Jeff Kottkamp: Real animal welfare reform starts with shelters

greyhound shelters
Jeff Kottkamp

State Sen. Tom Lee has proposed a constitutional amendment, as a member of the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission, that would end live greyhound racing and allow all 12 of Florida’s greyhound tracks to essentially continue operating as minicasinos.

It has been suggested that the proposal is an animal welfare proposal. There have been numerous attempts to end live racing in the Legislature over the years. All of those efforts have failed, in large part, because most members of the Legislature oppose the dramatic expansion of gambling that would result from such efforts.

The fact is — if live racing is stopped the welfare of over 8,000 majestic racing greyhounds would be put in jeopardy. If you take away the ability of the dog owners to make a living — you also take away the ability of the owners to care for the dogs.

And please don’t suggest that we can adopt out 8,000 greyhounds. While we have a robust greyhound adoption program in Florida — it would take many years to adopt out 8,000 greyhounds. When it comes to the welfare of dogs — the biggest problem we have is not greyhound racing — it’s the number of dogs killed by animal shelters.

In 2008, the Florida Senate Agricultural Committee sent out 180 surveys to municipal and private animal shelters to help determine the welfare of animals at the shelters. Only 30 shelters responded. Their responses were analyzed by committee staff and the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research. The information provided by the shelters was shocking.

In 2007 alone, the 30 animal shelters that responded to the survey took in 66,513 dogs. During that same year, the responding shelters killed over 37,000 dogs. It was particularly noteworthy that municipal shelters killed more than five times as many dogs as private shelters.

It has been estimated that somewhere between 3 and 8 million animals are killed each year in pet shelters nationwide. It has also been estimated that in Florida 450,000 dogs and cats were killed by shelters just in 2012. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the shelter in Orange County killed 2,232 dogs in 2012. I think those numbers underestimate the problem — but even those numbers are horrific.

As a proud owner of two dogs that have been rescued, I believe that improving the welfare of dogs is a worthy goal. However, ending live greyhound racing would do nothing to achieve that goal. A better approach would be to lead an effort to make all animal shelters in Florida “No Kill” shelters. Such an effort would save the lives of thousands of dogs — and save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

One of the first bills I passed as a Member of the Florida House of Representatives was a bill to increase penalties for the intentional cruelty to animals. My wife Cyndie volunteered her time to help me pass the bill. In fact, without her efforts the bill probably would not have passed. Thus, I know from personal experience that, with enough commitment and effort, an animal welfare bill can be passed in the Legislature.

In addition, while in the House I sat on the Select Committee on Constitutional Amendments. At the time we were concerned that our State Constitution was being used by special interests to accomplish what they were unable to achieve in the Legislature (the most glaring example was the pregnant pigs amendment). We looked for ways to prevent the Constitution from being misused in the future.

Apart from the fact that making our shelters “No Kill” shelters is a far better way to improve the welfare of dogs than ending greyhound racing — I do not believe the greyhound issue belongs in the Constitution because it does not involve a fundamental right. The Constitution should be reserved to set forth our state’s founding principles and fundamental values — not used to circumvent the Legislative process. For that reason, I urge the Constitutional Revision Commission to reject the greyhound proposal.


Jeff Kottkamp is president of Jeff Kottkamp, P.A. He was Florida’s Lieutenant Governor from 2007-2011 and served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives. Kottkamp represents the Florida Greyhound Association.

Guest Author


  • Right On

    November 7, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Governor Kottkamp is absolutely right on. In Broward County alone, over unwanted 80,000 cats and dogs are murdered in shelters each year. Many of them purebreds–in fact, some statistics say nearly 40 percent. Mercifully, our more forward-thinking cities have started to do the right thing by denying licenses to “pet stores” that only encourage more selfish breeding of even more (ultimately) unwanted animals. Flea markets sell puppies as if they aren’t even living, breathing creatures. Legislators, of course we want to help ALL animals. But greyhounds live a way better life than animals in our county shelters. So focus your efforts where it would actually make a difference. Like making spaying and neutering programs cheaper and more accessible. “No Kill” often just means more suffering for endlessly homeless animals. Put an end to the “euthenasia” murdering and make it EASY for folks to spay and neuter their pets, and stop the sale of animals.

  • Steve Schlachter

    November 7, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    The main issue is using the Constitutional to end racing and Casino’s in Florida because the Legislature doesn’t want an expansion of gambling. So they are doing a end run instead of saving domestic animals that are killed by the numbers. SAD!!

  • Jennofur OConnor

    November 8, 2017 at 4:49 am

    I wholeheartedly support Sen. Tom Lee’s proposal to end greyhound racing in Florida. Greyhounds forced to race live in misery and frequently die in misery. Illness and injuries—including broken legs, heatstroke, and heart attacks—claim the lives of many dogs.

