Greyhound races are officially banned in Florida.
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Florida hosted what will be its final legal Greyhound race on Christmas Eve, at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm. Why was this decision mean? What does it mean for the future of dog racing in general? We get into it all.
With the final race at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm on Christmas Eve, the state of Florida is officially out of the dog-racing business. This is a development that has been years in the making. Florida passed Amendment 13 back in 2018 that stipulated a state-wide dog racing ban beginning in 2021. The Palm Beach Kennel Club, which is also the largest dog-racing facility in Florida, was the last location to shutter its doors.
While everyone knew this ban was coming, its actual effect is no less significant. Florida had the largest greyhound racing base in the country, according to GamblingNews.com. Eradicating the sport there could have implications elsewhere.
The Impact of Florida's Ban on Dog Racing
What is the case against dog racing? What happens now that the ban is fully active in Florida? And, most notably, could the diminishing popularity and legality of dog racing eventually spill over to horse racing? We're about to answer every question in turn.
Why Did Florida Ban Dog Racing?
Animal activists are at the heart of the ban. Their arguments rest on living and working conditions for the dogs, which they have deemed "inhumane" due to living in "cramped spaces" and enduring intense, if cruel, training and workloads.
This stance has a ton of merit. Not only that, but every year thousands of young and healthy Greyhound dogs are euthanized because they're either injured or considered to not have enough racing potential. Some find rescue homes, but it isn't anywhere close to all of them.
Placing a ban on dog racing aims to help ensure greyhounds are bred for reasons outside of pure sport. Of course, this angle has its limits. Greyhounds are only totally protected if racing is outlawed everywhere.
Will Other States Implement Dog Racing Bans?
It's only a matter of time before the remaining three states end up closing their dog-racing doors, too. Though proponents of the sport will argue that the dogs are properly cared for and that the National Greyhound Association throws out everyone who isn't abiding by the guidelines for said care, they can't escape the reality of the situation or its economics.
It is impossible for the National Greyhound Association to police everyone. There are problems that continue to slip through the cracks, even now, when the market for dog racing has never been smaller.
On top of everything, Greyhound betting just isn't as big of a draw anymore. So many of these facilities are propped up by state funding and are no longer profitable. Local governments from even the most conservative states aren't going to see the point in supporting the sport when they're not generating tax revenue.
This is an issue that's hard to address. Even if you agree that the dogs are properly cared for and that greyhounds are born runners who actually enjoy their workload, there's no clear demographic to market toward anymore.
The rise of the internet has no doubt complicated this dilemma. Rural states like Kansas and Oregon have always been married to dog racing because of finite alternatives. But with the increasing popularity and access to online sportsbooks, bettors no longer need that avenue to get their fix. They can wager on anything they want from the comfort of their own home.
Is Horse Racing Next?
Every angle of opposition to dog racing can be applied to horse racing. It is of course more mainstream; just look at the popularity of events like the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. But activists still argue that horses are trained and housed under inhumane circumstances and that their lifespans are being cut short.
There is data to support this slant. Studies have found that one in 22 horses die because of a racing-related injury. Beyond that, there's the matter of what happens to horses once they retire from the track. Owners so often don't want to pay for them to live on pastures, so they give them to slaughterhouses or euthanize them.
Given the current political climate in the United States, which skews progressive thanks to the ideals of millennials and Gen Zers, it feels inevitable that the legality of horse racing will be forced under the microscope.
Will that result in a full-scale ban? We can't be sure. Even opponents of horse racing acknowledge the depth of its employment impact. But the house of representatives has already passed legislation that makes it illegal to ban the act of doping horses on race day. Contemplating, if actively seeking, a full-out ban is the next natural progression.
Granted, this won't happen overnight. If it does happen, it'll take years. Fast forward a half-decade, though, and the ban could be underway or potentially already in place. The world at large is changing how it views sports that exactly what they deem unnecessary tolls on those who partake in it. Just look at the measures the NFL has taken to reduce its own violence.
All of which is to say: We don't know what the future holds for horse racing. But the inevitable, ongoing end of dog racing might be a glimpse into the future of its sister sport.
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