Caliente is owned by Jorge Hank Rhon, the controversial former major of Tijuana. Throughout his life Rhon has been plagued by scandal. He has been accused of having links to organized crime, being connected to the murder of an investigative reporter, and participating in the trade of illegal wildlife.
Agua Caliente races dogs that are bred in the U.S. and shipped across the border by American greyhound breeders. Julia Ward, the current President of the National Greyhound Association, is one of the largest owners of dogs currently racing at the Tijuana track.
Here are some of Charmaine's thoughts about what she saw:
"Caliente is a very large, modern facility which houses a casino and simulcasts of various sports, with dogs racing outside. Flamingos and white swans greet you when you approach the massive entrance and when you get inside, large paintings adorn the walls on your way to the casino."
"The kennels, which are within steps of the casino on the same property, are run down and neglected. This juxtaposition was striking, and unsettling. It continued to bother me long after I had left."
"If you walk out of the track and continue down a ramp to the left you begin to hear all the dogs barking and can see, through trees, a shantytown where the dogs live."
"The kennels looked terribly old, crumbling and dilapidated with some of the roofs looking like they were about to cave in. The kennels appeared to have no windows letting in any light or fresh air. With temperatures approaching a hundred degrees, I can't imagine how hot and miserable the poor dogs must be while they suffer in the confines of their cells."
"I asked questions, and was told that about eighty dogs were used for the matinee that day, and each dog races about three or four times per week."Sadly, the information Charmaine was provided about race frequency at Caliente appears to be accurate. According to an analysis by GREY2K USA Research Director Matt Read, greyhounds routinely race on little rest at the Mexico track. For example, a dog named Coach Hero has entered in a shocking 413 races since 2011. Nearly half of his races occurred after he received only a single day of rest, and nearly three-quarters of his racing starts occurred after he received two days or less. An examination of other dogs competing at the track shows that Coach Hero isn't the exception. When it comes to racing on little rest, he's the tragic rule.
Coach Hero also highlights the fact that Caliente is a place where American greyhound breeders dump dogs. Even though he's racing in Mexico, Coach Hero is owned by Greg Geter, a top recipient of state dog race subsidies in West Virginia.
|A photo Charmaine took of the Caliente kennel compound|
The American greyhound breeders who are sending dogs to race in Mexico, including NGA President Julia Ward, should be ashamed of themselves. The very existence of this low end track, where greyhounds are run into the ground, is another reminder that this cruel industry routinely places profits before animal welfare.