Most Floridians believe the Florida Legislature needs to take action on greyhound safety, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The Mason-Dixon poll, conducted on behalf of an advocacy group comprised of greyhound owners, the Florida Greyhound Association, found more than three-quarters (77 percent) of Floridians want the Florida Legislature to require greyhound track owners to improve their facilities to reduce greyhound injuries and deaths.
More Democrats (87 percent) said they believe track owners should improve their facilities than Republicans (64 percent).
A bill revolving around greyhound injury reporting flew threw the Florida Senate last week. Under the legislation, injuries would have to be reported via a signed form within seven days after the injury occurs.
A separate bill, SB 262, sponsored by Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, would go further than the already green-lighted Senate legislation. Under the bill, greyhound racing facilities would be required to provide a safe racetrack surface, install safety devices to remove the lure from the racetrack surface as well as insulate all exposed electrical wires on the racetrack that a greyhound could come in contact with.
"This legislation is a common sense approach to improving at-track safety conditions for greyhound dogs," said Sen. Smith. "I strongly support collecting greyhound injury data, but track improvements are necessary to reduce the number of injuries or deaths that occur at racing facilities."
“Greyhound racing remains a popular form of entertainment in Florida," said Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, the bill's House sponsor. “The three step plan outlined in the Greyhound Safety Act will provide reforms that are long overdue and ensure the safety of the racing greyhounds.”
The poll also found voters believe the Legislature should not simply end live greyhound racing and then convert the facilities into casinos without receiving voter approval.
The process, called “decoupling,” would separate greyhound racing from other forms of gaming, so facilities could run their card and video games without having to race dogs.
"Floridians are sending a loud message to the Legislature, don't turn greyhound tracks into casinos on your own," said Jim Blanchard, President of the Florida Greyhound Association. "So-called 'decoupling' would not only subvert the will of voters who have repeatedly rejected casino gaming but would also cost three thousand Florida families their jobs."
Greyhound racing has come under intense scrutiny in recent years. According to a new report published last month by nonprofit group GREY2K, the Sunshine State is home to 12 of 21 dog tracks nationwide. Since 2008, nearly 12,000 greyhound injuries and 900 deaths have been reported across the country, but the actual number of injuries could be higher because Florida currently doesn't require racetrack owners and veterinarians to report injuries.
Both bills are awaiting their initial committee hearings in both the House and Senate.
The telephone poll of 800 likely Florida voters was conducted March 3-5 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.