When Saul Mays applied for a license to own and train greyhounds in 2002, his rap sheet signaled he was not a model citizen.
Convicted of kidnapping his estranged wife at gunpoint in 1988, after taking her into the woods and sexually assaulting her, he had served three years in prison. The staff at the Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering recommended Mays application to race dogs be denied, but Mays appealed and was granted a license.
A year later in 2003, investigators found evidence that Mays’ dogs were being abused at the Jefferson County Kennel Club. He was investigated at his Monticello kennel then, again in 2005 and 2010, when inspectors found seven “very thin” dogs and others covered with tick bites. In each case, state regulators concluded there was not enough evidence of abuse and no action was taken.
Mays got his first reprimand in 2012, only after the Washington County Kennel Club in Ebro reported that greyhounds Mays put up for adoption were “covered in ticks” and the dogs “all appeared to be in poor overall shape.”
But the 2012 penalty didn’t come from the state. It came from the National Greyhound Association, which represents owners and trainers. The organization banned Mays for life from “any further involvement with NGA-registered greyhounds.” Florida regulators fined Mays $300 and let him keep his license.
Florida’s law gives the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering the power to revoke or suspend a license of an dog or horse trainer or owner if he has been convicted of a felony or is found abusing animals. But, based on dozens of cases reviewed by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, the implementation of the rules are lax, and the penalties are often weak.
In the last year, state regulators have granted 80 occupational licenses to owners and trainers who have been convicted of a host of crimes — from cocaine, heroin and amphetamine possession to assault and battery — and denied 115 requests from people with felony convictions.
Florida law bans anyone convicted of a felony from working in a card room or a casino but allows them to be licensed to race horses and dogs as long as they receive a waiver.
In many other cases — in which state investigators found dogs exposed to cocaine, lacked vaccinations or showed signs of abuse — Florida regulators often took years to impose a penalty, records show. By contrast, regulators in other states, including Texas, Arizona and Arkansas, told the Herald/Times they typically close their cases within a month. Story here.