Racing greyhound owners challenge Seminole ordinance

County says rules meant to protect dogs, not regulate gambling

By Mike DeForest - Investigative Reporter

SANFORD, Fla. - Two racing greyhound owners are asking a judge to invalidate a 2016 Seminole County ordinance that requires them to report injuries to their dogs, obtain licenses and notify the county's Animal Services division whenever the animals are transferred from the Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club outside the county.

Scott Bennett and Jimmy Goodman sued the county last year claiming county commissioners overstepped their legal authority by approving the ordinance, known as the Greyhound Protection Act.

"Frankly, I think they made a political decision," attorney Jeff Kottkamp told a circuit court judge Tuesday.  "Although this ordinance falls under the umbrella of animal welfare and animal cruelty, it's really a regulation of greyhound racing kennels."

Kottkamp, a former Florida lieutenant governor and state legislator who now represents Bennett and Goodman, is asking the court to find the ordinance in violation of state laws that give the state's Division of Pari-Mutual Wagering the authority to regulate greyhound racing.

"We have twelve greyhound racetracks in Florida, and now we have one county that has carved out this area and created its own regulation," said Kottkamp. 

Lawyers representing Seminole County, who are asking the court to dismiss the greyhound owners' lawsuit, argue that the state gives municipalities the authority to create ordinances that protect animals.

"The county has no designs on regulating the gambling function of the greyhound tracks," said attorney Thomas Wilkes.  "All cities and all counties can adopt ordinances that regulate animal control and animal cruelty.  That's been on the books since 1986."

Kottkamp contends that state regulators already oversee the welfare of racing greyhounds.

"(The regulations include) how often we clean their cages and how often we change their water to how often we disinfect the bowls that they use," said Kottkamp.

"(Greyhounds) are athletic animals. They're animals that are part of entertainment.  And they have special needs and special care. They're not just pets," said Wilkes. "So there was an entirely rational basis for Seminole County to adopt an ordinance regarding this."

Circuit Court Judge Michael Rudisill did not immediately rule on motions for summary judgment filed by both the greyhound owners and Seminole County.

In November, voters will be asked to approve an amendment to the state's constitution that would ban live greyhound racing throughout Florida. It needs a 60 percent approval to pass.

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