Campaign takes aim at greyhound racing, calls for more reporting

By Jeff Allen, Seminole County Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, November 19, 2015, 3:05 PM EST

Anjali Sareen says her rescue dog means everything to her.  That’s why she’s leading an effort she hopes will help hundreds of greyhound dogs across the state.

“There’s this entire class of other dogs that are completely exempted from the most basic of considerations that we give our other dogs,” said Sareen, an animal welfare advocate from Altamonte Springs.

Sareen is leading a local effort of the statewide group “Committee to Protect Dogs.” It’s part of a nationwide movement to end greyhound racing. 

Sareen says 12 of the 21 greyhound tracks left in the nation are in Florida. She says Florida lawmakers’ efforts to fight the issue have failed repeatedly, so she wants voters to decide.

Sareen filed a ballot initiative with Seminole County election officials earlier this week. The measure is designed to force kennel club trainers to license their greyhounds and report any injuries during racing.

Sareen says dozens of greyhounds have died at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club in the past few years. In fact, Sareen says she has videos obtained from two state investigations into greyhounds that have died on the Longwood racetrack. 

We reached out to Penn National Racing, which owns Sanford Orlando Kennel Club. 

“Regarding the health and welfare of the participants racing at our track, we have one of the best safety records of any greyhound facility in the state.  We have spent significant amounts to install new safety equipment and preventive measures over the past few years and we have aggressively supported our local and regional greyhound adoption agencies ensuring the best care and long term health for the greyhounds competing at our facility,” said Christopher McErlean, Penn National Racing’s Vice President of Racing.

McErlean said he could not comment on the ballot initiative because he had not seen the language of it.

Sareen says if tracks are required to report more information, she believes it will convince lawmakers to end greyhound racing altogether.

“We love our dogs.  We treat them like family. Yet we’re allowing this industry to place profits above the health and fair treatment of these animals, which I think is unacceptable and that’s why I want to take it directly to the voters,” said Sareen.

State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, has filed another bill for 2016 aimed at protecting greyhounds.  Her spokesperson said the greyhound racing industry is costing the state up to $3 million a year in subsidies the state pays to racetracks.

Records obtained from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation show since 2013, more than 250 greyhounds have died at racetracks across Florida.