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Regulators renew emergency rule on race-dog drug testing

Gambling regulators on Tuesday again said they were “renewing” an emergency rule that allows them to continue testing racing greyhounds for drugs, including cocaine.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, posted a “notice of renewal” in Tuesday’s Florida Administrative Register.

The emergency rule on “Procedures for Collecting Samples from Racing Greyhounds” was adopted late last December. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

An administrative law judge struck down the testing program, saying it was invalid. Tuesday’s notice said a rule challenge was still pending in the Division of Administrative Hearings.

The docket shows that case is “awaiting (an) order” from Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early.

Another judge, Lawrence P. Stevenson, had barred the state from relying on a 2010 testing manual because it wasn’t properly adopted, though as one of the division’s lawyers said, “There aren’t that many ways to do urine collection.”

The emergency rule includes using “evidence tape” to seal samples and storing them in “lockable freezers” until they’re sent off for testing.

A cocaine-in-dogs controversy came to light in Jacksonville in the summer of 2017. That in part spurred a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot to ban betting on greyhound racing in the state.

Attorney Jeff Kottkamp, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association, has previously said it has “a zero-tolerance policy for anyone that would give a racing greyhound any illegal substance.” The organization advocates for the state’s race-dog owners and breeders.

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13, which advocates for passage of Amendment 13, called the renewal “good news” but called out “a continuing problem.”

“Greyhound breeders have thrown the entire regulatory scheme into chaos by repeatedly challenging the state drug testing program in court,” the campaign said in a statement. “This is is an intentional strategy to prevent greyhound trainers from being held responsible for greyhound cocaine positives.

“The regulatory structure is broken, and it’s time for voters to act by voting Yes on 13.”

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Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post. Main photo: Van Abernethy.

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