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Smith and Rader co-sponsor greyhound racing bill

Prompted by stories written by a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times capital reporter on problems plaguing the greyhound racing industry, Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale and Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, have filed the Greyhound Safety Act to tighten regulations. Reporter Mary Ellen Klas  found myriad concerns in areas ranging from greyhound injuries  to rogue operators being allowed to train and own racing dogs.

A press release from the legislators follows:

Florida's lax enforcement of regulations allowing the state to revoke or suspend the licenses of greyhound racers could dramatically change next year under legislation filed by Senator Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale).

Co-sponsored in the Florida House of Representatives by Rep. Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton), the "Greyhound Safety Act" would prohibit anyone convicted of a felony for animal cruelty, child abuse, aggravated assault or battery from obtaining a license or permit from the Division of Parimutuel Wagering, the state agency which oversees the dog racing industry.

The bill was filed in response to numerous concerns raised by the Miami Herald, which found that in the last year, state regulators issued occupational licenses to individuals who had been convicted of a host of crimes, including assault and battery.

"Turning over the health and safety of these dogs to someone with a criminal history of violence is begging for trouble," said Senator Smith. "Denying a license shouldn't be discretionary; it should be mandatory."

The legislation also contains provisions to prevent greyhound injuries by requiring the dog tracks in Florida to implement a three point safety plan. The bill specifically calls on race tracks to upgrade their facilities by maintaining a safe track surface, insulating all exposed electrical wires, and installing a safety device to remove lures from the racing surface. Finally, the legislation also requires that tracks report all injures to greyhound race dogs that take place at the tracks.

"This simple 3-point safety plan is long overdue and will dramatically improve the safety of the dogs, at a nominal cost to the operators," said Rep. Rader. "These track upgrades will go a long way in protecting Florida's greyhounds."