In October, state inspectors at Tucson Greyhound Park discovered a little problem.
It seems that Kennel No. 1, recently home to 58 dogs, was a filthy mess. A smattering of dog diarrhea—affectionately known as "blowout" in the business—covered one wall. A bucket of putrid water sat next to cages. Dog crap was abundant.
Or to quote the Arizona Department of Racing Report, inspectors found:
• Black water in a bucket with a foul odor.
• Filth-splattered walls.
• Urine, blood and fecal stains on floors and walls.
• Spoiled food on the floor.
• Dog fur and other debris in the dog crates.
• Filthy conditions in the concrete area next to the dog-turnout pens.
Then came the fleas. Oh, the fleas. For inspector Tommy Sanchez, it was a skin-crawling experience. "On approximately 10/4/08, TGP had the kennel bombed for fleas and ticks," his report began.
Four days later, he entered the building with a veterinarian, and they "conducted an inspection of the kennel, and no follow-up had been done. There were thousands of dead fleas on the floor, filthy carpets still in the crates, filthy crates, urine stains, feces (blowout) on walls."
They fetched a camera and returned "to take pictures of the filthy conditions," Sanchez continues. "When we arrived to the rear of the kennel, our shoes and pants were completely covered in fleas up to our knees, and they were still climbing.
"We quickly exited the kennel," he writes, "closed the door and worked desperately at removing the fleas from our clothing."
But they weren't quick enough. The infestation had so festered that fleas eventually appeared in the ADR's onsite offices, as well as those of track administrators.
On Oct. 8, 2008, itchy officials gave Tucson Greyhound Park 24 hours to clean things up, and track manager Tom Taylor assured them that another exterminator was on the way. But on Oct. 10, janitors were still unable to enter the kennel because of fleas, and Taylor told state officials that the kennel would be cleaned a day later. Fleas apparently kept that cleaning crew at bay; a follow-up inspection on Oct. 16 revealed continuing filthy and infested conditions.
Finally, by Oct. 31—nearly three weeks after he was first notified—Taylor had the kennel spiffed up and the fleas eradicated.
Today, he has plenty of explanations for how this kennel at his park became so nasty. For one, he says, the kennel operator, a Mr. Randy Jordan, found himself low on cash. So the two men came to a mutual agreement that Jordan would vacate.
However, according to the state report, "Trainer Randy Jordan ... was removed from the kennel due to numerous violations."
Taylor disputes that, saying, "Randy closed his kennel down; we took all the dogs and moved them out to different kennels. ... Randy went out of business. It was not due to any violations."
But actually, says ADR Director Luis Marquez, Jordan's record includes a batch of violations. They included greyhounds weighing more than their officially registered weight—which could skew betting odds. There were also "drug violations on animals that he was racing," Marquez says, which garnered the trainer a $250 fine.
So with Jordan gone, what happened next was apparently a lot of nothing. Or perhaps more of the same: Taylor contends that "the kennel operator ... moved out of that building, and we didn't go in there and clean it for two weeks. And the state went in and saw those conditions."
Marquez offers a slightly different take. "A situation like that," he says, "does not occur within two weeks."
According to Taylor, however, the dog quarters are normally spotless. "I mean, they clean those kennels three times a day," he says, adding that they're also routinely inspected. "The state does it twice a month, and we do it twice a month."
But Marquez says the department beefed up its monitoring to twice-monthly visits because of conditions exposed at Kennel No. 1. Before that, the track was inspected only periodically. "At the time that we discovered this, we had to make changes in how we were doing inspections," he says. "We did some cross-training between our investigative-division inspector and our veterinarians so that they would be consistent. We also rotate now, so it's not (always) the same person doing the inspection."
With Tucson Greyhound Park now under heightened scrutiny, the ADR obviously hopes to avoid repeating the misery of Kennel No. 1. To Taylor, though, it all remains just a wild aberration. "Most of our kennels back there are extremely clean," he says. "I could eat off their floor."
But we'll have to take his word on that; he refused to let me visit to witness conditions firsthand. "It wouldn't be possible," he says, "and there would be no physical reason for you to do that."
Taylor's excuses—particularly laying the blame for conditions on kennel-renters such as Jordan—simply don't wash with Carey Theil. She's executive director of GREY2K USA, a group opposed to greyhound racing. "There were multiple inspections of this particular kennel that indicated major problems," Theil says. "The photographic evidence clearly shows severe flea infestations (and) feces on the wall. That the situation was allowed to continue for at least two weeks is deeply troubling."
Nor does she buy Taylor's argument for keeping the public—and me—from viewing his kennels. "I think that Mr. Taylor does not want to you to see conditions in the kennel compound," Theil says. "He certainly gives access to track-sponsored adoption programs when he wants to."
Nor does it make her rest any better knowing that Kennel No. 1 was empty when the state intervened.
"Look, regardless of the employment issue (with Jordan), there is no excuse for these types of conditions," she says. "It is Mr. Taylor's obligation to ensure that the kennels at Tucson Greyhound Park are not filthy and infested with fleas. This is just basic sanitation, and the buck stops with him."