ELOY — Late last year the state of Florida banned greyhound racing, which will eliminate 11 of the country's 17 dog tracks by December 2020.
Although Florida is far away from Arizona, the banning of greyhound racing could affect one prison in Eloy.
Saguaro Correctional Center started its greyhound rehabilitation program back in 2009. It originally involved four handlers and eight dogs and has since expanded to include eight dogs and 16 inmate handlers.
Since the program started, about 181 greyhounds have graduated from the program, in which the inmates teach the dogs simple commands.
Jody Brown, who runs Racing Home Greyhound Adoption, a nonprofit organization through which the dogs arrive at Saguaro, is concerned about the shortage of greyhounds.
"Unfortunately the Florida greyhound groups are afraid that they're not going to have dogs and they're keeping all of the dogs," Brown said. "They're not sending any of them across the country. We are currently on three waiting lists — one from Oklahoma, Kansas, and where we're getting most of our dogs from in Alabama."
Brown mentioned that she checks in with those groups every couple of weeks but that the response is always the same: "We don't have any dogs."
A shortage in greyhounds brings up the possibility that Saguaro could cut its rehabilitation program, but Brown is trying to make sure that does not happen.
"In an effort to keep this program going, we have gone back out to our previous adopters of prison dogs and non-prison dogs," Brown said. "If you have a prison dog that needs a little refresher course, give me a call and we'll bring the dog in. If you've adopted a dog that could use a little training, we'll put them in."
Getting the dogs to Arizona from Alabama costs $55 per dog.
"The hauler is not going to drive out here with four dogs so we have to take 30 dogs at a time," Brown said.
In addition to the cost of transporting the greyhounds, there is also the veterinarian cost for neutering, shots and dental checks.
Saguaro Correctional Center Warden Todd Thomas announced that the facility will donate $500 from its next food sale fundraiser to Racing Home Greyhound Adoption.
"It's a great program," Thomas said. "We've had no issues. We've had a couple of employees choose not to be around the program. We've also had a couple inmates we choose not to allow them around the program, but for the most part it's a win-win."