Conflicting reports detail Sanford Orlando greyhound racing injuries

Investigation finds discrepancies in mandatory injury reports

LONGWOOD, Fla. – When a greyhound is hurt during a race at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, trainers and kennel operators are required to submit an injury report to Seminole County Animal Services under a new ordinance put in place last year.

Since May, the county has received 41 reports detailing greyhound injuries that include sprains, lacerations, leg fractures, and spinal injuries.

But records show that some of those mandatory reports contain conflicting information about the cause and severity of the racing dogs' injuries.

In one case, a trainer filled out paperwork indicating a greyhound was placed for adoption with "no injury." However, months later a second report was filed with Seminole County stating the same dog suffered a fractured leg.

In addition, a recent News 6 investigation revealed Seminole County had not received more than 100 additional reports that are required by the ordinance when greyhounds are placed for adoption or transferred to another racetrack after leaving the county.

Last week, Seminole County Animal Services sent warning letters to seven greyhound kennels demanding they turn in missing records by January 16 or face fines up to $50 per violation.

The Curious Case of Jt's Janisjoplin

A greyhound named after the late rock singer Janis Joplin ran the final race of her career on Oct. 4 at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, or SOKC.

Video posted on the website shows Jt's Janisjoplin crossing the finish line in sixth place.

Later that month, the greyhound's trainer filed a non-injury disposition report with Seminole County Animal Services indicating Jt's Janisjoplin had been placed for adoption.

In the comment section of the form, dated October 23, the dog's trainer wrote "no injury".

However, photos posted on the racing website show Jt's Janisjoplin wearing what looks like a cast or bandage on one of her hind legs.

"This appears to be a dog that suffered a broken leg," said Carey Theil co-founder of Grey2K USA, an organization trying to end greyhound racing. "This is irrefutable evidence that some injuries are not being reported."

In an attempt to find out what happened to Jt's Janisjoplin, News 6 contacted the greyhound adoption group that took custody of the dog after her racing career ended.

Carol Becker, the president of God's Greyts Greyhound Group said in an email that she was told Jt's Janisjoplin suffered a minor sprain a few days after her final race.

"The 'injury' was so slight that it wasn't really an injury in the typical sense of the word for a racing dog," Becker said. "Let's call it a 'boo-boo'.  At worst, it was a 'possible' injury.  And to be honest, I don't really think Janis even sprained her leg at all."

The trainer for Jt's Janisjoplin, Arthur Marcoux, said in a phone interview last month the greyhound was injured while playing in the "turnout pen" at a kennel located off-site from the racetrack.

"She was out there horsing around, being an idiot," Marcoux said. "It was just a sprain."

Under Seminole County's ordinance, trainers are only required to file an injury report if a dog is hurt during a race at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club.

"She was never injured on the track," insisted Marcoux, explaining why he wrote "no injury" on a non-injury disposition form.

In early December, News 6 contacted representatives with the greyhound racing industry for comment on this and other matters related to Seminole County's new ordinance.

On Jan. 8, Seminole County Animal Services received its monthly batch of disposition reports from the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club documenting injuries, adoptions, and dogs that left the racetrack over the previous month.

Included among the December records was a second report for Jt's Janisjoplin dated October 6, two days after her final race.

In that second report, track veterinarian Jerry Shrader indicated Jt's Janisjoplin suffered a fracture in one of her hind legs that required an estimated 6-8 weeks of recovery.

"The dog ran the race from start to finish at normal speed but was lame when it came off the track," Shrader said. "The race replay did not give any indication of the possible cause or location of the injury."

The veterinarian indicated the greyhound's injury was "a simple fracture of the central tarsal bone in the left hock with no displacement," according to the report.

News 6 has been unable to reach Shrader for comment on this story.  Voicemail messages left with Schrader and with SOKC general manager Mitch Cohen requesting to be put in contact with the track veterinarian were not returned.

Alastair "AJ" Grant, who owns the kennel where Jt's Janisjoplin was previously housed, acknowledged that the two conflicting reports might look bad to the public.

But he insisted the greyhound only suffered a minor sprain at his off-track facility.

"(The mandatory injury reports) are still a work in progress and there are going to be mistakes," Grant said.

Grant said the trainer would not have been required to file an injury report since Jt's Janisjoplin was not injured at the track.

However, Grant acknowledged that his employee, Marcoux, should have indicated that the dog sprained her leg.

"He should not have written 'no injury' on the report," Grant said.

After Jt's Janisjoplin sprained her leg, Grant said the greyhound was transported from his kennel back to the racetrack to see the veterinarian.

"(The vet) got confused," Grant said. "He assumed the dog must have run that day when she actually raced two days earlier."

Grant said he did not know why Shrader diagnosed the greyhound with a fractured leg on the injury report, nor was he aware of why that report was turned over to Seminole County three months after the incident occurred.

Theil, whose anti-racing organization helped with the citizen petition drive that led to Seminole County's new ordinance, said he's skeptical of Grant's account.

"The greyhound trainer lied to the county," said Theil.  "Why is it so difficult to follow a basic ordinance like this?"

What happened to AMF All For Her?

Seminole County Animal Services received an injury report in early December for a greyhound named AMF All For Her.

The report, dated Nov. 11, indicates the dog suffered an unidentified injury in her right hind leg requiring six months of recovery.

Greyhound AMF All for Her with an injury to her back leg.

The injury was caused by a "misstep," according to the report, which notes the greyhound "planted leg wrong after race".

One month later, Seminole County Animal Services received a second injury report for AMF All For Her, detailing the same November incident.

The newer report, signed on Dec. 7, specified that the dog's hind leg was fractured with a displaced central tarsal that needed only 8-10 weeks of recovery.

The more recent report indicated that the cause of the dog's injury was "unknown."

Besides conflicting details of the greyhound's injury and recovery, the two reports list different weather conditions on the day the incident occurred.

The owner of the kennel where AMF All For Her was previously house did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The Florida Greyhound Association, which represents dog owners, trainers and kennel operators, was unable to comment on the specific report discrepancies discovered by News 6.

"It appears that everyone is trying their best to comply with the local ordinance," said Jeff Kottkamp, a former lieutenant governor who serves as the trade group's attorney. "Since the ordinance is new to everyone it is not surprising that some mistakes have been made."

Kottkamp represents two greyhound owners who are suing Seminole County over the new ordinance.

They argue that local municipalities are legally prohibited from governing the greyhound racing industry, which is already regulated by the state.

"This (injury) reporting is not required by the State of Florida," said Kottkamp.  "It is not required anywhere else in the state.  It is one of the reasons we have challenged the ordinance.  it eliminates the uniformity of greyhound racing that is required by the state."

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.