TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Following an administrative order last week that invalidated drug testing procedures, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation has enacted an emergency rule that allows the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to continue testing racing greyhounds for illegal substances.
On Dec. 22, Judge Lawrence Stevenson issued a partial summary final order in a case involving two racing greyhound trainers, whose Florida licenses were suspended earlier this year after numerous greyhounds they were training tested positive for cocaine metabolites.
Due to the alleged unlawful use of a veterinary manual to train employees on routine drug testing, Judge Stevenson ruled in favor of the trainers. His order effectively invalidated all Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) drug testing procedures as they relate to racing greyhounds.
"In violation of...Florida Statutes, [DBPR] has continued to rely on Section 3 of the 2010 Greyhound Veterinary Assistant Procedures Manual, even after being ordered to cease all reliance on [it]," Stevenson's order reads. "Agency action taken in reliance on [Section 3 of the manual after 2015] is invalid."
The invalidation of DBPR urine sampling and testing protocols left a substantial gap in quality control measures designed to keep the controversial dog racing industry as fair and safe as possible.
The animal activist group Grey2KUSA called the judge's decision a “disastrous ruling that undermines welfare and the integrity of the bets at these facilities.”
“This was the only thing that protects the health and welfare of greyhounds and for this to be stripped away from the industry is disappointing… and needs to be fixed,” said Cary Theil, executive director for Grey2KUSA.
On Wednesday, the DBPR stepped up and enacted a stopgap, emergency rule to prevent any exploitation of the now defunct drug testing protocols and procedures. The emergency rule was deemed necessary by the DBPR, citing an “immediate danger to the public health, safety and welfare.”
“In light of the partial summary final order, an emergency rule is necessary because the Division would be unable to test for many prohibited substances in greyhounds and be unable to take subsequent administrative action in cases where a prohibited substance is found in such an animal,” the DBPR said in an emergency rule notice published Friday.
The emergency rule adds language – regarding the collecting, sealing, storing and shipping of urine samples – to the current rule as stated in Florida Administrative Code 61D-6.005. Samples will continue to be tested by the laboratory that is under contract with the DBPR's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
Due to the “number of performances scheduled in the immediate future,” the DBPR reasoned that the emergency rule put in place on Wednesday was fair. It's unclear whether the department will conduct regular rulemaking to further amend current sample testing rules as they pertain to greyhounds.
The emergency rule notice states that “although the Division rejects the legal finding in the partial summary final order, the emergency rule is necessary so that the Division can insure the greyhound races that occur during the pendency of any legal challenges occur under safe conditions.”
The DBPR also challenged the Division of Administrative Hearings' decision on Wednesday, filing a motion for reconsideration of the partial summary final order issued last week.
Charles Dewrell, deputy chief attorney for the DBPR, argues that any similarities between the protocols and procedures outlined in the 2010 manual and those used by the division in drug testing are purely coincidental, “given that there are only a limited number of methods by which to collect and test greyhound urine.”
Despite admission that the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering continues to follow protocols outlined in Section 3 of the 2010 manual, the motion claims the DBPR was prepared to present live witness testimony from the division's chief operations officer which states otherwise.
“Put simply, the Division was denied the opportunity to present factual evidence showing that all the procedures in the 2010 Manual are not being followed,” the motion reads, “that the Division has not made a statement that the procedures in the 2010 manual have to be followed.”
The Division of Administrative Hearing has yet to respond to the DBPR's motion for reconsideration.