The head of a pro-greyhound racing group now says supporters will file suit in federal court next month to “overturn” the constitutional amendment effectively banning dog racing in Florida.
Jennifer Newcome, who was chair of the Committee to Support Greyhounds, announced the move last Thursday in a public post on Facebook. It was on behalf of the offshoot “Support Working Animals” organization, online as Overturn13.org.
“With the abundance of information for [the legal team] to go through in order to prepare both the outline and body of the case, we are looking at filing in July,” she wrote. Plans for the lawsuit were first announced on YouTube.
Amendment 13, passed with 69 percent ‘yes’ votes in November, outlaws placing bets on greyhound and other dog races, such as at the state’s pari-mutuels, effective the beginning of 2021.
Many tracks already have stopped racing in the meantime; the measure allows other gambling at tracks, such as card games, to continue even after dog racing ends.
The amendment was placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, as opposed to a citizen initiative or by the Legislature.
It was championed by then-Attorney General Pam Bondi, who also sat on the commission and regularly brought shelter dogs to state Cabinet meetings to get them adopted.
According to the Overturn13 website, the “greyhound industry in Florida, a legal trade and industry, was arbitrarily eliminated in Florida without proper ‘due process.’” Support Working Animals says it represents “trainers, adopters, kennel owners, workers, race dog owners and fanciers.”
“Some have said the CRC was the ‘due process,’” it continues. “But as we claim, and the evidence clearly shows, the outcome of Amendment 13 was predetermined by the illegal political process within the CRC.”
Requests for comment were sent to former commissioners and to representatives for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents breeders and owners. bestbet Orange Park president Jamie Shelton was aware of the possible lawsuit but declined to comment. His track has a yearlong schedule with eight racing programs weekly.
Jack Cory, the FGA’s lobbyist and spokesman, previously said that “overturning a voter-approved constitutional amendment is not a viable option in Florida.”
Christine Dorchak, president and general counsel, of Grey2K USA Worldwide, one of the anti-racing groups that fought for Amendment 13’s passage, called its approval the result of a “compassionate vote.”
Now, “months after the vote, a small number of greyhound breeders are now trying to undo the will of the people,” she said in a statement. “Their misguided lawsuit is a slap in the face of every voter and has zero chance of success. This is just sour grapes from a losing campaign.”
The Overturn13 website, however, says “Greyhound Nation did not back down before, and we refuse to stop until the last judge says ‘no.’ “
“We are an all-volunteer group made up of adopters and greyhound racing enthusiasts working towards a legal solution to allow racing to continue in Florida. We want to protect the history of greyhound racing and also thereby preserve the unique American racing greyhound.
“Our supporters include adopters, some racing owners, some kennel owners, trainers, assistants and enthusiasts, as well as people who don’t even own any greyhounds, but own and work with other breeds and other working animals. We are standing up for the hundreds of hard-working people who love these dogs and will lose their livelihoods and everything they love as a result of this Unconstitutional Amendment.
“We have found that many other animal entities have been slandered and victimized of the same misleading types of propaganda from the same entities who campaigned for passage of Amendment 13 and have since moved on.
“Our primary focus right now is the legal suit. We have retained a legal team who are preparing to rectify a situation that should not have happened in the first place. What drives us is a thought. We don’t want to wake up on January 1, 2021 and wonder what if we kept fighting for the greyhounds. Some may say we’re out of touch, or that the people have spoken, or that we’re grasping at straws.
“Well, we’re not letting go of those straws until they take us where we need to go in order to keep greyhounds racing in Florida.”
Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.