Joe Henderson: Industry favored over Tom Lee in greyhound racing fight - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Industry favored over Tom Lee in greyhound racing fight

The proposal by state Sen. Tom Lee to phase out and finally end greyhound racing in Florida is sure to encounter lots of turbulence from lobbyists.

Lee’s pitch to the Constitutional Revision Commission, of which he is a member, would put an amendment before voters in 2018. It would need 60 percent approval to become law and end greyhound racing at Florida’s 12 tracks by July 1, 2021.

While I believe Lee’s idea is to let voters decide the issue a lot of merit, I also know the pari-mutuel industry still packs a punch and will do everything possible to stop him, just like it always does when the state tries to overhaul legal gambling.

I make it a prohibitive 2-5 favorite in the opening odds.

I hope I’m wrong. Lee’s argument that greyhounds are mistreated while waiting to race is powerful.

“There is growing recognition that many of these animals live in inhumane conditions, a reality that is out of line with the moral standard of Floridians,” Lee said.

That sentiment is echoed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Racing Greyhounds routinely experience terrible injuries on the track such as broken legs, cardiac arrest, spinal cord paralysis and broken necks,” the ASPCA web site reads.

“They suffer off the track as well: Dogs caught up in this cruel industry spend most of their lives stacked in warehouse-style kennels for 20 or more hours a day, or are kept outdoors in dirt pens with minimal shelter. Most enclosures are not heated or air-conditioned.”

In January, officials revoked a racing trainer’s license after cocaine was found in the systems of five greyhounds at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. That practice is not confined to Florida. In September, racing officials in Ireland announced a champion greyhound also had tested positive for an ingredient in cocaine.

People from the greyhound industry argue that a few rouge trainers shouldn’t taint the rest of those who treat their animals well. After all, the theory goes, these greyhounds are like fine athletes and trainers would be crazy to mistreat them.

Nice try.

The constitutional commission has the authority to place amendment proposals directly on the ballot without the usual signature-gathering process, and so we have to ask: Why not let Floridians decide this issue for themselves?

I think Lee is correct when he talks about that “growing recognition” that the public is turning against the idea of using these magnificent dogs for sport and profit.

I also believe that’s what the scares leaders in the industry most about his idea to let voters decide, and that’s why they fight like the dickens to make sure they don’t get the chance.

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

25 Comments

  1. “I think Lee is correct when he talks about that “growing recognition” that the public is turning against the idea of using these magnificent dogs for sport and profit. I also believe that’s what the scares leaders in the industry most about his idea to let voters decide, and that’s why they fight like the dickens to make sure they don’t get the chance.”

    Unfortunately, I must agree with you and Mr. Lee. The racing industry has shown time and again what desperate means they will go to in order not to face the economic and ethical reality of their so called “sport.”

    I am a Board member of GREY2K USA Worldwide, an organization that fights to save these marvelous creatures all over the globe. (you can learn more about us here: http://www.grey2kusa.org.) I have see time and again the lengths those who exploit these marvelous dogs will go to in order to protect their profits. The people of Florida should get ready for an onslaught of lies, half truths and personal attacks as this amendment moves through the process.
    Fred Barton
    Board Member
    GREY2K USA Worldwide

  2. GREY2kUSA: The organization that tried to EXTERMINATE all Florida greyhounds by demanding they be “evacuated” into the pre-Hurricane Irma traffic jams. With no gas
    available to re-fuel the greyhound haulers and the A/C units that keep the trailers and
    the dogs inside cool, the greyhounds would have perished.

  3. Fred Barton,

    Have you been at a greyhound track, compound, or in a kennel building at the track? Have you sat in a crate the dogs sleep and rest in? How about a breeding farm? I have. If you have not, you and your colleagues at Grey2K have nothing more than old myths and fear mongering to spread as your propaganda. How many greyhounds has your Grey2K helped home after retirement? I hope people take the time to read your corporate reports and see how little money goes to helping these dogs you claim to defend and how much goes to salaries, travel and campaigns. I own several racing greyhounds. I have brought three home after their careers. They are healthy, well adjusted dogs that have been well cared for and loved at every stage of their lives. Do you know how much the industry impacts the state of Florida economy and how many thousands of Florida residents will lose their jobs if there is no greyhound racing? Stop the lies.

