Greyhound racing may become illegal in Kansas

New legislation brings the debate back into focus.

“Well I love the dogs. They’re beautiful, sweet, mellow dogs. You’d think that they’re hyper because they do love to run, and that’s in their nature.”

As long as she can remember, Southeast Kansas resident Susan Horner has loved greyhounds.

“I design and create apparel with greyhound motifs on them,” said Horner, “and sell them to people who race greyhounds and adopt greyhounds.”

After all, she lives in right place.

“I used to live in Salina which was 20 miles west of Abilene, Kansas which is the home of the national greyhound association, and they’ve been a customer of mine for thirty years.”

Christine Dorchak is another lover of greyhounds.

“Kansas is the heart of dog racing, there’s simply no other way to put it,” she tells us. “It has the most dogs bred for racing anywhere in the country, it’s the home of the National Greyhound Association, and even hosts the NGA Greyhound Hall of Fame.”

Dogracing was legalized in 1986 under the Kansas Parimutuel Racing Act. Shortly after, three racetracks opened around the state, including Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac. By 1990, close to a quarter of a billion dollars was being bet on live greyhound racing in Kansas.

Bwhile the popularity of the sport grew, so did the concern for the well-being of the dogs.

In 2001, Dorchak co-founded GREY2K — an organization that has spent the past twenty years lobbying to make dog racing illegal in the United States.

Since then, tracks have closed around the country and dogracing is currently illegal in 41 states. In Kansas, awareness sparked a twenty-year downward trend in the amount spent on live greyhound racing — with all three tracks closing their doors by 2008.

“It was kind of being phased out in Kansas,” said Todd Allen, who works in government affairs for the Kansas Racing & Gaming Commission. “It was right around the time I was coming onboard the commission. It’s just been a long time since we’ve had racing in Kansas.”

While the live dogracing has stopped, the sport is still technically legal in the Sunflower State, and the state remains one of the breeding grounds for the greyhound world.

“When these things are happening, we get complaints all the time for people wanting us to step in and fix a situation,” reflects Jasmine Kyle of the Southeast Kansas Humane Society. “These dogs are highly linked with steroids and opioids because unfortunately cheating is a big part of the races and for the dogs to win races, they’ve been found with these in their systems because it builds muscle mass and will help them win a few more races.

“It’ll mean their death, but hey they got two more races out of it. It’s awful.”

Recently, two bills — Kansas State Senate Bill 262 and State House Bill 2199 — have been introduced within the last few weeks.

HB 2199 covers sports wagering in the state as a whole. Leaders from state chapters of the Humane Society testified virtually in front of members of the state house last week, concerned that the bill indirectly opens the door for the sport’s return.

“If they want to do sports wagering on football or at casinos, that’s their own business,” Kyle tells us. “The only reason us, other Kansas Humane Societies, and the United States Humane Society are getting involved is because we see the loopholes where greyhound racing could come back.”

Senate bill 262, introduced shortly after, directly addresses the possibility of the sport’s return. If passed, it would make racing greyhounds and any wagering on greyhound races illegal in the state of Kansas.

While there’s more that needs to happen for both bills, a vote on either could come in the next few weeks, and will be a pivotal moment for greyhound lovers on both sides of the conversation.

“I understand where people are coming from with those concerns,” Horner tells us, “but if they are really educated and they really see what’s happening I think they’d be less concerned.”

Kyle is equally passionate.

“It’s something we’re gonna fight for,” said Kyle. “There’s a reason for it. We’re gonna be the voice for these voiceless.”

“If racing does come back,” ponders Allen. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot of work to do.”

KOAM reached out to several state legislators, as well as the owner of Camptown Greyhound Park. We have not heard back from them.