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Pinellas greyhound kennel owner loses bid to be compensated for racing ban

Florida voters passed a ballot measure to stop greyhound racing in 2018. Attorneys for Christopher D’Arcy say he was entitled to compensation because the measure led to a taking of his property.

A Leon County circuit judge Friday rejected a lawsuit that alleged a 2018 voter-approved ballot measure banning greyhound racing in Florida resulted in an unconstitutional “taking” of property.

Judge Angela Dempsey issued a 12-page ruling that granted summary judgment to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation in the lawsuit filed in 2019 by Christopher D’Arcy, a Pinellas County greyhound-kennel owner that operates the Derby Lane track in St. Petersburg.

Florida voters passed the ballot measure to stop greyhound racing at pari-mutuel facilities. Attorneys for D’Arcy contended that he was entitled to compensation because the measure led to a taking of his property.

“The scope and impact of the regulation was so devastating to the plaintiffs’ (D’Arcy and the kennel’s) interest in their private property that they would have been better off financially if the state had taken actual physical possession of all the property and thus saved the plaintiffs the cost in caring for the animals until he was able to place them, also at additional cost, for adoption,” the plaintiffs’ attorney wrote in an October filing.

But Dempsey rejected the arguments, writing, in part, that the ballot measure only prohibited greyhound owners from using the dogs to race at Florida pari-mutuels.

“Here, plaintiffs retain virtually every stick in the bundle of property rights --- they can still race their dogs, they can still sell their dogs, they can still keep them as pets, and they can even race them in wagered races in other states where wagering on greyhound racing is allowed,” Dempsey wrote.

“The only thing they cannot do is race them in a wagered race in Florida. That is not a restriction so severe as to cause a taking.” Federal courts also have rejected a lawsuit filed by parts of the greyhound industry after the ballot measure passed.