Greyhound injury reporting bill again circulates for 2016 Session

Hollywood state Sen. Eleanor Sobel filed the “Victoria Q. Gaetz Racing Greyhound Protection Act” for the second time in as many years Friday.

The bill, whose title honors the animal-loving wife of former Senate President state Sen. Don Gaetz, would mandate that greyhound racetrack operators report all injuries to the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

While many tracks voluntarily report such information, there is currently nothing on the books that require them to, a state of affairs testifiers on the bill’s last incarnation in 2015 called “barbaric.”

Under the Broward Democrat’s proposal, the DBPR’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering must receive a form documenting any injury occurring while a racing greyhound is in Florida within seven days of its occurrence.

An operator found to be in violation could face penalties under state law of revocation of their license or an administrative fine of up to $5,000.

Lobbyist David Bishop, however, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association, says the bill does not go far enough.

“This bill is woefully inadequate and simply requires the state to do data collection, nothing more. What it doesn’t do is better protect the safety of greyhounds at dog tracks, which is what we as an industry advocate,” said Bishop.

Sobel’s just-filed bill has so far has not picked up a House companion. Similar language was contained in measures co-sponsored by state Rep. Jared Moskowitz and state Rep. Dana Young, one of the House’s most active members on gaming issues.

The legislation — SB 412 in 2016 — unanimously passed the Senate last Session, but died amid the House’s surprise early adjournment in May.

The bill appropriates $62,517  to create one state position to oversee injury reporting.

Senate unanimously passes greyhound injury reporting bill on opening day

In keeping with the tone set by the Weatherford-Gaetz style of legislative leadership, Senate President Andy Gardiner has seen fit to pass a bill on the first day of Session. SB 2 — or the Vicky Q. Gaetz Racing Greyhound Protection Actif you will — sponsored by state Sen. Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood was approved by the full Senate Tuesday.

“Racing greyhounds are prone to injuries, which can too often lead to horrible pain and premature death,” said Sobel in a statement. “Injury reporting is a simple step that will lead to fewer deaths and a better quality of life for these precious animals.”

The fast-tracked bill was immediately certified and now awaits passage of its House companion, state Rep. Jared Moskowitz‘s HB 129, which has not enjoyed the same expeditious path. It still sits in the House Business & Professions Subcommittee, its first of three committee stops.

“Of the seven states that have live greyhound racing, only Florida and Alabama do not require the reporting of racing greyhound injuries,” said Gardiner on Tuesday. “Amid the difference of opinions on a wide variety of issues related to gaming in our state, injury reporting seems to be an area of consensus, so I am hopeful this is the year we will see this good bill become law.”

Sobel renamed the bill in honor of then-Senate President Don Gaetz‘s wife in hopes of getting it through the Legislature during the 2014 session. While that didn’t quite come to pass, the name stuck, and is reflected in the House version as well. Mrs. Gaetz has taken an interest in the issue.

Said Sobel: “Vicky Gaetz has been a passionate voice for animals and is particularly committed to protecting those that have been injured, abused, or neglected. I am grateful for her ongoing support and pleased to see this legislation bear her name.”

David Bishop, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association, sounded somewhat less upbeat following the bill’s passage in the upper chamber. His group claims the bill doesn’t go far enough:

“While Senate bill 2 is a good first step, it doesn’t go far enough in protecting racing greyhounds,” said Bishop. “Reporting at-track dog injuries collects statistical data but doesn’t do anything to prevent injuries or deaths. Four racing greyhounds died at Florida tracks in January 2015. According to state data, three of those deaths were because of issues at the track.”

Bishop favors a more thoroughgoing approach, which he says will give greyhound defenders greater latitude to act when the law is broken.

​”We call on the Senate to move with similar urgency in passage of SB 262, which requires track owners to make inexpensive but significant enhancements to their facilities that will protect the safety of racing greyhounds,” he concluded.