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While controversy surrounds Florida greyhound racing, the sport is quietly fading away

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PHOTO BY JEREMY REPER
  • Photo by Jeremy Reper

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, new to the Florida House, tried his hand in the 2017 session at legislation to stop harmful anabolic steroids administered to the dogs. That bill didn't make it through.

Smith wasn't under any illusion about stopping racing as a whole with his bill – he just wants the dogs to be treated as humanely as possible, he says.

His bill, HB 743, made it through the finish line in the House earlier this month, but failed due to a lack of support in the Senate before the session ended.

Smith says the idea for the bill came when he heard the absurdly high amount of greyhounds given steroids – 50 percent of them in the state, he says he heard a lobbyist admit at a committee hearing.

"I never thought it was that much," he says.

Smith's bill focused on banning testosterone from being used in racing dogs to help their performance. He reels off a litany of harmful side effects the drugs can cause.

"It can make the dogs more aggressive," he says. "It prevents female dogs from being in heat. There's just all kinds of chaos."

PHOTO BY JEREMY REPER
  • Photo by Jeremy Reper

He goes on to list virilization, liver problems and gastrointestinal problems, as well as problems with the dogs' heart functions. Those with long-term health problems often don't end up getting adopted after they finish racing, either, Smith says.

A big part of the reason for steroid use is because it's easier to prevent female dogs from being in heat than to separate the male and female dogs. That costs more money and takes more effort, Smith says, so many trainers just don't do it.

"I keep hearing 'why not let us give [the dogs] a little bit?'" Smith says, chuckling. "They shouldn't be allowed to give them at all."

Lobbyist Jack Cory, who represents the greyhound industry in Florida, says Smith had the completely wrong idea about anabolic steroids. Cory defends the steroids given to female dogs as completely legal and not harmful at all.

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