First turn

The National Greyhound Association located west of Abilene on Old Highway 40 is the official registry of racing greyhound in North America and will be impacted by the vote in Florida to end racing by 2020.

A vote in Florida on Tuesday could have serious implications for the Abilene area.

According to Amendment 13, greyhound racing tracks in Florida will have to shut down by the end of 2020. Of the 17 tracks operating in the country, 11 of them are in Florida.

Although there are no longer any dog racing tracks in Kansas, the Abilene area has a long tradition of raising greyhounds. The Greyhound Hall of Fame is in Abilene and the National Greyhound Association, the official registry of the breed, and the Kansas Greyhound Association are both based here.

“A whole lot of people who raise greyhounds in Abilene have connections in Florida,” said Jim Gartland, executive director of the national association.

There are “about 30-some” greyhound farms in the Dickinson County area, he said.

Each farm has an average of 150 to 200 dogs, said Tracy Wildey, past president of the Kansas Greyhound Association. She estimated there are 4,500 to 6,000 dogs in the area.

It takes about 18 months to get a dog to the track, Wildey said, and they race until they are 3 ½ to 4 years old.

When their racing days are over, most of them are adopted as pets, with a few staying on the farms for breeding.

She said that, at this point, only five of the Florida tracks have committed to staying open until December 2020.

Political lobbying group

Amendment 13 was pushed by Grey2K USA Worldwide, a political lobbying group based in Arlington, Massachusetts, with support from the U.S. Humane Society, Wildey said. Grey2K does not support any of the pet groups, she said. It just lobbies.

The groups allege animal cruelty, which outraged Gartland, Wildey and Tom Taplin.

Taplin, who is president of the Greyhound Hall of Fame and a breeder himself, said the campaign was based on lies.

“They think we mistreat them,” he said. “They’re misinformed. The propaganda is overwhelming — the lies they tell.”

In one advertisement he saw, the dogs were wearing muzzles used overseas, not the white ones used on U.S. tracks.

“I find it very disheartening that people tend to believe rhetoric that doesn’t follow any line of common sense,” Wildey said.

Going to hurt Abilene

Amendment 13 is going to impact a lot of Abilene businesses and breeders.

Taplin said it will affect the Greyhound Hall of Fame “a lot.” The museum’s funding comes solely from the racetracks, he said. The two greyhound auctions a year are big fundraisers and the NGA also makes donations.

It will affect him personally, as well. He said he’s thinking about retirement, but his son who’s about 40, was going to take over.

Taplin was going to buy a new truck after the first of the year and was considering a new tractor. Those purchases are on hold, he said.

“We’re going to have to change gears,” Taplin said. “We’re going to have to supplement our income.”

Wildey said people raising greyhounds have tended to be quieter and stay in the background in the community, “but we may need more support now.”

Affects everybody

“It’s going to change our business,” said Brian Krenzin who has owned Greyhound Supply with his wife, Becky, for 15 years.

His business has already evolved, he said, and it’ll survive, although it may set them back a bit.

“Becky and I are concerned about our customers, people we’ve come to know over the past 15 years. They don’t get a chance to evolve. It’s devastating.”

It’s not just his business, though. The greyhound industry brings millions of dollars into Dickinson County every year, he said.

The hardware store, the convenience stores where farmers buy coffee and gas, restaurants, nearly every business in town will notice the difference, he said.

“Dickinson County is going to miss this industry,” Krenzin said.

Florida voters were reacting to misinformation and allowed to make significant decisions on things they don’t really understand, he said. People have become so far removed from their agricultural roots that they don’t really understand.

Dogs treated well

Gartland, Taplin and Wildey all said they were stunned by Amendment 13 passing by almost 70 percent.

Polls said it was going to be close and that maybe it would fail.

“Our greyhounds are treated better than household pets and are cared for as the great athletes they are,” Gartland wrote in a memo to NGA members four days before the vote and encouraging members not to let up on efforts to defeat the amendment.

Wildey said the Florida greyhound association was offering tours to the farms there and Grey2K went to court to stop them.

“If there’s nothing to worry about, why shut down the tours? she asked.

Wildey said most greyhound breeders in Dickinson County are second and third generation breeders.

“This is in our blood,” she said. “This is what we’ve done.

“Here in Abilene, most people know how we take care of our animals,” she said.

Support to defeat

More than 100 adoption groups supported defeating the amendment, as did the National Rifle Association and hunting and fishing organizations.

There’s such a shortage of pets, Wildey said, and this will make that worse.

Greyhounds make outstanding pets, Taplin said. Because of the way they’re raised, they are socialized to people and other animals and even come housebroken. They do need to run about once a week but other than that, they are easy to care for and affectionate.

Gartland and Wildey said even companion and service dogs may be included in the ban. More language was in the amendment than appeared on the ballot, they said, and that concerns them.

“I don’t think we’re done fighting, but we don’t know which direction the fight will take,” Wildey said.

Contact Jean Bowers at reporter2@abilene-rc.com.

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