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Bill would permit trace cocaine amounts in racing dogs

A draft of a bill is circulating in the Capitol that would, among other things, expressly legalize steroids and trace amounts of cocaine in racing greyhounds, critics say.

One lawmaker made aware of the language on Thursday jokingly asked if it was “written by The Onion.” But an industry representative said the legislation, backed by his organization, would cement protections for the animals. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

“Animal safety is and always has been our No. 1 issue,” said Jack Cory, spokesman and lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents breeders and owners. The proposed bill “moves that one step further.”

The industry is on the defensive, however, with a proposed state constitutional amendment in the works—backed by GOP state Sen. Tom Lee of Hillsborough County—that would ban greyhound racing in Florida, phasing it out over three years after passage.

The draft legislation, for example, would mandate a “safe track surface” and require insulation of any electrical wires with which dogs could potentially come into contact.

But it would also pre-empt local efforts to regulate dog racing and would allow dogs to have “environmental levels” of “prohibited substances” in their system.

Cory explained that state regulators already permit steroids, which trainers use as a form of birth control.

Furthermore, “you can get a nanogram of cocaine from touching a 20-dollar bill,” he said. “Having one nanogram in your system is not going to affect any dog or any person and that is what is we are trying to clarify.”

Earlier this year, regulators suspended a Florida racing-dog trainer’s license after 12 dogs in his care tested positive for cocaine, First Coast News has reported.

“Wow,” said state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, when told of the language. “Only in Tallahassee would the industry solution to the epidemic of cocaine and steroid use in greyhounds be to legalize cocaine and steroid use in greyhounds.”

Smith was behind a recent bipartisan effort to ban the use of steroids on greyhound racing dogs. The legislation died during the 2017 Legislative Session.

“This proposal is going nowhere, but it’s also really disturbing,” Smith said. “And we are supposed to trust these people with greyhounds?”

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat opposed to dog racing, asked in a text message, “Was this written by The Onion?” – referring to the news satire website – when asked to comment on the proposal.

“I can’t speak for Speaker (Richard) Corcoran, but I cannot imagine any situation where he would allow a bill to be heard that would effectively legalize cocaine in dogs,” Moskowitz said in a later phone interview.

“… This is not serious policy. This is satire,” he said. “(The industry) is recognizing that dog racing is coming to an end, and they are throwing every ridiculous idea to see what sticks.”

Kate MacFall, Florida state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said “common sense would tell you this is a really bad bill.”

Dog racing opponents “have really won the debate,” she added, calling the proposed legislation a “ludicrous” last-ditch attempt by a “dying industry.”

 

Written By

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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