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Greyhound Drug Ban Moves Forward

Greyhounds racing
Rainer Hungershausen

A bill to prevent greyhound tracks from giving their racing dogs steroids is moving forward in the Senate.

Members of the greyhound industry say without the ability to use anabolic steroids, like testosterone, to keep their female dogs from going into heat, a catastrophe could be just around the corner. Fred Johnson works with the Florida Greyhound Association of Jacksonville.

“If there’s a fight with males trying to get over here to get to those females that you have 30 of them outside and 30 males it’s disastrous—I wouldn’t be able to stop them. Nobody in here could stop them,” Johnson says.

He says he’s been in the business since 1978 and says the public’s understanding about steroid use in greyhounds is way off base. They’re not shooting the dogs up with needles, he says. Instead the dogs are given chewable steroid tablets twice a month. And Jack Cory who represents the Florida Grey Hound association says he doesn’t see why anyone would want to stop dog owners from using the drug.

Birth control is birth control. Whether it’s in a dog or a human being. And birth control methods have been used for a long time in this country—legally, honestly and morally,” Cory says.

But animal rights activists, like Kate MacFall with the Humane Society of the United States say giving female racing greyhounds a steroid twice a month for years at a time can have long term negative effects for the dogs.

“For the female dogs it gives them male parts over time. That’s sort of what happens. It’s bad for their health. It’s bad for other parts of their body, but over time that’s what can happen,” MacFall says.

And Carey Theil with the animal rights group Grey2K says in other countries where greyhound racing is more popular, participants have long stopped using drugs to keep their female dogs from going into heat.

“The female dogs are segmented. They’re separated from the male if they’re in heat for the period of time they’re in heat and then they’re allowed to race. It’s not complicated,” Theil says.

Former Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp who also represents the greyhound racing industry says owners wouldn’t do anything to harm their dogs.

“Frankly nobody cares about these animals than their owners,” Kottkamp says.

But Theil says that statement raises questions for him.

“Over the past seven years I’ve heard repeatedly the Florida greyhound industry say that they love their dogs, but every time we bring a proposal to reform this industry they’re against them. We bring a proposal to require that injuries be reported—they’re against it! We bring a proposal to require that anabolic steroid be prohibited—they’re against it," Theil says.

The measure passed out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee Thursday. A similar measure is awaiting a hearing on the House floor.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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