IN THE NEWS: On JUL 21, 2018
Macau authorities have taken in more than 500 greyhounds abandoned following the closure of Asia's only legal dog-racing track.
The former Portuguese territory has been the only place in China where dog racing is legal.
However, betting on dog races at Macau's Canidrome — a tradition of more than 50 years — soured after animal rights groups accused the stadium of mistreating the dogs and euthanizing ones that underperformed on the track.
It was ordered closed on Saturday.
The Macau government said that the Canidrome faces legal measures under the Animal Protection Act for failing to move the dogs from their shuttered premises.
Authorities found 533 greyhounds on the company's property, including a dozen suffering from skin disease and other conditions, and are now making arrangements for their care.
The move comes after a long saga between government officials in the Chinese territory, animal rights activists, and one of the enclave's most well-known businesswomen, Angela Leong, the fourth wife of billionaire gaming magnate Stanley Ho.
Ms Leong, a long-standing Macau legislator and executive director of Yat Yuen, the company that operated Macau's Canidrome Club, has been criticised by animal rights groups such as Macau-based Anima.
But Yat Yuen has repeatedly rejected cruelty claims and declined requests for comment.
The Macau government said late on Thursday that Yat Yuen had failed to provide a responsible solution for the dogs despite knowing since early 2016 that the company's lease would expire.
"Yat Yuen has been delaying the handling and placement of the greyhound dogs. The care of the dogs has been in an uncertain state, causing public anxiety and social problems," the government said in a statement on its website.
Macau ordered the Canidrome to move out of the downtown area last year amid urban redevelopment efforts.
The demise of the stadium, which saw massive crowds at its peak in the 1960s, comes as China seeks to cut Macau's dependence on the high-rollers who helped propel the city's transformation from a seedy backwater into a global gambling powerhouse.
The city is now shifting its focus toward middle-class Asian tourists.
Ms Leong did not comment immediately following the closure Saturday.
Animal rights activists have expressed concern about the fate of the race dogs, most of which were bred in Australia.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, urged Macau to give custody of the greyhounds to local animal protection groups that will put them up for adoption.