    Greyhound racing is good for the state. The dogs love nothing more than the chance to race.

    1. You know, I would have thought by now you folks would have realized that those same old tired arguments aren’t working. Have you ever been to a track? GREY2K makes millions. It’s a few bad apples. I’ve never seen abuse at my kennel. Antis are ugly poopy heads and no one likes them.

      You’ve been making those arguments for years as tracks close around you and state after state ends greyhound racing. When are you going to figure out they don’t work? People see the dead and injured greyhounds. They read about the drugs and abuse. Name calling, making things up and changing the subject are not going to be effective against the reality of cruelty you’re trying to hide, but if that’s what floats your boat, have at it.

      1. Just chiming in to say WELL DONE FRED to introduce, or at least try to introduce a breath of honesty and integrity to combat the same worn arguments we’ve all been hearing for years. The facts of track closings and plummeting revenues are unavoidable, however. People are not interested in dog racing. They are, however, extremely interested in poker. Currently one facilitates the other. And it’s the dogs who lose. I am with Greyhound Adoptions of Florida and I can cite horror stories of patching up severely injured dogs that the industry (which professes to love them so very much) was more than willing to discard. And oh yes we have always paid for surgeries/orthopedics/medical care ourselves through the donations of those who truly love these dogs. Just as the washboard gave way to the washing machine, dog racing is losing out to poker. And finally the dogs will win. And thank you all for your attention.

  4. Every single racing kennel I have visited in Florida….Orange Park, Orlando and Daytona has been both air conditioned and heated….also no cramped inhumane conditions….Fred Barton appears to be lying to further his false agenda and to garner more donations for he and his ilk to share with no regard for the greyhounds.

  5. Groups like the one mentioned above were actually formed initially to fight gambling, and they found a way to milk the public much more efficiently by lying, exaggerating, and misleading them about greyhound racing, and spinning the facts so that they are unrecognizable. This lobby group actually voted against the industry’s 5 point safety plan last year, because they are hoping that more greyhounds will be injured. That way, they can collect more donations to pay for their international trips.

    The salaries and lobby fees amount to millions. This money is collected under false pretenses; G$K does absolutely nothing for greyhounds, and should be given no soap box to stand on. Because of all the money and time they have on their hands, they’ve been able to create a narrative that badmouths the care that greyhounds get, twisting the truth at every turn, using old pictures, pictures from other countries, and outright photoshopping and hence the public thinks as I once did, that greyhound racing is harmful to greyhounds.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Greyhounds are certainly more likely to hurt themselves while they are running, but that happens whether they are at a track or in their own back yard. Greyhounds are not kept in small cages all day, waiting to race. Their kennels are like condos, much larger than the pet kennels recommended for them when they retire. They have regular turnouts all day, lots of attention, have grooming done, go for sprints, have whirlpool baths, eat really good meals (better than most pets do), these hounds are living the good life. They are happy and healthy. This only makes sense, as an unhappy, abused animal is not about to be a good athlete. I have seen this for myself, with my own eyes, when picking up greyhounds for my adoption program. But you can’t confuse these people with the facts, it ruins their story, and their income. Greyhound racing should be judged on it’s own merits, but the pool has been clouded by this lobby group so that few people actually know what’s going on. It doesn’t help that true journalism has gone by the wayside in favor of exciting stories that draw ratings. No one is excited about humanely treated working dogs. People should go to the tracks and see for themselves what’s happening. It’s all good.

