If there is one constitutional amendment question a great majority of Floridians appear ready to rally behind, it is the one posed in Amendment 13 that calls for a statewide ban on greyhound racing.
In polling conducted before the state’s Constitution Revision Commission even approved the proposal for inclusion on this November’s ballot, 65 percent of likely voters queried said they would support the measure.
The poll was conducted on behalf of long-time greyhound advocacy group Grey2K USA by consultants McLaughlin & Associates, which offered some encouraging advice to the group after the numbers came in.
“They told us that if we get the word out and educate the public on the issue the support would rise,” said Sonia Stratemann, the vice chairman of a group called Protect Dogs - Yes on 13, which has become the lobbying arm for groups supporting Amendment 13.
Amendment proponents cleared a major hurtle Sept. 7, when the Florida Supreme Court, in a 6 to 1 decision, ruled the proposal could remain on the November ballot.
The Florida Greyhound Association had sought to have Amendment 13 removed, and a Leon County judge sided with it, declaring the language picked by the CRC 'misleading.'
The Supreme Court overruled the Circuit Judge following an appeal by the state. The high Court called Amendment 13’s ballot language accurate and not misleading to voters.
Protect Dogs – Yes on 13 embarked upon its education campaign once the CRC voted to include the greyhound ban proposal as a single issue amendment question on the ballot. Visits to veterinarian clinics, pet shops and other strategically selected sites have been eye opening, Stratemann said.
“I still haven’t heard one person opposed to this when we’re talking to them,” she said. “Something we get a lot of is ‘we can’t believe it’s still legal.’ We really do have so much support.”
If passed, Amendment 13 would, as of Jan. 1, 2021, prohibit betting on racing greyhounds and wagering on the outcome of live dog races in the state of Florida. The proposal must receive 60 percent voter approval to pass.
Florida is one of 10 states that still allows greyhound racing and its 12 tracks outnumber those of any other state. Activists have battled for years to end the racing, arguing that racing dogs are mistreated, drugged and often euthanized at the conclusion of their careers.
The Florida Greyhound Association, headed by greyhound trainer James Blanchard, has offered the staunchest resistance.
Efforts to reach a Greyhound Association spokesman were not successful.
Christine Dorchak, the general counsel for GreyY2K USA, called the Florida Greyhound Association's failed legal complaint “a loser’s strategy.”
“They think that Amendment 13 is the worst possible thing that could happen to them and they’ve created a litigation strategy to keep it from coming before the voters,” Dorchak said. “It’s a loser’s strategy of an industry that has a long record of cruelty to dogs.”