The following front page Sun Sentinel article, headed "Breaking More Than Records," presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor about the use of animals in entertainment. A good source of information on greyhound racing is www.Greyhounds.org
The Sun Sentinel takes letters at http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/sfl-letterseditor.customform
The article is also in the Orlando Sentinel, on page B5, headed, "Groups: Report injuries at tracks"
The Orlando Sentinel takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and advises, "Each letter should be 250 words or fewer and include the writer's name and day and evening telephone numbers for verification purposes."
Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
July 6, 2006 Thursday
Broward Metro Edition
LOCAL; Pg. 1A
BREAKING MORE THAN RECORDS;
ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS WANT STATE TO REQUIRE RACETRACKS TO RECORD INJURIES OF HORSES, DOGS
By Linda Kleindienst Tallahassee Bureau Chief; Lynette Norris of the Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.
When Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro pulled up short in the Preakness Stakes,
his Triple Cown dream shattered by a broken leg, the accident dramatized a
stark reality: Racing animals get hurt.
The point was made again last week when the greyhound Ozzie The Man -- a
longtime big winner and favorite at the Palm Beach Kennel Club -- had to
retire after breaking his rear right foot in a training race.
Although thousands of dogs and horses race on Florida tracks every year, no
one knows how many suffer debilitating injuries that end their careers or
The state doesn't require injuries to be reported. Animal rights groups
have been fighting to get a law passed that would require reporting, but the
Legislature has refused over the past several years to give the issue an
airing. Some say it is a testament to the racing industry's lobbying prowess
in the Capitol.
Sen. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, a strong supporter of the state's
pari-mutuels, filed the reporting bill for this spring's legislative session.
But he never got a hearing and the state took no position on the issue.
"I think it would make racing stronger by eliminating a lot of critics,"
Geller said. "They have told me there are not a lot of injuries and my
reaction was, `Fine. Produce the records so we can prove it.'"
While some groups would prefer to stop the racing, that isn't likely to
happen anytime soon, especially in Broward County. In return for the right to
operate slot machines, the Legislature mandated that the county's four
pari-mutuels continue to conduct live racing.
Several of the state's horse and dog tracks maintain injury records that
help them determine if their track has a problem, if the dirt is too hard or
too soft, or if the turns are too sharp for the animals. But track owners say
most of the injuries are minor. "The injuries are a tool for me to check to
see if there is any trend going on," said Dennis Testa, vice president of
racing at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, where Barbaro won the Florida
Derby in April. "I don't want to see any rider or any horse get hurt."
Testa, who said five or six horses had to be euthanized of the 7,000 that
raced at Gulfstream this year, said he would have no problem turning the
injury information over to the state -- if Florida required it.
Animal rights groups that are fighting for states to pass reporting laws
target the greyhound industry. Florida has 15 dog tracks, compared with only
four horse tracks.
At Mardi Gras Race Track and Gaming Center in Hallandale Beach, an
estimated 26,000 dogs ran in 3,444 races between December and May. Forty-one
injuries were reported, but none was life threatening, said Vice President Dan
In the nine states where reporting of greyhound injuries is mandatory, the
information has opened a window into a side of dog racing the public doesn't
usually see. Information was not readily available on how many states require
reporting of horse racing injuries.
During the 2005 racing season in one of those states, New Hampshire, 372
greyhounds were injured at the state's two tracks. Of those, more than 138
sustained "career ending" injuries; two were euthanized.
"I think the public would be outraged to find out how many dogs are being
seriously injured," said Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K USA, a
Massachusetts-based group that pushes for reporting laws and would like to see
greyhound racing banned.
Jack Cory, a Florida lobbyist who represents dog breeders, owners and
kennel operators, fought to keep the recordkeeping bill from being heard by
the Legislature this year. He calls it a costly idea that is a waste of time.
"We don't require that kind of reporting for horses or people. These are
privately owned animals. I think we can spend the $1.5 million it would cost
to take care of hurricane victims or kids," said Cory, who represents the
Florida and national greyhound associations. Instead, the greyhound industry
would support the state taking a more active role in mandating track safety
standards, he said.
Bob Varnberg, 62, sees the end result of accidents that racing greyhounds
suffer at the track or the kennel. At Grey Haven kennel just south of
Gainesville, he and his wife, Marilyn, specialize in working with dogs that
have broken legs -- dogs that generally used to be euthanized.
When the animals are healed, the Varnbergs try to find new homes for their
wards through their Greyhound Adoptions of Florida.
Most dog accidents get public notice only if they're tragic enough to make
news, like the 2003 death of 3-year-old Leta's Princess, who had to be
euthanized on the track at Palm Beach Kennel Club after colliding with the
motorized lure. The West Palm Beach track does not keep injury records.
"No records are kept ... because it really hasn't been necessary, since
injuries are few and far between," said Theresa Hume, director of publicity
for the track. In recent years, the legislative focus has been on adoption
programs for animals that were once commonly destroyed because they couldn't
Lobbyist Cory helped write the legislation that requires tracks to have
greyhound adoption programs and advertise them. Kathy Pelton of Cooper City
has two adopted greyhounds, Mollie and Eddy. The vet determined Mollie, who
had been off the track for a year and was found wandering the streets of South
Florida, had suffered a broken leg. Eddy was underweight and infested with
ticks, fleas and worms when he was adopted just one day off the track. That's
when Pelton got involved with Grey2K USA.
"I think the public should really be made aware of how many injuries are
occurring at the track," she said. "And the only way we'll find out is through
a record-keeping bill."
Lynette Norris of the Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.
Linda Kleindienst can be reached at
Of the 15 dog tracks and four horse tracks contacted by the South Florida
Sun-Sentinel, only four were willing to share information about on-track
Collect injury information, willing to share some statistics:
Gulfstream Park (horse track), Hallandale Beach
Jefferson County Kennel Club, Monticello
Mardi Gras Race Track and Gaming Center (formerly Hollywood Dog Track),
Pompano Park Harness Track
Collect injury information but refuse to make public:
Jacksonville Kennel Club
Orange Park Kennel Club
Do not collect injury information:
Calder Race Course (horse track), Miami
Daytona Beach Kennel Club
Derby Lane/St. Pete Kennel Club, St. Petersburg
Ebro Greyhound Park
Melbourne Greyhound Park
Palm Beach Kennel Club, West Palm Beach
Tampa Bay Downs (horse track)
Did not answer requests for information:
West Flagler Greyhound Track, Miami
Bonita Greyhound Track, Naples/Fort Myers
Sanford/Orlando Kennel Club
Sarasota Kennel Club
Tampa Greyhound Track
(END OF SUN SENTINEL ARTICLE)
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Date: Thu Jul 6 17:34:23 2006