    1. You have evidently picked up graded off greyhounds from different farms and tracks than I have through the years (1995 to present. With other volunteers I have picked up dogs from both farms and tracks that had to be bathed 2-3 times to remove the majority of fleas and ticks. I personally picked up a 2 year old from a race kennel who had a “pinched back” according to the trainer. According to U of Florida, he had advanced lymphoma ( we were referred there by regular vet in Tampa who feared the same). I volunteer with another group who just took in from a track a greyhound blind in one eye.

  6. Dear Joe, for a man with your credentials, you seem to like fiction over fact In this debt- have you been to a kennel- no/ you like Tom and Fred go on false allegations- again fake news-what a shock- because your bias is comedy-so it’s sad your integrity must be in Indian gaming also- which I understand -they pay your bills not the paper-

  7. Fred Barton since we are trying to get to the truth of this topic could you share the total amount of donations your animal “welfare” group took in and of this amount how much went to salaries and travel vs how much was actually spent rehoming, feeding and paying medical expenses for these hounds you supposedly love?

    1. The topic we’re trying to get to the truth of, as you put it, is whether the institutionalized cruelty of greyhound racing has any place in today’s society. Or should it be relegated to the trash heap of history. I understand why you want to change the topic though since your industry has never had an answer to that question, and still doesn’t.

      1. Not changing the topic Fred….why won’t you answer my simple question of how much money your organization takes in and how much goes to salaries and travel and how much goes to actually benefit the greyhounds by rehoming, feeding, paying medical bills and donating to adoption groups….can you not answer this as it might be a bad reflection…by not answering it looks like you are simply profiteering off the backs of these greyhounds.

        1. If you look back up the page you will see that the topic that started this whole thread was the proposed constitutional amendment to end greyhound racing, so yeah, you are changing the subject. I can understand why you don’t want a debate on the merits of that amendment though. In all my experience dealing with the greyhound racing industry I’ve yet to see anyone step up and take the issue head on. It’s almost as if you really know economically, ethically and morally you have a losing hand so you dissemble, obfuscate and tell outright lies to deflect attention from the fundamental cruelty your so called sport is based upon.

          1. Love to debate on the merits…all of my racers of how been well taken care of and successfully and happily retired to either my home or another good home that continues to love them….what you are not answering…and it is a valid part of the debate in determining your motive is how much money did your group take in and how much of that went to actually help greyhounds and how much went to salaries and travel? Your reluctance to answer this question leads me to believe you and your group are far more interested in lining your pockets than actually rehoming, feeding or otherwise taking care of greyhounds. There must be something in those numbers you don’t like or surely you would want to post them. It really comes across like you have something to hide.

          2. There’s an old saying in statistics: The plural of anecdote is not data. You can’t make generalizations about all greyhound racing based on what you do, although I know it is a common dodge the industry likes to use.

            As for lining our pockets, a business plan that works to end the source of its income is not really a viable plan don’t you think? GREY2K is one of the most effective organizations in the anti-racing movement which is why you hate and fear us so much–and rightly so. Besides, the information you seek is readily available elsewhere. Again, your attempt to turn the debate from your cruelty to our motivations is another common dodge.

  8. Hi Joe, I find it interesting that you hold us to a higher standard than the Federal Government when applying for Government Jobs on the max level that can be one’s system to say someone is on Cocaine (ie 150ng) and hence denied employment. So if the greyhound had 20 to 50 ng of the main derivative of Cocaine (ie you would have to review the facts of the cases), then the trainer of record is held accountable before he is even proven guilty (ie the case has not been tried yet). Let me brief you: Chain of Custody must be proven in most to all legal cases that I have been involved in. Let me tell you the Chain of Custody on a greyhound at the track: (1) Weight the greyhound in at 5 PM and hand the greyhound to the track employee’s. (2) Greyhound is confined in the track’s lockout till its his/her race (ie 3-6 hours later), at which time a track employee leads the greyhound to the starting box. (3) Race is over and the track employee hands the greyhound back to the trainer. Where is the Chain of Custody for up to 6 hours on who handles him/her? The levels when tested (ie below Federal Standards) shows the greyhound came in contact with a Cocaine user. Which person? Another Subject Joe: I find it amazing that you call us out for abuse of our greyhounds when anyone can say anything and everyone believes the accuser without doing nothing with fact checks. I wish all these claims were reported to the National Registry as we are a small organization (ie 1600 members) that breed approx 9,000 greyhounds a year and we police our own by throwing them out for abuse when proven. So I feel if you are a person concerned about abuse in animals, there are approx, 200,000 domestic animals killed in the State of Florida a year. Your time would be well spent at stopping that abuse by having PETA, HSUS, G2K take care of their fair share of domestic pets and placing in homes instead of a population of 9000 greyhounds yearly with a 95% adoption rate. We can take care of our own. Take a look at the IRS 990’s of G2K and gain some knowledge of how many greyhounds they help from all this abuse or even find homes. There is an interesting case in the state of Massachusetts, the home state of G2K, that they should be saving those greyhounds.

