Dog Track Bracing for End of Racing

Business

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY JAN 14, 2019

Florida voters approved a dog racing ban in November, but for now season continues as normal at the Sarasota Kennel Club, at least through May. One of 11 working tracks in the state of Florida, the facility kicked off its current season on December 14 and will continue into May. But Thomas Bowersox, director of racing, says the future from there looks more hazy.

The constitutional amendment banning the sport goes into effect at the beginning of 2020, and the Florida Legislature has yet to consider implementing legislation. But there are more factors at play than just the law. Bowersox says the Sarasota track today serves as home to about 700 greyhounds but that’s already a low number for the amount of activity planned each year. “Some of those are not even of the active list,” he says. “It takes 520 to run a weekend card, and it’s a little tight.”

Meanwhile, the number of people breeding racing dogs has plummeted in recent years, and with the market all but evaporating, that trend likely only accelerates from here. 

“It’s also about the availability of greyhounds,” Bowersox says.

All the while, a healthy dog adoption program, Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption, still works with the Sarasota Kennel Club. Dogs typically retire by age 4 but live to about 14, and there’s always a market for the well-trained pets. The adoption organization typically works with potential owners, then comes to the track to find a good fit. But that process too winnows the number of dogs each year that are ready to run.

Passage of the constitutional amendment caught leadership at the Sarasota Kennel Club by surprise, Bowersox says. More than 69 percent of voters statewide approved the ban, well over the 60-percent threshold needed to enshrine the measure in Florida’s Constitution. Yet most public polling available predicted the amendment would fail. In Sarasota County, nearly 71 percent of voters approved the ballot question.

“I guess it’s the will of the voters,” Bowersox says.

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