Challenge to dog racing ban goes to Appeals Court

A legal challenge to a 2018 constitutional amendment that will end greyhound racing in Florida has gone to a federal appeals court.

The industry group Support Working Animals, Inc., and individual plaintiffs filed a notice last week that they are appealing a June 12 decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who granted a request by Attorney General Ashley Moody to dismiss the case.

As is common, the notice does not detail arguments the plaintiffs will make at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lawsuit argues that the voter-approved ballot measure violates a series of rights under the U.S. Constitution, including equal-protection rights because horse racing will be allowed to continue at pari-mutuel facilities while dog racing will be blocked.

Walker issued a 55-page ruling in April that dismissed a version of the lawsuit but allowed the plaintiffs to amend and refile it. But in his ruling last month, Walker quickly disposed of the amended version, saying that the plaintiffs “lack standing” to sue Moody over the ban. He wrote that “the injuries plaintiffs allege in this case are neither traceable to nor redressable through Florida’s attorney general.”

The constitutional amendment set a Dec. 31, 2020, deadline for ending greyhound racing at pari-mutuel facilities, though tracks have started halting racing ahead of the deadline.