TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - To race or not to race: That is the question before the Florida state Legislature when it comes to greyhounds.
Greyhound advocates on both sides of the issue are keeping a close eye on the House and Senate's respective gambling bills.
A lot is at stake for both parties.
Greyhound decoupling, which means allowing dog tracks to keep their card rooms without running greyhound races, has been a hot topic for nearly a decade.
With the odds favorable for the passage of a gambling bill this year, the fate of greyhound racing rests in the details.
The Senate version of the gambling bill allows tracks to decouple.
"The next couple of weeks will be very interesting, and the fate of a lot of dogs are at stake,” said Carey Theil, of GREY2K USA.
Pro-racing advocates said decoupling tracks would open the doors for tracks to evolve into casinos.
"I think the House has made the position (that) decoupling is an expansion of gambling and they are ultimately against decoupling and ultimately the expansion of gambling,” said Jack Cory, a lobbyist with the Florida Greyhound Association.
“The House version of the bill would instead keep tracks open for the next 20 years,” Cory said. “That prospect has anti-greyhound racing advocates on the edge of their seats.”
Added Theil, "If greyhound decoupling does not pass, we will see thousands of dogs endure lives of confinement in the years to come and we will see hundreds of dogs die for nothing.”
Pro-racing advocates said those numbers are misleading.
"We are either adopting out or returning (the dogs) to the farm to live out their life -- over 95 percent of the animals,” Cory said.
The breeders contend that if decoupling advocates really care about the animals, they should shift their focus.
"In the state of Florida, we will kill over 250,000 shelter pets this year -- 750 today alone, but these people are fixated on greyhounds only for fundraising purposes,” Cory said.
Florida is among just six states that still have operating greyhound tracks. The state has 13.
The House and Senate will begin discussing their differences over the future of greyhound racing next week.
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