MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The State of Florida has more Greyhound race tracks than any other state. At last county 11 total were still open out of 17 nationwide.
But last November, Florida voters decided overwhelmingly to end that.
Supporters of Amendment 13 voted to close all remaining bet-taking Greyhound race tracks by December 31, 2020. The “yes” votes outnumbered the “no” votes by more than half — a whopping 5,407,543 Floridians support the ban compared to 2,423,126 people voting against it.
Ban supporters call Greyhound racing cruel and inhumane. They say thousands of these dogs are unnecessarily bred each year just to create the fastest ones, causing injuries and even deaths.
Ban opponents call Greyhounds amazing athletes born to run. The Florida Greyhound Association points out “athletes die. Athletes get hurt. It happens. It’s unfortunate.”
Now that the race tracks must close by the end of next year, hundreds, even thousands of retired racers will need homes. Several organizations state- and nationwide are making it their mission to get them all placed.
One of hundreds of volunteers working to do that across the state is Daniel Robbin. He helps place retired Greyhounds housed at the Greyhound Pet Adoption in West Palm Beach. That’s where he met his own retired racer and buddy, Andy.
Andy ran 153 races before retiring four years ago and headed for a new life with Robbin.
“This past year we are going great guns,” Robbin explains. “I think we will have placed 120 greyhounds this year. Last year, we did 87, we felt we were flying then.”
The passing of Amendment 13 and the now-mandated track closing is expected to change everything.
“Which is sort of good news, bad news. It is good for the increased adoption rate, but it is a bit questionable for the future of the greyhounds because if you stop racing all of a sudden,” Robbin says then pauses. “There is going to be a period of time, maybe starting this summer, where all of a sudden, the racing will diminish and we are going to have an overflow of greyhounds.”
Part of Robbin’s job as a volunteer for Greyhound Pet Adoption is finding new homes for the retired racers. He visits people who apply to adopt a Greyhound. Robbin makes sure it’s a good fit for these gentle giants.
And always next to Robbin is his own gentle giant: his buddy Andy.
Vanessa McDonough and her family had four dogs of their own. Until one of them recently crossed over the rainbow bridge.
“My kids have not known a life, other than a life with a house full of dogs,” the mom of three children said.
After her dog’s passing, McDonough waited for the right moment to add another rescue to her family. She realized that moment was now, and she knew exactly why.
“It just clicked,” McDonough explains. “It was like, ‘well, I wanted to see this greyhound racing phase out, so maybe I should do something about it other than just vote for it’. And so, knowing that there would be thousands of dogs in need of a home, I thought maybe that would be the breed we get.”
A few days after Robbin approved the McDonough family and Redland area home, McDonough and her oldest dog drove up to West Palm Beach to the greyhound Pet Adoption facility to meet the racer she’d studied so closely on their website.
“He is just is like a big teddy bear. Just like a big, giant cuddle bug over here. He kept leaning on me and it was just really sweet,” she said while petting her new family member.
She said she immediately knew he was the next McDonough. His new name: “Chip”.
“Something about his eyes is just beautiful and I’m not afraid of if they are a little timid or seem like they might take a little longer,” McDonough says. “A little more TLC. I have plenty of experience and my family can be patient to give him the time he needs to come around.”
Once chosen, the dog’s new family pays a $350 fee that includes an identity chip, deep teeth cleaning, spaying or neutering and all necessary shots.
“I just thinks it is remarkable what this organization does to help, so I’m really grateful that they exist and for all the volunteers that work so hard to get all these dogs into good homes.”
Click here to see pictures of Greyhounds available for adoption and more information about adopting a Greyhound.
By Donna Rapado