Locals speak out on upcoming dog racing amendment

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A constitutional amendment concerning dog racing in Florida is on the November ballot.

Amendment 13 will essentially ban Floridians from betting on dog races in the state. However, it's been met with opposition.

Ebro Greyhound Park has been around for years and is one of the biggest employers in Washington County.

However, with amendment 13 on the November ballot, Ebro could be in for a change.

Ken Turner, an Ebro patron said, "This place has employed a lot of people over the years with this dog racing and all parts and dog racing is a big part of it, that's what made this facility famous."

Amendment 13 would ban wagering on dog racing in Florida and some say that could shut down dog tracks. and that could cut down on jobs.

Teresa Duncan, the money manger for the race track said, "Where would everybody go to find jobs? Where would everybody in the area be able to go?"

Avery Hodges an employee at Ebro Greyhound Park added, "This is one of the only places that would really hire me with my schedule and I can't even tell you how many of my classmates from back in high school and in college have had jobs here."

A support group for the amendment called "Protect Dogs-Yes on 13" said they believe some greyhounds are mistreated at the race tracks.

However, Duncan, who owns a kennel at the race track, says that's not true, "I can guarantee you, that it is like everything, bad apples here and there, but not here," she explained.

Hodges continued, "They're getting exercise, they're getting fed well, they're getting extra socialization. They're great dogs."

The state has argued dog racing wouldn't be banned in the state, just betting on the races and betting on races out of state would still be allowed.

But for residents of Washington County and beyond, they don't want to see Ebro go.

Turner added, "It would be very heartbreaking really because everybody really likes to come here and play the dogs."

On their website, Protect Dogs - Yes on 13 wrote: "Greyhounds are at a disadvantage even before they are born. Thousands are bred annually—many more than are needed to race—in an attempt to create the fastest dogs. These social dogs are forced to spend most of their time alone, confined in warehouse-style kennels with rows of double –stacked cages for 20-23 hours a day. Many racing dogs suffer injuries while racing, and according to state records a racing greyhound dies every three days on a Florida track. Eleven of the remaining 17 greyhound racetracks in the country are in Florida. ... Dog racing is out of sync with society’s values toward animals. Today this kind of wasteful and needless suffering is rejected as a form of gambling or entertainment. According to government records now available, common racing injuries include broken necks and broken backs, dislocations, torn muscles, and paralysis. Electrocutions have also occurred when dogs make contact with a track’s high voltage lure. Some dogs die on the racetrack while others are put down due to the severity of their injuries, or simply because of their diminished value as racers."

Assistant General Manager of Ebro Greyhound Park Mark Hess stated the 2018 racing season is on track to exceed last year. Hess also added Florida law requires Ebro to run 167 performances or races each year in order to operate their poker room.

Groups are currently trying to remove the amendment due to misleading wording.