Activists go for wrong dog

I still remember decades ago lying in bed and fondly gazing at my first love’s black curls falling across my pillow.

And at her cold wet nose.

My miniature French poodle was a friend, playmate and guardian who would growl at anybody who dared raise a hand to me, including my mom.

Demitasse has long ago gone to that kennel in the sky. I never lost my love for dogs and I’m not alone.

Americans love just about any creature that can bark, meow, hiss, growl, chirp, swim, lick or snuggle. The Humane Society of the United States is channeling that love of animals into a potent political movement.

The animal rights group is everywhere this year.

“We have eight million members. We are harnessing them,” crows Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

Five years ago Pacelle helped create a political action committee called Humane USA PAC. This year they have really gotten rolling.

In Louisiana, the PAC has targeted for defeat a U.S. Senate candidate because he supports cockfighting. In Maine, the PAC is supporting a referendum forbidding bear baiting, the practice of luring bears with food, then shooting them.

The PAC has made more than 300 endorsements in next month’s election. Pacelle says they have activist campaigners in every congressional district.

Including Florida.

Political action by the Humane Society is not new to Florida. Two years ago the group was instrumental in passing a constitutional amendment banning the confinement of pregnant pigs. It got a lot of laughs and had little effect, since pig farming is not a big business in the Sunshine State.

This year, though, the Humane Society could have a big effect in the state.

The group is opposing Constitutional Amendment 4, which if passed would be the first step toward legalizing slot machines at jai-alai frontons and horse and dog tracks.

It’s the dog tracks that annoy the Humane Society. An estimated $500 million a year from the slot machines would be funneled into education, but a lot would also go into the pockets of dog track owners.

The Humane Society has long battled dog track owners, contending they abuse the very greyhounds that make them rich. Racing dogs that lose their speed are killed by the thousands after a life lived largely in tiny cages, according to the Humane Society.

“Animal rights activists are adding a major punch to the anti-gambling movement against this amendment,” Pacelle says.

That’s true. In this case, I have to break with the Humane Society and my furry friends.

I believe if Amendment 4 passed, slots would put another nail in dog racing’s coffin. Track customers would gravitate to the slots with their bigger payouts, leaving the dog racing languishing.

The Humane Society should work to put another constitutional amendment on the ballot that would better regulate the treatment of greyhounds without interfering with money for education.

Greyhound welfare is a great and worthy cause. So is $500 million more annually for schools that would come from passage of Amendment 4.

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