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Senate committee rejects effort to reduce dog racing at parimutuels but passes injury reporting

A proposal to end the requirement that dog tracks race greyhounds in order to keep their gaming permits died Tuesday in the Florida Senate on a procedural vote.

The decision not to take up the proposal by the Senate Appropriations Committee means that Florida’s 13 remaining greyhound tracks will operate another year as they are today, following the same racing schedules they have been required to follow for more than a decade.

The committee approved a less restrictive dog racing bill (SB 742) requiring track operators and dog trainers to report race-related injuries to state gaming regulators. If the bill passes, it will be the first time in Florida greyhound racing history that track operators have been required to report injuries.

Florida is one of only two states that do not require injury reporting and animals rights activists had also hoped this would be the year they could get approval to pass the so-call "de-coupling" bill that would have allowed tracks to reduce their racing schedule and, ultimately, end dog racing.

Florida has more greyhound racing than any other state, but the racing schedule is still tethered to a 1997 law that allowed track owners to operate poker rooms only if they operate 90 percent of the races they held back then.

The Senate Appropriations Committee failed to take up the measure after the proposal, by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, was subjected to a rules challenge by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Latvala, a supporter of the pari-mutuel industry, said the proposal was too broad of an expansion of the original bill and violated Senate rules. In addition to reducing the schedule of live races, the bill would have changed the tax rates on race tracks, revised permits and ended charity events.

The bill’s defeat was a blow to animal rights groups, which said they had the votes to pass the measure.

"This means that greyhound decoupling is very likely dead for this session,’’ Carey Theil, director of Grey2K USA, the greyhound advocacy group that spearheaded the effort this session, said in an email to supporters. "Greyhound decoupling will come back, and I am confident that it will eventually become law.’’ Story here. 

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