West Palm Lawsuit: Greyhound Racing Ban is Unconstitutional

Two groups representing dog breeders and trainers have filed a lawsuit challenging a voter-approved ban on greyhound racing in Florida.

The suit, which was filed last week in U.S. District Court, says the groups want the amendment to be declared unconstitutional, as they believe it gives dogs “a mysterious new set of rights,” while depriving some people of the right to use their property to make an income.

West Palm Beach attorney Dawn Alba writes, “This sets an extremely dangerous precedent that an individual may now be dispossessed of personal property at the pleasure of the mob in violation of one of the bedrock principles of the laws of the United States.”

The amendment was approved last November by 69 percent of Florida voters. It rules that all dog tracks, including the Palm Beach Kennel Club on Belvedere Road, must close by December 31, 2020.

Two months ago, the Florida Greyhound Racing Association also filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County, asking a judge to make the state pay damages to a St. Petersburg kennel owner who claims his dogs are worth at least $50,000.

In the local lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the nonprofit Support Working Animals as well as several breeders and trainers, Alba explains that horse racing remains legal. She adds, “There is no justification for the unequal treatment of banning the wagering on dog races and allowing the wagering on all other animal races.”

Alba says in contrast to dog owners, who often identify themselves as parents of pets, dogs legally are property. The new amendment, she continues, “creates a mysterious new set of rights that directly conflict with the existing laws in the state of Florida.”

According to Carey Theil, executive director of Massachusetts-based GREY2K USA Worldwide, a group that supported the amendment, five of the state’s 11 tracks have closed since the amendment passed. Two other tracks have announced they will close in the spring, while another track has been sold to a developer.

Three others, including the Palm Beach Kennel Club, will wait until next year’s deadline to close. “We’re going to go all the way through. We’re going to go out in style,” says Theresa Hume, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach Kennel Club.