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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 26 March 2002 Issue

The Sled Dog Action Coalition
http://www.helpsleddogs.org:

For the past two years, the Sled Dog Action Coalition has repeatedly asked the Associated Press (AP) to include the animal protection viewpoint about the Iditarod in its articles about the race. While publishing stories with musher interviews, the AP in Alaska continues to ignore the animal protection perspective. It does not publish interviews of anyone who is opposed to the Iditarod.

On March 9, 10, 11, 2002, the AP in Alaska published the Iditarod's website address without giving the address of any website with the opposing view. On March 9, 2002 the AP wrote "Iditarod notes," which publicized flares that were donated to the Iditarod worth "$89.95" a piece. This article discussed 4 separate topics related to the Iditarod but made no mention of the animal protection point-of-view.  (Photo: If humans want to race, let them consent to race with each other.)

Please write to the Associated Press and ask it to end its one-sided reporting about the Iditarod. A sample letter for you to personalize and contact information are below:

Louis Boccardi, President and CEO
David Tomlin, Assistant to the President
Associated Press
50 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020
Fax: 212-621-5456
Email: lboccardi@ap.org, dtomlin@ap.org

Sample letter to personalize:

Dear Mr. Boccardi and Mr. Tomlin:

The Associated Press in Alaska is writing one-sided articles about the Iditarod dog sled race. In his March 5, 2002 article in the Miami Herald, Greg Cote said the Iditarod is "America's most controversial sporting event, if you'd call this ‘sporting' in any way." Unfortunately, the AP in Alaska writes as if no controversy existed. The Sled Dog Action Coalition has repeatedly asked the Associated Press to include the animal protection viewpoint about the Iditarod in its articles about the race. While publishing stories with musher interviews, the AP in Alaska continues to ignore the animal protection perspective. It does not publish interviews of anyone who is opposed to the Iditarod. This is not good journalism, and I am appalled that you have allowed this to continue.

On March 9, 10, 11, 2002, the AP in Alaska published the Iditarod's website address without giving the address of any website with the opposing view. On March 9, 2002 the AP also wrote "Iditarod notes," which publicized flares that were donated to the Iditarod worth "$89.95" a piece. This article discussed 4 separate topics related to the Iditarod but made no mention of the animal protection point-of-view. Please stop promoting this horrific race.

The Iditarod forces dogs to run 1,150 miles, which is the approximate distance between New York City and Orlando, over a grueling terrain in 9 to 14 days. Dog deaths and injuries are common in the race. USA Today sports columnist Jon Saraceno called the Iditarod "a travesty of grueling proportions" and "Ihurtadog." Fox sportscaster Jim Rome called it "I-killed-a-dog." Orlando Sentinel sports columnist George Diaz said the race is "a barbaric ritual" and "an illegal sweatshop for dogs." USA Today business columnist Bruce Horovitz said the race is a "public-relations minefield." The Iditarod is condemned by animal protection groups across the United States.

The Sled Dog Action Coalition (SDAC) educates America about the exploitation of sled dogs in Alaska's annual Iditarod dog sled race. The SDAC was profiled in USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/comment/saraceno/2001-03-05-saraceno.htm. To read quotes about the Iditarod, please visit the SDAC's website page http://www.helpsleddogs.org/remarks.htm. All of the material on the site is true and verifiable.       

At least 117 dogs have died in the Iditarod. There is no official count of dog deaths available for the race's early years. Causes of death have also included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury, heart failure, and pneumonia. "Sudden death" and "external myopathy," a fatal condition in which a dog's muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise, have also occurred. The 1976 Iditarod winner, Jerry Riley, was accused of striking his dog with a snow hook (a large, sharp and heavy metal claw). In 1996, one of Rick Swenson's dogs died while he mushed his team through waist-deep water and ice. The Iditarod Trail Committee banned both mushers from the race but later reinstated them. In many states these incidents would be considered animal cruelty, and the offenders would be subject to criminal prosecution.

In the 2001 Iditarod, a sick dog was sent to a prison to be cared for by inmates and received no veterinary care. He was chained up in the cold and died. Another dog died by suffocating on his own vomit.

Tom Classen, retired Air Force colonel and Alaskan resident for over 40 years, tells us that the dogs are beaten into submission:

"They've had the hell beaten out of them." "You don't just whisper into their ears, ‘OK, stand there until I tell you to run like the devil.' They understand one thing: a beating. These dogs are beaten into submission the same way elephants are trained for a circus. The mushers will deny it. And you know what? They are all lying." -USA Today, March 3, 2000 in Jon Saraceno's column

Beatings and whippings are common. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, "I heard one highly respected [sled dog] driver once state that "‘Alaskans like the kind of dog they can beat on.'" "Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective...A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective." "It is a common training device in use among dog mushers...A whip is a very humane training tool."

Mushers believe in "culling" or killing unwanted dogs, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged or clubbed to death. "On-going cruelty is the law of many dog lots. Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses....." wrote Alaskan Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper (March, 2000).

The race has led to the proliferation of horrific dog kennels in which the dogs are treated very cruelly. Many kennels have over 100 dogs and some have as many as 200. It is standard for the dogs to spend their entire lives outside tethered to metal chains that can be as short as four feet long. In 1997 the United States Department of Agriculture determined that the tethering of dogs was inhumane. The chaining of dogs as a primary means of enclosure is prohibited in all cases where federal law applies. A dog who is permanently tethered is forced to urinate and defecate where he sleeps, which conflicts with his natural instinct to eliminate away from his living area.  Because he is close to his own to his own fecal material, a dog can easily catch deadly parasitical diseases by stepping in or sniffing his own waste.

The Alaska SPCA opposes the Iditarod and has called for an end to the breeding and culling (killing) of these dogs. Iditarod dogs are unhappy prisoners with no chance of parole.

Please tell your readers the truth about the race.

Sincerely,

Return to Animals in Print 26 Mar 2002 Issue

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