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


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At Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, dogs stay in small kennels when not racing - PHOTO BY JEREMY REPER
  • Photo by Jeremy Reper
  • At Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, dogs stay in small kennels when not racing

Carey Theil, executive director of greyhound activist group Grey2K, which operates nationwide, also says he sees a generational change away from interest in greyhound racing.

"Change is hard," Theil says. "It doesn't happen overnight. It's a generational change, and it may take five, 10 or 15 years, but I'm confident it will eventually end entirely." Theil posits it as the simple math of aging – the older base of greyhound racing fans is dying off and not being replaced with anyone new.

Jennifer O'Connor, of the PETA Foundation, sees a different reason for the "plummeting attendance."

"Greyhounds used in the racing industry live in misery and frequently die in misery," she writes in an email to Orlando Weekly. "Kind people condemn cruelty."

But on Saturday in Melbourne, the crowd, however small, is varied in race, age and gender, and seems to be enjoying itself, content to lounge and watch each race. The races are lightning-quick – the dogs sprint the track into the face of the day's biting winds and the races are over in split seconds.

Rockledge resident Gigi Barber says she doesn't watch racing much, but does find it relaxing when she has the time to watch it. "It's exciting to see the dogs running," she says. "I think that's cute. ... It's fun to be close-up and see racing live."

Her friend Audrah George, also of Rockledge, says she learns things about dogs from watching them run.

"They want to compete," she says. "That's the way I feel. They can hardly wait to get out of the box."

Josh Goodyear of Melbourne is outside watching the dogs up close with two of his friends. He's been coming to the track for a long time – since he was young, he says.

"I just like the whole environment," Goodyear says. "It makes me happy."

Greyhound racing is caught in the middle of a years-long slog of legislative battles and people of differing pro- and anti-racing mindsets, all of whom claim they know what's best for the industry – and the animals.