When Idaho banned dog racing in 1996 amid concerns over reported abuse of greyhounds at a North Idaho dog track, the law was firm and far-reaching: It made dog racing a felony.
But now, other non-gambling dog racing events are raising questions about whether the law went too far, including a dachshund race dubbed “Rick and Carly’s Arena-Wiena Cross” and an exhibition dog race that several county fairs are interested in booking next summer.
On Monday, Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, introduced legislation to create an exception from the dog-racing ban specifically for the proposed event at several county fairs in southern Idaho. It would exempt “exhibition-style live dog races conducted at county fairs and upon which no pari-mutuel betting occurs.” The House State Affairs Committee agreed to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a full hearing.
Kauffman, a third-term lawmaker, said his local county fair manager brought the issue to him, after visiting a Las Vegas trade show where a fair attraction called the “Fido 500 Mini Dog Races” was among the exhibitors.
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The attraction, which travels to county fairs that book it, races small rescue dogs, and includes educational information about each breed and its origin and encouragement for viewers to consider adopting a dog from their local pound. After each race, spectators get to meet and pet the dogs at a “Puppy Party Playpen.”
There’s no betting; the dogs race three at a time for gold, silver or bronze medals, ensuring that they all win a medal.
“There are four or five fairs in our area that would like to have this guy come,” Kauffman said. Under current Idaho law, “You can race pigs, ducks or turtles at the fair, but you can’t have these little dog races.”
The proposed “Arena-Wiena Cross” race, sponsored by a radio station, was canceled to avoid committing a felony. Kauffman said he didn’t know about the wiener-dog race brouhaha until after he proposed his bill.
Idaho specifically legalized dog racing in 1987 to allow the opening of the Coeur d’Alene Greyhound Park in Post Falls, now called the Greyhound Park Event Center. Live racing took place there from 1988 to 1995, when the park ended the live greyhound races after announcing it had lost $21 million on the operation.
In 1996, Idaho banned dog racing. Then-Gov. Phil Batt, a dog lover who held his own poodle-Schnauzer mix, Sniffer, on his lap as he signed the bill, said, “Dog racing depends upon selecting a few highly competitive dogs out of a large group. Those that can’t compete are doomed to either be adopted or destroyed. It hardly seems worth it to me to go through that process of breeding and killing the ones that can’t compete, just to have the sport. It’s not a good thing to do.”
Kauffman said he has no desire to bring back commercial dog racing to the state.