Sunday Commentary: Translating a news story about Florida greyhound racing

The Walton Sun out of Walton County, Fla. published a story on Saturday – by a News Herald writer – headlined, “Poor economy, greyhound deaths pose unique challenges at Ebro.”

Ebro is Ebro Greyhound Park, which has been in the news of late because dozens dead greyhounds were found starved to death at the kennels there. A trainer was arrested and charged in the case, but from what I’ve read the owners of the track claim they were not aware of what was happening there – probably for weeks and maybe months.

But this Walton Sun story needs a bit of translation, so let’s walk through it step by step. Maybe read it first and come back here for the translation.

For much of its 55 years, Ebro avoided industry controversy” – Translation: Too few were exposing the horrors of what the greyhounds faced there for 55 years.

In 2010, Ebro was “hit with a double whammy” (noting the economy went south and discovery of the dead greyhounds) – Translation: Finally, after 55 years, something happened to expose the poor conditions at another greyhound track. But really – Ebro was hit with a double whammy? What about the dogs. They get the “whammy” every day in the racing industry.

” … wagering on live races at Ebro was down 22 percent from the prior year, possibly a result of the Deepwater Horizon gusher …” – Translation – Blame it on everything but the reality – that most people no longer want to turn their money over to an industry with a history of abusing dogs.

The writer somehow found someone who likes dog racing and they were quoted as saying, “There’s something about live racing that is exciting!” – Translation: Yeah, like rubber-necking past a terrible car accident or watching a fight on MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”

” … which makes places like Ebro a draw because greyhound racing is illegal in 38 states …” – Translation – Yeah, a few people still like to bet on the races, despite the fact that so many other states have faced the reality that this is a cruel industry and have banned it. So some people are even having to travel long distances to support the dying industry.

The track, and the industry itself, suffered a massive embarrassment when trainer Ronnie Williams was arrested in connection with the starvation deaths of 37 greyhounds …” – Translation: The industry doesn’t like it when the horrors within its doors are exposed. (But “massive embarrassment” is minor compared to the suffering faced by the starving dogs and by so many more racing greyhound throughout the state.)

The story suggests Ebro Greyhound Park’s history is “nearly untarnished” – as noted by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation – Translation: No one was reporting on dogs being constantly caged and too often injured on the track and killed when they were no longer of value to the local industry.

The article goes on to note the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and “Ebro officials” perform inspections during the racing season but no inspection system seems to be in place for the off season. The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Ebro officials are responsible for inspections? And they have not been inspecting Florida race tracks and the kennels in the off season? Is this right?

And the story notes the Department of Business & Professional Regulation is working with industry representatives on new procedures.

Here we have some major problems that need to be addressed in Florida. The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has no business handling the inspections for animal welfare. And greyhound racing industry representatives should not be taking part in developing new procedures for protecting the dogs from abuse.

Local humane societies or state or local animal care and control agencies should head up this effort. We need to have animal welfare agencies handling animal welfare cases, not Pari-Mutuel Wagering offices or track officials. This is crazy. No wonder Florida leads the nation in greyhound tracks. The state seems to be letting the fox guard the hen house.


2 responses to this post.

  1. What utter irony. Those responsible for oversight of the hideous conditions and the horrific treatment of the greyhounds are the same individuals who continue to exploit them. Self-governing? What a tragedy. There should be animal experts overseeing this pathetic “sport”. Better yet, it needs to be banned.


    • Posted by Tom Grady on February 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      I could not agree more. It’s a rigged system that is reported on in this article.
      It would be like your local restaurant health inspections being conducted by a restaurant association that the restaurants belonged to.


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