A proposed constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing in Florida is no longer on the November 6 ballot.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers sided with greyhound owners and breeders, who argue that the impact of Amendment-13 from the Constitutional Revision Commission would go far beyond the description given to voters.
“You can lie to the CRC to get something put on the ballot, you can even lie to the media, and you can try to lie to the people of the state of Florida,” said Jack Corey, a lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association. “You cannot lie to the courts, without severe consequences.”
“What it’s going to do is stop live greyhound racing in the state of Florida; cost the state of Florida over $80 million a year in live betting on live greyhound racing,” “Two hundred million dollars at greyhound tracks; 3,000 jobs, and put 8,000 beautiful greyhounds at risk.”
But Kate MacFall with the Humane Society of the United States claims the lawsuit is a desperate attempt to keep voters from deciding greyhound racing’s fate.
“This issue has been out there for a long time. We know that it’s illegal in 40 other states, said MacFall. “The CRC process put this on the ballot, and I think it’s fair and just to give Florida voters a voice.”
In a non-jury trial, the case went before Judge Gievers last week.
“Your Honor, this case is a challenge to the ballot, title and summary of Amendment 13; it does not involve the merits of the proposal,” said plaintiff attorney Major Harding.
Harding told the court the law requires that before voting, a citizen must be able to learn from the proposed amendment what the anticipated results of that amendment will be.
“Florida voters will not see the text of the amendment; they will only see the ballot, summary and title,” said Harding.
On Wednesday, Judge Gievers ordered the proposed amendment removed, ruling it was crafted to mislead voters. In her written opinion, she said it was akin to “hiding the ball;” “flying a false flag,” and outright 'trickeration.”
In a written statement, Attorney General Pam Bondi -- a CRC member and one of Amendment 13’s staunchest supporters – said an immediate appeal is going to the Florida Supreme Court, seeking an expedited review.
“I’m a career prosecutor; my entire adult life I’ve prosecuted many, many cruelty to animals cases even when I was a felony bureau chief and not taking cases. [But] I would take those.”
Speaking in debate on Amendment-13 last spring, Bondi said animal cruelty within the framework of legal greyhound racing is virtually impossible to investigate because it’s usually hidden from view.
“These dogs I’ve seen – first hand, after the fact – are scared to death of their own shadow,” said Bondi. “It’s inhumane; in my opinion it’s cruelty to animals, it’s horrible. Are you aware that most of them are skin and bones when they’re taken away from the dog tracks?”
If allowed to remain on the ballot, Amendment 13 would require approval by 60 percent of voters. Currently, only a half-dozen states have active dog tracks; Florida has 12, including Pensacola Greyhound Track. In the past 25 years, 13 states have outlawed greyhound racing. It’s an industry, says one opponent, that’s clearly in decline.