Dog racing in Arizona will be history before you know it.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation on Friday that will outlaw the practice by the end of the year.
But the Arizona Racing Commission has given Tucson Greyhound Park, the lone racing facility left in Arizona, permission to shut down as early as June 24 if it meets certain other conditions.
Amanda Jacinto, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Gaming, which now oversees horse and dog racing, said that means having a plan drafted and in place of what the facility plans to do with the dogs now there.
“The commission made it very clear to Tucson Greyhound Park that they must fiscally commit the dogs are cared for and fed until they leave the track,” she said. That can be through things like adopting them out or their owners taking them to another facility to race.
Jacinto said the commission will review the plan at its next meeting which she said will occur before June 24.
If it gives the final go-ahead, that will bring to an end racing at the South Tucson site that has been going on since 1944 when Arizona law allowed just 60 days of racing a year. That was increased over the years until 1982 when year-round racing became legal.
But the practice has come under increased criticism amid charges that the animals injure themselves in racing. There also has been the ongoing issue of what happens to the dogs that do not measure up.
“Greyhound racing isn’t a sport,” Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said during debate earlier this year, calling it “a cruel practice that’s like one step above dog fighting.”
The governor was enthusiastic about putting that all to a stop.
“Greyhound racing has run its course in Arizona,” he said in a prepared statement.
“It’s heartening that these beautiful greyhound will soon be off the track and in loving homes,” Ducey continued. “For any families looking to adopt a new canine companion this summer, I encourage you to consider one of these gentle and intelligent dogs.”
What finally is bringing dog racing to an end is an unusual financial deal.
State lawmakers paved the way for track owners to operate up to seven off-track betting sites where they could take wagers on horse and dog racing elsewhere. But that law requires the track to actually have live racing.
This deal allows Tucson Greyhound Park to keep its exclusive right to OTB in southern Arizona through 2018. That also means it will get payments of about $500,000 a year by Turf Paradise to carry its signal and take wagers on races at the Phoenix track.
Michael Racy, who lobbies for track owners, said that was enough of an offer to convince his clients to give up the racing, which led to the measure Ducey signed.