A ‘must-win’ race

Yes, it does matter if Florida places a ban on betting on greyhound racing, whether you have a dog in the race or not. It was 2002 when I got involved in my first real political issue that involved agriculture.

Florida had on the ballot a pregnant pig initiative. It was an animal rights–sponsored ballot measure to ban gestation stalls in the state. The most common response at the time, from too many pork producers, was, “There are only two pig farmers with gestation crates in Florida. It’s not a big deal.” Well, here we are 16 years later and it is a big deal.

Since their victory that day, the folks who don’t want us to own animals have marched around the nation creating ballot initiatives left and right, and our ability to own an animal is in even greater peril than ever before. It’s happening not only with laws about how we must handle and house animals but also in regulations that can make animal caregivers look like criminals.

For example, a lady in North Carolina was arrested for treating the 27 dogs she rescued during Hurricane Florence without a veterinarian’s license. That is probably not too hard to believe because if I want to run an antibiotic in my calf feed when I wean this fall, I can’t do it without a Veterinary Feed Directive from a veterinarian. The day has come when you cannot treat your own animals to keep them healthy without paying someone to give you permission.

In the next move toward overregulation, Florida Amendment 13, the Ban on Wagering on Dog Races Amendment, is on the Nov. 6 ballot. In typical fashion to create confusion, a vote NO will leave the greyhound business alone. Furthermore, note that this is not a measure to ban greyhound racing but a ban on betting on greyhound racing.

So has the time come that we are trying to rein in gambling? That is a big no because Florida Amendment 3 is also on the ballot and it’s designed to expand the casino gambling options in Florida so they could be built anywhere and not simply on tribal lands as current law allows. So really it is all about putting an end to racing dogs.

I have had two guests recently on Rural Route Radio involved in these Florida happenings. Bobby Mir, from southern California, breeds greyhounds and has a few dogs racing in Florida. The very interesting part of his story is that he began reading about cruelty in housing dogs and their overall treatment. His first thought was, “What in the world have I gotten myself into? This is awful.”

To get to the bottom of it, he packed up and went to Florida to see exactly what was happening.

That experience led Mir to become an advocate for the greyhound racers of the nation. Despite Mir’s involvement, he had never really given any thought to the care the dogs get off the track. Once he saw how amazing that care was and how misguided common perceptions were, he decided to help change the narrative.

The second radio guest was Mary Beth Constante, who lives in Florida. She is not involved in racing greyhounds other than she has a couple retired greyhounds as pets. Constante, too, has become a leading advocate for greyhound racers and boasts that every single retired greyhound has a home through adoption.

At the end of the day stories, lies and negative false information will continue to surface, and it will take a concerted effort to keep people focused on what really matters. What really matters is that these dogs are owned by people who only succeed if the dogs are cared for properly. Furthermore, this is just another initiative to incrementally erode the property rights promised by the founding fathers.

Finally, it will be easy for us who own cattle in Colorado, mules in Missouri or pigs in Pennsylvania to disregard this Florida dog racing ballot initiative, but I will close with one simple question: How has that worked for us since the 2002 Florida Pregnant Pig Amendment? The answer is this: It has become tougher than ever to maintain ownership and management of your critter. This is one race where we need to finish first.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at [email protected].