Despite housing more than 700 dogs, Tucson Greyhound Park hasn't licensed any of them in 60 years. County records show there are only three licensed greyhounds listed in South Tucson, where the track is located.
There is no record of the track ever being given an exemption from town and county license requirements, and no one seems to know why the park has been allowed to avoid paying licensing fees on its dogs for so long.
"The greyhounds have not historically been licensed," said Kim Janes, manager of Pima County Animal Care.
Animal Care has contracts to enforce the animal-control laws of every incorporated city and town in Pima County.
According to the city of South Tucson's animal ordinance, for every unaltered dog kept within the city for 30 consecutive days each year, owners must pay a $45 licensing fee.
Janes said he doesn't know why the park was exempt, and about a year ago his office started investigating the matter.
"We were looking into the whole issue of the new South Tucson code, ... and I said we need to revisit this issue of licensing, too," he said.
At first, his staff searched state statutes to see if any law was passed over the years allowing greyhound tracks to avoid paying the fee. That search came up empty.
"We checked them out and didn't find anything that indicated that greyhounds should not be licensed," Janes said.
So in May, the Pima Animal Care Center asked South Tucson if the municipality had granted any exemptions to Greyhound Park.
Janes said the South Tucson's City Attorney's Office contacted his office Thursday to confirm the ordinance that the greyhounds at the park should be licensed.
Janes planned to send Animal Care officers to the park this week to assess the situation.
"We are going to be talking to the track and say they need to have some information for us," he said. "When we come out, we will need to see rabies vaccinations and proof of when the dog got here. If (they) don't have proof, we are going to assume it has been here more than 30 days."
Tucson Greyhound Park CEO and General Manager Tom Taylor said the greyhounds don't need a license because the state requires every greyhound to receive a rabies vaccination before entering the state or being qualified to race. And since rabies vaccinations are the primary reason for licensing, any license at the track would be superfluous, Taylor said.
"Since 1944, we have never had to have them licensed," he said.
Taylor said the issue has come up before, but the county never did anything with it. He said that given the recent negative media coverage about the track in recent weeks, he is not surprised the county has decided to reconsider the licensing issue.
"The animal-rights activists have always been after us," he said. "And I guess the county liked the idea they would make money."
special tax credit for tracks
During the mid-1990s, dog- and horse-racing tracks saw their revenue plummet as the rise in Native American casinos and other factors cut into their profits. So the Legislature passed a law designed to give struggling tracks a helping hand and implemented a "hardship tax credit."
Since that time, Tucson Greyhound Park and other tracks have paid next to nothing in state taxes.
According to Arizona Department of Racing Director Bill Walsh, Turf Paradise is the only track in the state that's actually profitable enough to pay any taxes from year to year. The others' tax debt is covered by the tax credit.
Over the past five fiscal years, Tucson Greyhound Park took in around $17.5 million in track commissions and has received more than $1.6 million in tax credits.
But Tom Taylor, Tucson Greyhound Park CEO and general manager, said those numbers only represent the overall revenue the park received and don't account for the numerous expenses the park incurs throughout the year.
Taylor said the park's tax returns show losses the past five years.
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.