Joe Henderson: Letting voters decide on greyhound racing is right call

Greyhound Racing

The future of greyhound pari-mutuel racing in Florida will be decided right where it should be – at the ballot box.

The Constitutional Revision Commission voted in favor of placing an amendment before voters in November to ban the, well, what is it exactly? It’s not a sport, despite what its supporters say.

I guess you’d call it an industry, but it is one that already has been outlawed in 40 states. Florida is one of only six states where greyhound racing remains active; four other states have no dog tracks but have not outlawed racing.

My guess is that following the election, Florida will join the other four-fifths of the United States by phasing out what state Sen. Tom Lee, who sponsored the measure, called an “archaic tradition.” 

The reason is simple: You don’t mess with Fido.

There is enough evidence in the public domain that shows many dogs have been drugged to make them run faster or simply slaughtered when their usefulness for generating income was done.

Just a year ago at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, a veteran trainer had his license revoked when some of his dogs were found to have cocaine in their systems.

Supporters of the amendment are likely to flood mailboxes and TV airwaves with ads of mutilated dogs and frightening headlines like the one from 2010 that reported a woman who had been arrested for killing 2,000 greyhounds years before was back training dogs again in Florida.

A few thousand of those images are likely to outweigh arguments by industry supporters that such incidents are rare and often are the work of rogues.

Supporters have warned that a blizzard of lawsuits will be coming Florida’s way from soon-to-be displaced owners if the amendment passes, but Attorney General Pam Bondi – a noted dog lover – dismissed that threat and basically dared opponents to bring it on.

According to the Florida Greyhound Association, there are 13 tracks operating within our borders. The group proudly trumpets that as “the most opportunities of any state.”

Well, we’ll find out soon enough how voters feel about that “opportunity.”

At the core of the argument for a constitutional amendment is the simple premise that the people of Florida should get to decide what kind of state they want to have.

What people may once have seen as harmless entertainment now doesn’t seem that way after a look under the hood at what is really going on.

Does that mean all greyhound trainers are evil? Or that anyone associated with this industry or who enjoys a night at the track is a substandard human being?

Of course not.

I have lived here for almost a half century and greyhound racing has been legal for each of those years. Having that industry didn’t make us a bad state.

Things change, though, and not having it in the future will make us a better one.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Andy

    April 18, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Betting on racing is outlawed in 40 states, NOT racing itself. The only state that it is outlawed in is Idaho, as for the drugs, vets, WHO ARE EXPERTS IN THEIR FIELD, have dispelled that time and again. No doubt you are being paid by the fraudsters Grey2k. Why don’t you write an article detailing how the President Christine Dorchak is a proven LIAR, and how they admitted in Massachusetts much of their advertising was fraudulent, or how they spend less than 1% of donations on rehoming dogs, you shill. Don’t bet on it passing. You are VERY mistaken about the industry, find out the facts for yourself!!!!

  • Michael

    April 19, 2018 at 9:54 am

    As usual, corrupt, unethical journalists, who can be bought because their field has faded out- tries to justify this act- I hope every owner sues Tom Lee and Pam Bondi personally- Fl which has the most massage parlor of any state, highest opioid addiction of any state-top 3 bar killings of any state and your worried about dog racing? We even have dog fighting/ that’s ok-Fla has the most corrupt politicians-going back to 2000 pres election- say save your bs to your 5 readers left/ hope Pam Boom Boom Bondi paid you well for your integrity/

  • Ken

    April 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    I’m new to Florida and aside from the occasional lottery ticket, I’m not a gambler. But I am a huge dog lover, all 4 of my pups are rescues. I admire and have the utmost respect for Attorney General Pam Bondi. That being said I want to ask Mr. Henderson, AG Bondi, and Rep Lee just what they think is going to happen to all of the greyhounds if their bill passes and racing is outlawed? Or, to quote Mr. Henderson “their usefulness for generating income was done”? Do they think that they will all be adopted? I’m sure that the awesome folks at greyhound adoption agencies across the state will be happy to tell you what their adoption rates are like. The flood of healthy dogs into the adoption pool will overload an already strained adoption market. Where should we post the pictures of the perfectly healthy dogs that are massacred because they are no longer profitable?

    I certainly understand that people want to do what makes them feel good, but do not consider the unintended consequences. Yes, there injuries and there may be some doping, just like any athlete. Yes, there are inhuman owners and trainers, just like there are coaches and trainers in other sports who choke or punch their players or even sexually molest them. Despicable human behavior is not unique to greyhound racing.

    And thanks to the shackles of coupling racing to other games of chance imposed by the state, elimination of dog racing will cause the loss of many non-Seminole gambling related jobs. If the State Legislature would consider de-coupling, greyhound racing would wither on the vine and die a natural death. But, our legislators won’t do that due to the huge influx of Seminole cash that grease the wheels in Tallahassee.

    Let the dogs run, this is what they were breed to do. A racing greyhound is a sight to behold, full of agility, grace, and pure power.

  • ken foster

    April 23, 2018 at 12:45 pm


    every been in a racing kennel?ever watch a greyhound race?do you know what a greyhound looks like? the problem with a free press there are writers who have never gotten there hands dirty in the subject there writing about. they weight what grey2k tells them. does joe know grey2k makes there living getting getting contributions from uneducated people.they keep 99% of that money given by contributors for themselves and only pennies to there cause.check there mass non profit tax return they pay themselves husband and wife team over 100,000 a year from peoples money.they use politicians and column writers to spread falsehoods. so far not one politician or column writer like you joe has ever spent any time in the greyhound racing operation to show there side. we challenge you joe or any politician to do that and then write about your experience.
    its only fair to show or write both side of this issue. be interesting to see who steps up.

Comments are closed.


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