Autopsies have been ordered on 23 greyhounds that were found dead at the VictoryLand dog track and the state agriculture commission is investigating, officials said.

Five of the dogs were sent to a lab at Auburn University, and the other 18 were sent to Tuskegee University for autopsies Friday.

The cause of their deaths was believed to be a heating malfunction in one of the track's kennels.

"From first appearance, that appears to be the cause," Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said.

A phone message left for a VictoryLand spokeswoman was not immediately returned Monday.

The Greyhound Protection League is calling for an independent safety taskforce review of all Alabama kennel compounds following the deaths.

Susan Netboy, president of the Penn Valley, Ca.-based organization, said the deaths were an "avoidable man-made tragedy that has to be prevented in the future."

"Whatever the cause of death, the dead and injured dogs experienced prolonged suffering before there was any manner of human intervention," Netboy said in a statement.

"The 50 plus survivors need proper veterinary care and transportation to legitimate greyhound adoption organizations so that they can recover and live out their days in a loving home. We intend to make sure that the victims don't quietly disappear."