Me and my Husky mix, Jett, whom I adore!
This race needs to be stopped – from the fab folks at PETA. – R. T.
Iditarod: Life off the trail also hellish for dogs
By Jeff Mackey
The 2013 Iditarod dogsled race is approaching, and it has been preceded by a string of canine deaths in other races, illustrating yet again why PETA works to stop this miserable “sport,” which can be grueling and even deadly for the animals forced to pull heavy loads over long distances at high speeds, often in extreme weather conditions.
But what you might not know is that the dogs used for pulling sleds live miserable lives off the trail, too. When they aren’t pulling heavy sleds, they’re often tethered by short chains to plastic doghouses or ramshackle sheds, living on small patches of dirt amid their own urine and feces. Chained dogs are at the mercy of the elements and susceptible to attacks by dangerous wildlife. Recently, for instance, a pack of chained dogs used for pulling sleds in Alaska was attacked by a musk ox.
Many dog-sledding operators shamelessly admit that, to them, dogs are little more than disposable “equipment” and are often denied adequate food, shelter, veterinary care, and even humane euthanasia. The following are just a few examples:
- In April 2010, 100 dogs had their throats slit or were shot when a sled operator no longer needed them.
- In 2009, 100 dogs were found emaciated, chained, and near death in Québec, Canada, and threedead dogs who had been used for sledding were found chained to stakes and frozen to the ground in Canada’s Northwest Territory.
- In April 2008, a Montana dog-sledding operator pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals after abandoning 33 chained dogs and allowing them to starve.
- In May 2006, authorities in British Columbia seized 51 emaciated, dehydrated, and sick dogs from a kennel that provided dogs for sledding.
- In 2005, Krabloonik Kennels in Colorado—the largest dog-sledding operation in the continental U.S.—generated a considerable public outcry when its manager admitted that dogs who didn’t “work out” were killed by a gunshot to the head and dumped into a waste pit. Krabloonik’s manager shrugged off the killings, saying, “[Culling dates] back hundreds of years. This is nothing new. … This is part of the circle of life for the dog-sled dog.”
What You Can Do
Like our adored animal companions, dogs used for pulling sleds are highly social pack animals who need to be part of a family, not treated like snowmobiles with fur. Please help them by sharing the above photo on Facebook and Twitter—especially with any friends or family members who might be inclined to support the cruel and deadly Iditarod.
After being forced to run an average of 100 miles a day for two weeks, many dogs will be suffering from conditions such as pneumonia, hypothermia, bruised and lacerated paws, upper respiratory infections, frostbite, inflamed wrists, and shoulder injuries. Nearly 150 dogs have died during the Iditarod since records started being kept, and that doesn’t include dogs who died after the race was over. Some dogs die of “sled dog myopathy”—literally being run to death.
Mushers Admit the Truth
Although they won’t call it what it is—cruel—even mushers admit that the dogs suffer. During last year’s race, top contender Hans Gatt reported that half his team was “sick and eating poorly,” likely because of upper respiratory infections. Four-time champion Lance Mackey said that he didn’t know what was wrong with his dogs but that he had watched his “world-class dog team falling apart before my very eyes.” Paul Gebhardt had to forfeit the race when his dogs couldn’t continue because of dehydration, cramps, and injuries. And Zoya DeNure had to perform mouth-to-snout resuscitation on one of her dogs, who had collapsed in his harness.
So why do mushers continue to subject their dogs to the abuse of the Iditarod? Because thousands of dollars in cash and prizes are at stake. But the good news is that the purse is dwindling as corporations withdraw their sponsorship after learning about the Iditarod’s cruelty. Last year, thanks largely to PETA, the Transportation Security Administration pulled the plug on its $85,000 donation, and Chevron and Cabela’s both called it quits prior to 2010’s race.
Please share this with friends and family who may not realize how much dogs suffer for the Iditarod.