Once every 20 years Florida convenes a Constitution Revision Commission to review and propose amendments to the Florida Constitution. The CRC process is the essence of participant democracy to change the law through constitutional means. The CRC also provides an avenue that allows ordinary citizens to address important issues that have proved difficult or impossible to address through legislative means.
This year, the CRC is considering Proposal 67, which would place an amendment on the ballot that would bring about an orderly end to wagering on greyhound and other dog racing in Florida.?The Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar supports Proposal 67 and amending the Florida Constitution for a number of reasons.?
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Commercial greyhound racing is already illegal in 40 states.?Florida has 12 of the 18 remaining tracks in the country and is where a majority of these races occur.?Racing dogs are confined for long periods and suffer frequent injuries, neglect, abuse?and death.
Moreover, aside from the negative impact on the animals, the current state of the law in Florida comes at significant financial cost.?The law requires tracks to hold dog races in order to be entitled to offer other types of more popular gambling.?This comes at a significant cost to both the tracks, which lose money on racing, and the taxpayers.?
In 2016, Florida dog tracks lost a combined $34.8 million on racing, which is only made viable for by offering other forms of gambling.?According to a study commissioned by the Florida Legislature, the state is losing between $1 million and 3.3 million annually because regulatory costs exceed revenues.
Despite the inherent cruelty involved and the illogical financial situation, this issue has proved nearly impossible for the Legislature to address, despite overwhelming public support to end greyhound racing. The Legislature has tried, and failed, to fix the problem repeatedly.?
Even though most would agree with a policy that would decouple racing from other types of gambling, which would allow tracks to stop holding races, the solution is eclipsed by larger gambling issues and concerns about expanded gaming.?The CRC process offers the perfect opportunity to remove this impediment, giving the people of Florida the opportunity to voice their opinion.
Some might question whether this issue rises to the level of being included in the Florida Constitution.?We can think of no better place for this evolution in the law to be enshrined.?
The law historically has viewed animals as property.?As we come to understand more about animals, the law is shifting toward a more a humane view that recognizes the distinction between living beings and other forms of property. Future generations will be able to point to this change in the Florida Constitution as an important shift in the way animals are treated and an example of our moral progression.?
We urge the CRC to support Proposal 67 and for the citizens of Florida to vote in favor of this amendment in November.??
Gregg Riley Morton is the chair of the?Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar.?Ralph A. DeMeo is immediate past chair?of the?Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar.
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