Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

The end of the race – Florida shelter for retired greyhounds closes

Greyhounds are walked to the starting line before a race at Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach in 2020. (John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With all of the Fidos in forever homes, Hollydogs Greyhound Adoption, the nonprofit organization created in 1995 to save South Florida’s retired racers, has closed its doors.

The Bonita Springs shelter made the announcement on its Facebook page.

“Back in the early 90s, we made a promise to all those greyhounds that had no place to go,” the statement read. “We promised that we will make it our mission to rescue and find homes for as many dogs as we could… till there were none left. And so we did, today after 27 years of greyhound rescue. … It seems like a dream, but it is a bitter sweet dream.”

Silvana Rizzi-Cortella, founder of Hollydogs Greyhound Adoption, said the shelter will stay open to continue to assist dogs that need rehoming, but the greyhound kennel is officially closed. She said the shelter has saved “thousands” of retired racers over the years. She declined further comment Sunday.

Greyhounds had been running for profit in Florida since the early 1930s. Hialeah Park opened as a greyhound racing track operated by the Miami Kennel Club in the 1920s, even before dog betting was legal.

But in November 2018, the public no longer had the appetite to watch dogs run. An overwhelming 69% of voters cast ballots in favor of Amendment 13, which banned greyhound racing by the last day of 2020.

In 2019, Florida, which was the first state to legalize dog racing, was still home to 11 of the nation’s 17 remaining greyhound tracks, according to The Miami New Times. Some of the tracks over the years included the Mardi Gras Racetrack in Hallandale Beach, Magic City Casino in Miami, the Palm Beach Kennel Club and Biscayne Greyhound Park, which attracted scores of visitors.

Bob Levy, a former Plantation councilman and former Pembroke Park city manager, adopted 10 greyhounds over the years from Hollydogs Greyhound Adoption. “They are 45 mph couch potatoes,” he said. “As soon as they learn what a couch is, forget it, your couch will never be the same.

“They’ve been working their whole lives,” he said, and finally ready for some relaxation.

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