EBRO — More dogs perished this year in a single month of racing at Ebro Greyhound Park than died during the entire 2016 racing season.
A rare “snapshot” of the track’s greyhound injury report, made public Aug. 17, shows between May 9 and June 8 that 15 greyhounds were seriously injured, 12 suffered broken legs and three dogs died, including one from a “severe compound fracture.”
That compares to 13 serious injuries, five broken legs and two deaths for the 11-week period between June 25 and Sept. 5, 2016.
“It appears there has been a dramatic increase in greyhound injuries at Ebro,” said Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K, a group that advocates for doing away with greyhound racing.
The injury reports for Ebro, part of a “track treatment log” kept by track managers, were not willingly turned over by the park and are not public record. Florida and Alabama are the only two states where greyhound racing takes place that injury reports are not available for public scrutiny.
Once a month, Grey2K submits a request to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for what public records are available about greyhound racing at the state’s 13 tracks. Information provided includes administrative complaints, track inspections, kennel rosters and greyhound death notifications, Theil said.
Investigative reports also are among the public records that Grey2K receives, and now and again, as happened with Ebro records in both 2016 and again this year, information from a track treatment log will be included as part of one of those reports.
“The only time we obtain them, essentially, is by accident,” Theil said. “I can literally count on one hand the times the public has been given a glimpse of this information.”
This year’s snapshot, as Theil referred to the track treatment log, was disturbing.
“If you compare that (2016) glimpse to this glimpse, the injury totals are considerably higher,” Theil said. “Way higher.”
Mark Hess, the owner of Ebro Greyhound Park, located just east of the Walton County line in Holmes County, did not return phone calls seeking comment for this article. Last year, however, when the Panama City News Herald reported on the last track treatment log made public, Hess said injury numbers were down.
Hess told the News Herald that during the 2016 racing season, Ebro experienced a substantial reduction in both injured greyhounds and those humanely euthanized compared to the 2015 season.
“Racing is a high-speed contact sport participated by greyhounds that are born to run and love to compete,” he said. “It is inevitable. In any kind of contact sport we’re going to have some type of injuries.”
Ebro’s mission is to provide a safe racing surface with the best conditions available, Hess told the News Herald.
Greyhound racing has been under fire in Florida for several years, although efforts to get the Florida Legislature to take action to allow the once popular pastime to fade into oblivion, or even to make injury reports public, consistently fail.
“It's a shame every time you have a bill to protect greyhounds, the gambling special interests start salivating,” then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz said when efforts to “de-couple” greyhound racing from other, more popular, forms of legal gambling at places like Ebro were being considered in Tallahassee in 2014.
The State Division of Pari-Mutual Wagering is in the process of creating a new state rule to require the reporting of greyhound injuries, Theil said, but the new state policy has not yet been finalized.
In Seminole County, 14,000 residents signed a petition this year requesting that their county’s governing board require the managers of the Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club to report greyhound injuries, Theil said. County commissioners acquiesced and passed an ordinance making kennel club track treatment logs public records.
The Sanford Orlando Kennel Club has been reporting injuries for three months. For May, June and July at the track there were 18 injuries, 13 broken legs and two dog deaths, Theil said.
Those, numbers are comparable to those at Ebro Greyhound Park for the single month between May 9 and June 8.