that ties the number of races required at a dog track.

I won't make this complicated. Gambling laws are complicated enough in Florida.

But our legislators decided last week they just won't get around to any gambling legislation, including an amendment that would have required track veterinarians to prepare greyhound injury reports. The Legislature won't get around to that this year, because I guess they are too busy with the really critical stuff, like trying to again restrict abortion rights.

So the races will continue at Florida's 16 dog tracks, with not even a requirement to report greyhound racing injuries. And the Legislature obviously doesn't care if the greyhounds get injured or die for another year. Personally, I think we should have greyhound and gambling industry lobbyists and lawyers muzzled and then have them race around a track chasing a stack of $100 bills, but that's another story.

I am not writing this as an animal rights advocate. I think the term "animal rights" is a misnomer, since I can't find the animal rights section anywhere in the Constitution. And I think PETA, to be kind, has many screws loose.

But you don't have to be the Dog Whisperer to see that greyhound racing is inhumane.

In the last seven months of 2013, 74 greyhounds reportedly died at Florida racetracks. According to a report by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, a racing greyhound dies once every three days from injuries and other causes.

The track owners would probably be all in favor of restricting or even getting rid of dog racing. By itself, dog racing isn't a money maker. Hardly anybody watches it or bets on it, for two reasons — animal exploitation, and the fact dog races are boring. I went many years ago, and all I noticed was the races were very quick, and the dog that breaks in front wins. Always. A Kardashian's marathon is more entertaining.

But breeders like this, ahem, "sport" because that's how they make money.

And some of our legislators, worried about protecting the morals of all Floridians whether we want them to or not, say that de-coupling would lead to more gambling. Don't ask me to explain why. Like I said, gambling is complicated in Florida.

When they ever get around to talking about greyhound racing, the Legislature should simply ban the races, and let track owners apply for permits to run their card rooms and slots. Simple. Uncomplicated.

If you want to gamble, fine. You can do it all over Florida with no difficulty. If you have money to totally burn, you can even wait in line at Publix or a convenience store and play the worst bet on earth, the lottery. Hey, it's your money.

But nobody should be gambling on, or even watching, greyhound racing. We are past that. Just relegate it to the back pages of the Florida history books.

But if you want to try that lawyer and lobbyist racing, I think there is some real potential there.

Gary Stein can be reached at gstein@sunsentinel.com, or 954-356-4616. On Twitter@SSEditorial.

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