State seeks to keep dog racing ban on ballot

Attorneys for the state moved quickly Thursday to appeal a circuit judge’s ruling that would block a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at banning greyhound racing in Florida.

The state filed a notice that it is taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The move came a day after Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the proposed dog-racing ban should not go on the ballot because it would be misleading to voters.

As is common, the notice of appeal did not detail the arguments that the state will make at the appeals court. But backers of the proposed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 13, signaled immediately after Gievers’ ruling Wednesday that they expected the legal battle to continue.

The amendment was one of eight ballot measures placed on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot by the state Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years and has unique authority to go directly to voters with proposed constitutional changes. The measure would ban commercial greyhound racing in the state after Dec. 31, 2020.

“This issue has been out there for a long time,” Kate MacFall, Florida state director of The Humane Society of the United States, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday. “We know that it’s illegal in 40 other states. The CRC (Constitution Revision Commission) process put this on the ballot, and I think it’s fair and just to give Florida voters a voice.”

But Jack Cory, a lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents breeders and trainers and filed the lawsuit, issued a statement saying there “should be no trickeration in the Florida Constitution” --- repeating a description Gievers used in her ruling.

As an example of the issues involved in the case, Gievers ruled that the ballot proposal would be misleading because it would not actually ban dog-race wagering. That is because betting would still be allowed at Florida tracks on races broadcast from outside the state.

“You can lie to the CRC to get something put on the ballot, you can even lie to the media, and you can try to lie to the people of the state of Florida,” Cory said in an interview Thursday. “You cannot lie to the courts, without severe consequences.”

The state’s notice of appeal placed an automatic stay on Gievers’ decision, pending action by the Tallahassee-based appeals court. It was not immediately known how quickly the appeals court would take up the dispute.

But Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K USA Worldwide, which has long sought to ban greyhound racing in Florida, said his group contributed $25,000 on Thursday morning to the Committee to Protect Dogs, a political committee leading efforts to pass the amendment.

“The initial decision handed down yesterday is a bad ruling, and we are confident it will be overturned,” Theil said. “Our campaign is moving forward full speed ahead. We have tremendous support and are confident that Amendment 13 will be approved by voters in November."


Information provided by The News Service of Florida.  News Service senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this story.