    Florida legislators need to do the right thing and end this cruel industry.

  • Fred Barton

    November 8, 2017 at 8:24 am

    “The fact is — if live racing is stopped the welfare of over 8,000 majestic racing greyhounds would be put in jeopardy. If you take away the ability of the dog owners to make a living — you also take away the ability of the owners to care for the dogs.”

    “A better approach would be to lead an effort to make all animal shelters in Florida “No Kill” shelters.”

    These are examples of the common techniques the racing industry uses when confronted with the inherent cruelty of their so called “sport:” Catastrophize and change the subject. When tracks closed in other states, most notably Wisconsin, the state stepped in to make sure greyhounds remaining in the kennels after many dogs were moved to other tracks were properly taken care of until they could be adopted or safely moved to other locations. Also, in all states where greyhound racing has ended there has been no economic collapse due to the lose of what are mostly part time, low wage no benefit jobs. In fact, in states like Iowa special care was taken to insure a “soft landing” for those who lost employment. There is no reason to think these situations couldn’t also happen in Florida.

    As for no kill shelters, that’s an admirable goal, but the point of this proposal is to end greyhound racing and that is the issue on the table. Floridians can have the discussion about no kill shelters if they want, but it’s a separate discussion. Let’s stick to the topic here which is: does a business that relies on exploitation of innocent living creatures and institutional cruelty have a place in Florida society today?

    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: I have fostered and adopted rescued racing greyhounds since 1995. I cannot imagine abandoning any of them when they become injured, old or sick and yet this is routinely what happens to them at operating tracks and will continue to happen as long as racing is allowed to exist. .
    Fred Barton
    Board Member
    GREY2K USA Worldwide

    • Michael

      November 8, 2017 at 11:11 am

      Fred works for a Ponzi scheme organizational that does nothing-they dont adopt dogs-find homes for the them-just find suckers to get on the ride and end racing -Fred could care less abt any living creature-all Fred does is go around blah, blah ,blah-he is just a modern day white collar criminal-who gets no like minions to follow- anytime Fred you would like to meet face to face- I will be at Saratoga in 2018/ be a man – show up

      • Fred Barton

        November 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

        You should ask your physician to re-balance your medications.

  • LucyP

    November 8, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Reducing the need for euthanasia in shelters is a worthy goal, but the way to get there isn’t by imposing arbitrary labels and policies on shelters. That only results in animals being turned away to die on the streets or at the hands of people who don’t want them when shelters run out of room. The problem must be stopped at its source, by preventing more animals from being bred–either intentionally or accidentally–through passing spay/neuter legislation and making low-cost and free sterilizations available. And while the greyhound racing industry tries to distract from its heinous cruelty, dogs are still being caged, forced to run while injured, and killed for not being “fast enough.” This cruel industry must end.

  • Allen Stockman

    November 8, 2017 at 10:59 am

    What is next for the constitution? How about no killing of pigs and cows. I am sure driving a nail through the head of a cow and slicing its throat while it is still alive and stunned is far crueler than racing dogs and horses. Should that be in the constitution? I think not. This is a slippery slope. It is a slope that should not be lubricated.

  • Allison D

    November 8, 2017 at 11:04 am

    This is wonderful news. Animals should not be forced to race for their owner’s profit. I’m so happy greyhound racing will end in Florida. Let’s hope other states follow suit.

  • KimMarie

    November 8, 2017 at 11:12 am

    I support Senator Lee’s proposal to end greyhound racing in FLA. Forcing dogs to race for humans to profit from is immoral and belongs in the past.

  • Craig Shapiro

    November 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Can we stick to the issue, please? Greyhounds are treated like commodities by the racing industry, and they suffer and die just to line some profiteer’s pocket. Bravo for Sen. Lee. Racing should be abolished.

    • Michael

      November 8, 2017 at 3:59 pm

      So it’s ok for kill shelters, however and industry that fund homes is no good- you ladies are the voice of the clueless – pls get a life-

  • Stephen Mourar

    November 8, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I retired from greyhound racing after 33 years in the business. I have no financial interest in the sport at this time. Greyhounds are born to race because they are sight animals and run for from instinct. They are treated royally by the handlers who have spent significant time in the business. There are a few people who enter this business for the wrong reasons and are soon ousted from the business. This is a well regulated business who treats the dogs like the athletes they are.

  • Heather Moore

    November 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    I live and Sarasota and support measures to BAN greyhound racing ! It’s no fun for greyhounds. They spend their miserable lives muzzled in cramped cages, except when they are taken out to race. Many dogs die from illness and injuries, and those who survive are usually killed within in a few years. Many greyhounds are killed simply because they don’t win enough races. Compassionate people aren’t interested in watching dogs race for the grave—attendance is plummeting and tracks around the world are closing. And I say “good riddance!”

Comments are closed.


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