Tag Archives: Alaska

The Iditarod is truly March madness

Jett is half Siberian Husky and hates the snow! “Mush” is anathema to this little guy!

By Jennifer O’Connor

Running a marathon is a physically grueling feat — one that most of us don’t even attempt. For those who do and finish, it’s considered a remarkable accomplishment.

So try to imagine running four marathons in a single day, and throw in biting winds, treacherous terrain and freezing temperatures.

Then do it all over again for eight more days.

That’s exactly what the dogs used in the Iditarod are forced to do.

Since 1995, the top finishers have covered the approximately 1,000-mile course in nine days or fewer, including one mandatory 24-hour stop.

This means that dogs run more than 100 miles a day while pulling sleds weighing hundreds of pounds through some of the harshest weather conditions on the planet.

Temperatures have plummeted to 60 degrees below zero. Mushers revel in taking the credit for finishing the race, even though they ride, eat and sleep while the dogs burn 12,000 calories a day and do all the work.

Sports writer Jon Saraceno, who coined the term “Ihurtadog,” calls the race “frenzied lunacy.”

Although death records were not kept in the early days, we do know that 26 dogs used in the Iditarod have died just since 2004. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules says that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.”

The animals have been run over by snowmobiles or died of pneumonia after inhaling their own vomit.

Countless dogs suffer from diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers. In referring to the Iditarod, veterinarian Barbara Hodges said, “The race would violate animal cruelty laws … in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Of course, Alaska has no such law.”

Many dogs are routinely given antacids to try to prevent gastric ulcers. A veterinarian who studied the race’s effects on the animals found that exercise-induced stomach disease may affect 50 to 70 percent of the dogs who enter, a number significantly higher than is seen in non-racing dogs.

Dogs with ulcers typically show no symptoms until the condition becomes life-threatening and they start to bleed internally and vomit, which may cause them to choke and die.

Life off the trail is equally grim.

Most kennels keep dozens of dogs, who live on short chains with only overturned barrels or dilapidated doghouses for shelter, their world extending no farther than their 6-foot tether. And slow runners are doomed. As sports columnist Jeff Jacobs wrote, “The cruelty is in the vast distance. The cruelty is in some training techniques that would turn your stomach. This doesn’t begin to address some manuals that recommend killing dogs that don’t cut the mustard. They call it culling. Really, it’s murder.”  There’s no requirement to report how many dogs are “culled,” so the death toll is unknown.

Although organizers attempt to put a historic spin on the race, winning the Iditarod is all about bragging rights and the cash and truck awarded as prizes. Gambling with animals’ lives is ethically indefensible.

From bear-baiting to cockfighting, many activities once considered acceptable have since been condemned as we learn more about the suffering endured by all living beings when exploited for entertainment. Dogs deserve to be part of a family, not treated like snowmobiles with fur.

Go, President Obama, go!!!!

From The New York Times.  – R.T.

Obama Will Move to Protect Vast Arctic Habitat in Alaska


WASHINGTON — President Obama will ask Congress to increase environmental protections for millions of acres of pristine animal habitat in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, in a move that has already led to fierce opposition from the state’s Republican lawmakers.

The White House announced Sunday that Mr. Obama would ask Congress to designate 12 million of the refuge’s 19 million acres as wilderness. The wilderness designation is the strongest level of federal protection afforded to public lands, and would forbid a range of activity that includes drilling for oil and gas and construction of roads.

If the proposal is enacted, the area would be the largest wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act over 50 years ago. But the proposal seems unlikely to find support in Congress.

“Designating vast areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness reflects the significance this landscape holds for America and its wildlife,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Just like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of our nation’s crown jewels, and we have an obligation to preserve this spectacular place for generations to come.”

The White House proposal was first reported Sunday by The Washington Post.

The Arctic refuge is home to a vast and diverse array of wildlife, including caribou, polar bears, gray wolves and musk oxen. …

CLICK HERE to read entire story.

Dog sledding races: the suffering begins before the starting line

By Jennifer O’Connor

People everywhere were rightfully outraged by a recent report that 100 dogs were shot or had their throats cut when business waned at a British Columbia, Canada, sledding operation. But this was no isolated incident. Dogs who are used to pull sleds—including those in the upcoming Iditarod—routinely pay with their lives.

Dogs used in the Iditarod, its cousin the Yukon Quest or one of the commercial operations catering to tourists live and often die at the end of a chain. All over Alaska and Canada, dogs spend their nonworking hours tethered by short chains to metal barrels or ramshackle wooden boxes, living, eating and sleeping amid their own urine and feces. The hobbled-together “houses” offer little protection from the elements. Water buckets are frequently frozen or tipped over. The dogs are fed scraps and slop and may never see a veterinarian in their lifetime.

The Iditarod plays a big part in this cruel cycle. Countless dogs are bred every year in the quest to produce a “good” runner. Those deemed fast enough face a lifetime of toil in the harshest of conditions. Those found lacking are doomed. There have been many cases in which dogs have been abandoned and left to starve. Dead dogs have been found chained and frozen to the ground. Continue reading Dog sledding races: the suffering begins before the starting line

Racing dogs to death

By Jennifer O’Connor

People everywhere watched in awe recently as Olympic athletes skied for miles, skated for hours and performed amazing physical feats. But even gold medal winners wouldn’t be equal to what the dogs in the Iditarod will be forced to do in the next few weeks.

There’s nothing sporting about an event in which animals routinely die, as they do in the Iditarod. One dog has already collapsed and died from gastric ulcers during this year’s “Junior Iditarod,” a test run for young mushers. It’s time for this grueling race to be relegated to Alaska’s history books.

The Iditarod’s 1,150-mile course means that dogs run more than 100 miles a day for almost two weeks straight. They must pull heavy sleds through some of the worst weather conditions on the planet.

The dogs’ feet are torn apart by ice and rocks. Many dogs pull muscles, get stress fractures or suffer from diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers.

Mushers ride, eat and sleep while the dogs pull. One musher admitted to smoking pot. The official Iditarod rules only require that the dogs be provided a total of 40 hours of rest—even though the race can take up to two weeks. Many dogs don’t survive. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules says that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.” Continue reading Racing dogs to death