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Kansas animal advocacy group stumping against potential return of greyhound racing

LEAWOOD, Kan. -- It's not illegal, but it's inactive.

An animal advocacy group from Johnson County wants to see greyhounds stay off Kansas racetracks. Others believe it's long overdue and could be possible under new state gambling laws.

Their stance is its basic cruelty to animals. The Leawood-based Humane Society Legislative Fund is keeping an eye on the 10 pieces of proposed legislation that would legalize sports wagering in Kansas.

Miranda Pratt, the nonprofit's operations manager, said her group is actively lobbying lawmakers to vote no on the Kansas Sports Wagering Act since, according to Pratt, the language in those bills have the potential to bring back parimutuel greyhound racing.

"It's a big deal," Pratt said Friday.

As of Friday afternoon, nearly 3,000 people showed they agree with Pratt, as seen in her group's online petition. Dog racing's critics claim the animals are fed poorly and forced to race against their will.

"Our ask is that our Kansas legislature recognizes that greyhound racing is a bad bet for Kansas, and it's been a bad bet for Kansas," Pratt said.

The Sunflower State hasn't seen live greyhound racing since 2008, when the Woodlands Race Course, which was based in KCK, closed its gates for good. At one point, it was one of three active greyhound racing facilities in the state.

Mike Taylor, a spokesperson for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, said if greyhound racing were to make a comeback, it wouldn't be permitted at the Woodlands, but live thoroughbred horse racing might be allowed, along with other potential forms of gaming.

"Kansans and people all over the United States don't want this to happen. They don't want to see it return," Pratt said.

Rachel Willis is a Topeka-based lobbyist who works on behalf of Pratt's group. She points out Florida's plan, which will eliminate greyhound racing altogether by the end of 2020.

"We have 30 other rescues and shelters across the state that support our position," Willis said. "It's a dying industry not only in Kansas but across the country. To us, it seems so reasonable."

FOX4 also spoke with Jim Gartland, executive director of the National Greyhound Association, which, coincidentally, is based in Abilene, Kansas. Gartland's group is hopeful the sport can return to prominence, and he maintains the animals are treated well.

"It's unfortunate that it isn't here in Kansas," Gartland said. "There's a ton of misinformation that's been put out there by the anti-greyhound racing groups. We have standards in place. These dogs are treated better than most pets are."

Pratt and Willis explained their group isn't opposed to legal gambling that doesn't include greyhounds. They agree it could be a moneymaker for Kansas, but it shouldn't involve animals being mistreated.

Pratt said the difference in thoroughbred horse racing and greyhound racing lies in the horse industry's higher standards for feeding, housing and retirement plans for each animal.

Those 10 bills associated with this will likely be discussed when the Kansas Statehouse meets again on May 1.

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