Several members of the U.S. House of Representative introduced legislation this week to phase out commercial greyhound racing and simulcasting of dog racing. The Greyhound Protection Act also bans the use of live animals for training of greyhounds.
Leading the charge are Reps. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Mike Waltz, R-Fla., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Elvira Salazar, R-Fla, Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn.
“Greyhound racing has become exceedingly unpopular with Americans and is in a death spiral,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. This bill allows for a managed phase-out of the activity to enable planning to provide homes for the dogs and certainty for the small group of remaining owners, workers, and breeders in the industry.
“Dog racing is cruel from start to finish,” added Christine A. Dorchak, president and general counsel of GREY2K USA. “This is an antiquated industry with a compulsion for cruelty.”
Cardenas’ bill comes in the wake of a 2020 investigation by GREY2K USA that exposed live lure training in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas, with “farms” training dogs by allowing them to tear apart rabbits. During the course of an investigation that spanned nearly a year, GREY2K USA documented illegal greyhound training at breeding farms in three states, including at a property that is only two miles from the National Greyhound Association headquarters in Abilene, Kansas. The details of this investigation and relevant footage have been provided to law enforcement officials and regulators in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia.
The bill also comes after a series of track closure announcements in the United States. In June of 2020, Texas’s last track became the most recent one to announce an end to live racing. Alabama’s lone track announced an end to live racing effective in April 2020. And just months before, Arkansas’s Southland track announced will phase out operations over the next two years.
Those announcements came not long after Florida voters approved Amendment 13, which banned all live racing in the state by the end of 2020. Floridians approved the measure with well more than a two-to-one margin in the industry’s hub. Just prior to the launch of the ballot measure campaign, Florida had 12 of the 18 operating tracks in the United States.
“Greyhound racing is cruel and must end,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif. “These docile animals are kept in stacked cages for 20 hours or more a day and are subjected to brutal training practices and races, facing the risk of injury and death at every turn. My bipartisan bill allows for a sensible wind-down of an already-declining industry that will ultimately outlaw greyhound racing. As a longtime animal welfare advocate, I am always committed to always speaking up for the voiceless.”
Today, outside of Florida, only four tracks operate, and the only two without a definite timeline to end live racing are in West Virginia. The tracks, based in Charleston and Wheeling, are owned by Delaware North, a privately held company based in Buffalo and built around gambling and food service. A generation ago, there were 60 tracks in the United States, so the decline of racing has been precipitous.
The federal government has authority on this subject because dogs are bred and transported across state lines for racing and races are broadcast to numerous states for simulcast gambling. The bill amends the Wire Act to achieve its purposes of ending greyhound racing and live-lure training.
The Greyhound Protection Act has been endorsed by more than a hundred animal protection groups and community leaders, including 70 local animal shelters from 31 states. Lead endorsers are Animal Wellness Action, GREY2K USA and the Center for a Humane Economy, and other notable endorsers include Stop Predatory Gambling, the Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia, Eastwood Ranch Rescue, the National Greyhound Adoption Program, the National Humane Education Society, Dumb Friends League, Alaqua Animal Refuge and Best Friends Animal Society.