Anyone who hates dogs and children...

For good or bad it is not often that politics and animal news share the same page but in Florida this fall we find ourselves in just such a situation. Just as with children, society barely accords animals legal status and virtually discounts their political existence unless, that is, the child or animal serves a purpose. Such political hay-making is on the ballot this season in Florida, and it stinks.

Gambling interests are betting that the education issue will lure voters into providing them with a windfall in the form of slot machines. It's a crass political ploy by the gambling industry to convince Florida voters that they care about our children, such a ploy may succeed but the fact is these owners care no more about our kid's education than they do about the welfare of the animals they exploit. It's all about profits and nothing more.

Let's back-track a bit to understand where this all began. For years gambling has been on the ropes in Florida, dependent on tourism and coping with competition from posh resorts elsewhere dog racing and horse racing have been iffy propositions in Florida because Florida has never allowed the trappings of more organized casino entertainment, namely the slots and tables.

Florida's gambling industry has repeatedly attempted to open the door, so to speak, by seeking permission from the legislature to place slot machines on their premises presumably to be followed in short order with tables, high-rollers, headliners and, well, you can see where this is going. Florida voters have always rebuffed the attempt. Frustrated and contemptuous of the electorate, owners have once again put the issue to vote in the form of Amendment 4.

Amendment 4 would allow dog tracks and horse tracks as well as jai alai venues in just two counties: Miami-Dade and Broward to install slot machines. The slots will increase traffic to the tracks, greatly enhancing the owners' profits and oh, by the way, in return the state would have the opportunity, though not the assurance that it could tax said slots directing the revenue toward Florida's impoverished educational system. The amendment is supported by "Floridians for a Level Playing Field" a group backed by the race track and jai alai industry has raised $13-million to support amendment 4 on the November ballot.

The problem is this, casino owners and dog and horse track owners are not generally fond of sharing revenue with anyone unless it's their lobbyists. It was the owners who proposed amendment 4 and it is their lobbyists who have worked to get it on the ballot and who have raised that much money from concerned citizens desperate to fund the school system. Most State Legislators agree that those same industry lobbyists will fight tooth and nail to resist the tax.

Where in all of this human free-for-all you might ask does the question of animal welfare come into play; exactly nowhere comes the answer and that is precisely the point. Dogs, racing to amuse the public and horses the same are not considered anything more than property by their owners and the gambling public. Because they know how unpopular that attitude is with most Americans, how outside the mainstream they are they concoct a scheme to make it appear as though gambling and animal abuse are acceptable as long as it serves the greater purpose; in this case schools but it could just as easily have been disaster relief or money raised through taxes to build more roads. In fact taxes are just that, taxes, once in the hands of the legislature taxes become revenue funds that can be spent on anything. There are no guarantees.

Florida, don't be fooled by the high sounding proclamations of the gambling industry that amendment 4 helps education, it helps the gambling industry - for them it's another free ride and the animals pay the price.

If parents want to improve education for their children then perhaps educating them that gambling and animal abuse are not in the best interests of society would be a better bet.

For more information on greyhound racing in the United States visit
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