  9. You want some real world experience Fred? How about this. My greyhound puppy broke her leg today running in the field. You would like to tell people I shot her in the field or gave her the pink juice. Well, she got high quality vet care, is stable, will never race, but will have a wonderful life as a pet. The last dog we retired has a military dad, loving mom and a little 4 year old girl that plays with her in her new yard. Explain to me how we don’t love our dogs and do things right. You can’t. Period.

  10. Fred,

    “Institutionalized cruelty” is highly inflammatory. If you wish to make such claims, name names.

    Shall we talk about “Institionalized sensationalism” or “Institionalized libel” which your organization undertakes? I’d like responses to my questions rather than your canned responses of criticism of an industry you clearly do not understand.

    1. I could name names, of course, going all the way back to Ronnie Williams, the O’Donnells and so on, but you will counter with the tired old bad apple defense and pat yourself on the back for being such an accomplished debater, so let’s just say that an institution that exploits innocent living creatures for a profit, then discards those creatures when they are no longer profitable is an institution based on cruelty. By the way, I’ve given you several opportunities to change the subject here, another tactic you like to employ since you really can’t deal with the core issue: callous exploitation of innocent greyhounds.

  11. I’m amazed that Mr. Henderson shared information reported by the ASPCA in his article. After their RICO lawsuit settlement with Feld Entertainment several years ago that was in excess of $9 million for paying a witness that lied I would be very suspect of any of their claims. If they were comfortable enough to pay a lying witness how easily do you think they will lie on their own behalf? In addition they are the largest funding source for another radical animal rights group that allegedly advocates for racing greyhounds. Do they also operate with the same low standards for truth? You know how the old saying goes, “when you lay down with a dog with fleas…”.

  12. Wow Fred…those numbers were readily available and because you didn’t share them I will…it appears there is good money to be made fighting greyhound racing…your group paid out nearly half of total donations in salaries…you getting some of that action? Also noticed donations down year over year and yet salaries went up…amazing. I didn’t however see where any money was spent on medical care, food or housing for these animale you claim to love.

    1. Awww. So you thought you knew the answer all along and were just playing dumb. Or maybe you weren’t playing. As I mentioned, an organization whose business plan includes the elimination of its source of income is not going to be around very long. Personally I’d love to go out of business because that would mean you went out of business first.

      Well, if it pleases you to believe we’re all flying around in corporate jets and staying at fancy hotels you go right ahead and tell the world. We’ll just keep working to close you down state by state and track by track. Maybe you can protest our big salaries and huge expense accounts outside the last track. Just before it closes.

      1. Fred you robbed the money so stop- your playbook is obvious to people who the truth- the Melvins you take donations (rob) from don’t-!You like Bernie have a good scheme- you just do it on a smaller basis/ at the end of the day you will face God and I’m sure Lucifer Morningstar will enjoy your company

      2. Fred you didn’t answer how much your group spends on medicine, food and shelter…how come you don’t actually provide care? Too busy raising funds for those salaries. ..I see.

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