Cover Stories Summer/Fall 2005

Heatstroke Kills Tucson Racing Dogs on Haul to Juarez

Tucson, Arizona: Eight or more greyhounds died of heatstroke while in transport from Tucson Greyhound Park (TGP) to the racetrack in Juarez, Mexico. Kennel operator and trainer Jesse Burgess left the Tucson track at approximately 8:00 a.m. on Monday, June 20, with 35 greyhounds crammed into a 10-hole hauler meant to hold 20. After a five to six hour 350-mile drive and a delay of more than six hours at the border caused by a paperwork error, Burgess finally drove to a kennel near El Paso, arriving at 8:30 p.m. According to initial reports, six greyhounds were dead on arrival at the kennel and two more were dead the following morning.

During a June 22 interview in Tucson with state steward Eddie Rosano, Burgess, who has been in the dog racing business for 18 years, claimed he was unaware of the Arizona Department of Racing's (DOR) two-dog-per-crate [or hole] regulation, which went into effect in 1995. The transport regulation also requires that greyhounds in hauling vehicles must be walked and given water once every four hours. Burgess did neither.

Although the hauler was air-conditioned, Burgess admitted that one air-conditioning unit was insufficient for the number of dogs. The dogs had been confined in the hauler for more than 12 hours with outside temperatures above 100 degrees and were not given water until they were unloaded.

"I've never had anything like this happen," Burgess said. "The people at the kennel [track compound] who loaded the dogs should've known the rules," he said. Burgess, who claimed he did not load a single dog, said David Romo, TGP's Racing Secretary, and Aaron Larriva, the assistant racing secretary, and others, loaded the dogs.

Death Toll Rises
The death toll rose after the El Paso Times July 6 published information received from Jose Maria Guardia, the owner of the Juarez Racetrack, stating that ten greyhounds, not eight, died as a result of the lengthy confinement in the overheated hauler.

According to Guardia, the dogs were taken to the farm of Eddie Gauvin, located in Fabens, Texas, roughly 35 miles south of El Paso. Gauvin, a former greyhound trainer, discovered later that night that eight dogs were dead; two more died during the night. The surviving dogs were taken to Juarez after Guardia received the corrected pap-erwork from the Tucson track.

Burgess Hearings
The TGP Board of Steward's held a hearing for Burgess June 23 and summarily suspended his license for 60 days and fined him $500, the maximum penalty for rule violations. Mike Brimmer, DOR's chief state steward, said Burgess had failed to "provide adequate care of the greyhounds," but added there was "no malice or intent involved." After the stewards ruling, TGP permanently terminated its contract with Burgess. The case was referred to DOR Director Geoffrey Gonsher.

Burgess appeared before Gonsher at a director's hearing held Aug. 11 in Phoenix. In his four-page ruling, Gonsher stated, "The evidence clearly shows that from the overloading in Tucson to the deaths in Texas, no proper care was given to the greyhounds." Gonsher suspended Burgess' license for two years, followed by two years probation, and ordered him to perform 40 hours of animal-related community service before license reinstatement would be considered.

Industry Response
The National Greyhound Association (NGA) June 27 posted a press release on the American Greyhound Council's website "strongly advising our members not to ship any more greyhounds to Juarez until some important animal welfare concerns have been addressed." The NGA is expected to rescind its advisory after a new animal welfare plan at the Juarez track is fully developed and implemented. The plan is being prepared by Greyhound Pets of America, the industry's adoption program.

The Juarez issue has polarized the nationwide adoption community.The nation's oldest and largest advocacy and adoption groups vehemently oppose the shipment of graded-off greyhounds bred in the United States to a third-world country with no animal protection laws.

Epilogue
According to information obtained by the Greyhound Protection League (GPL), the following six greyhounds are known to have died on the Juarez haul: Ein's Kia, a black female born November 2002; Fashion Leader, a white and red male born February 2002; HC's Big Boy, a white tick brindle male born June 2002; Haileys Dancer, a brindle female born July 2001; Kid's Noname, a red brindle male born March 2002; and TF Hooked Up, a brindle female born August 2002.

GPL is tracking the greyhounds sent to Juarez. For information about the dogs, visit GPL's website at www.greyhounds.org and click on "Juarez Watch."

According to information GNN received from Tony Fasulo, newly appointed chief operating officer at Tucson Greyhound Park, there were 104 greyhounds at the Juarez Racetrack as of Sept. 12. Fasulo is also the director of racing at Juarez.

The DOR investigation is ongoing.

Sources: Arizona Daily Star: Becky Pallack, Alexis Huicochea; Tucson Citizen: David L. Teibel, Heidi Rowley;
El Paso Times: Louie Gillot;
KOLD-TV 13: Kaushal Patel;
KVOA-TV 4