Cover Stories Summer/Fall 2005

Animal Cruelty Task Force Seizes 76 Greyhounds from Decrepit Tucson Kennel
100 Greyhounds Found on Kennel Property

Tucson, Arizona: Member agencies of the Animal Cruelty Taskforce (ACT) of Southern Arizona raided a kennel facility on Monday July 11, seizing 76 racing greyhounds found in deplorable condition. Many of the dogs were suffering from severe hair loss, mange, flea and tick infestation and possible internal parasites, said representatives of Pima Animal Care Center (PACC), the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA). The flea infestation was so severe that officers with PACC donned full-body biohazard suits to enter the three-building compound.

According to HSSA's press release dated July 13, investigators stated the kennel reeked of ammonia due to urine-soaked surfaces. Many parts of the ceiling were falling in and water leaking from the evaporative coolers had stained the ceiling and walls and had pooled around the doorways and on the dirt floor. The animals were con-fined in warped wooden cages measuring approximately three feet tall by four feet wide. No water was available for the dogs, who were found lying on bare ground or soiled pieces of carpeting.

Numerous citizen complaints to ACT about conditions at the kennel prompted the raid. "We had an investigator come out and evaluate the situation," said Mark Soto, PACC Enforcement Operations Supervisor. "Based on his information, we decided the best option at this point would be to impound the majority of the dogs." HSSA activated its animal rescue response team to assist with transporting the dogs to PACC.

Approximately 100 greyhounds were found at the kennel owned by Johnny Rippetoe, located in the 3700 block of East Alvord Road. Thirteen dogs found in one of the buildings were in good condition and were allowed to remain on the property. Eleven greyhounds were identified as active racing dogs and were placed under the care of Dr. Andrew Carlton, the Arizona Department of Racing (DOR) state veterinarian for Tucson Greyhound Park (TGP), who had been called to the scene.

Pima County detectives said Rippetoe denied owning the dogs on his property. In a follow-up article in the Arizona Daily Star published July 24, Rippetoe's attorney, Robin Carter, said that Rippetoe had leased the kennels to Tucson Greyhound Park and that officials were ultimately responsible for the care of the dogs. Track officials declined to speak with the Star, but in a press release posted on the American Greyhound Council website, Tony Fasulo, the newly appointed chief operating officer for TGP, said that while the track leased the kennel space, officials denied any responsibility in caring for the dogs.

Medical Evaluations

Veterinarian Bonnie Lilley, manager of PACC, began evaluating the dogs the following morning at 6:00 a.m., ending the process 12 hours later. Lilley found evidence of possible urinary track ailments, kennel cough and blood diseases in some of the dogs. Although PACC had requested vaccination records on the greyhounds from a TGP state steward and a DOR investigator, the records were never received. Soto told GNN he doubted the records existed. A random check of approximately one-third of the ear tattoo numbers recorded on PACC's intake forms could not be found on greyhound-data.com, a greyhound identification website with an enormous worldwide database.

Within days of their arrival at PACC, two greyhounds were mauled after other racing dogs in the same kennel run managed to pull off their muzzles and attacked them. Despite efforts to save the dogs, their injuries were too severe. Both greyhounds were euthanized.

A preliminary analysis of the dogs' medical information recorded by PACC and obtained by GNN under the Arizona Public Records Act, revealed that 31 greyhounds were "very thin," qualified on some of the records by notations such as "not racing lean" and "bones sticking out." Fourteen dogs were coughing, four dogs were lame and one dog had blood in his urine. Other injuries included sores found on 21 dogs and puncture wounds and cuts on eight dogs.

Greyhound #275451.  PACC Medical Record:  Black male seizures; very thin; lame rear leg; swollen erythemic scrotum; hair loss; severe puncture on jugular; numerous sores on chest and shoulders.  click here or on photo to view  full size image

Erythema, a generalized term referring to a reddened skin condition, was noted on the medical records of 47 greyhounds. Erythema can be caused by fleas (flea bite dermatitis), prolonged contact with urine soaked bedding, or certain infections, such as Brucellosis. Hair loss on the faces and ears of many of the dogs also was noted, which could have been caused by sarcoptic mange caused by mites. Photographic evidence indicates some of the dogs likely suffered from mange.

Greyhound #275414.  PACC Medical Record:  White brindle male very thin; generalized hair loss with erythema (inflamed reddened skin); ticks. click here or on photo to view  full size image

Two local adoption groups, the Greyhound Adoption League and Arizona Greyhound Rescue, began receiving the rehabilitated greyhounds over the course of an eight-week period, ending Sept. 6 when the last greyhound was released from PACC. Both groups were required to sign a contract with PACC agreeing to provide the final destination of each dog.

Rippetoe Kennel: Background
The kennel compound has been the subject of numerous news articles for more than a decade. In an article published by the Tucson Citizen Nov. 13, 1992, frustrated area residents complained that the stench emanating from the buildings was not only nauseating but a health hazard as well. Despite numerous complaints to local and state agencies, including the racing department, nothing was ever done to bring the buildings up to basic standards.

On Sept. 3, 1996, the Tucson Citizen ran a front-page article about the rescue of a "starved, wounded, vermin-infested greyhound" found abandoned in South Tucson. Little Bit, who was rescued from animal control by Arizona Greyhound Rescue and GNN, was traced to the Rippetoe kennel compound.

The negligence case prompted four groups - Arizona Greyhound Rescue, Tucson Humane Society, Greyhound Network News and the California-based Greyhound Protection League - to file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General's Office Sept. 3, 1996 requesting the agency to launch an investigation into the racing department's failure to adequately enforce the rules and regulations "as they apply to the kennel compounds which house racing greyhounds used by Tucson Greyhound Park." No formal action was taken as a result of the complaint.

The Rippetoe Kennel compound has been the primary holding kennel for greyhounds racing at TGP for more than a decade.


Sources: Arizona Daily Star: Kimberly Matas;
Tucson Citizen: Heidi Rowley, Dan Sorenson (1992), Carla McClain (1996); Associated Press; KVOA-4 News; KOLD-TV 13