From [email protected]
The Iditarod race is condemned by animal protection
groups and concerned animal lovers across the United States. Mushers
treat their dogs abominably. In the Iditarod, dogs are forced to run
1,150 miles over a grueling terrain in 9 to 14 days, which is the
approximate distance between Orlando and New York City. 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."
Please visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website
see pictures, and for more information. Be sure to read the quotes on
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. In
WinterDance: the Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, Gary Paulsen
describes witnessing an Iditarod musher brutally kicking a dog to death
during the race. He wrote, "All the time he was kicking the dog. Not
with the imprecision of anger, the kicks, not kicks to match his rage
but aimed, clinical vicious kicks. Kicks meant to hurt deeply, to cause
serious injury. Kicks meant to kill."
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.
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
Tom Classen, retired Air Force colonel and Alaskan
resident for over 40 years, tells us that the dogs are beaten into
"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
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).
Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA
Today, "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse.
Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight.
Skinning them to make mittens. Or dragging them to their death."
The race has led to the proliferation of
concentration-camp-like 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 and not in the animals' best interests. 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 has called for an end to the breeding
and culling (killing) of these dogs. Iditarod dogs are unhappy prisoners
with no chance of parole.
What you can do: Go to
http://www.helpsleddogs.org/help.htm and follow the links to
addresses where you can write to protest sponsorship of this cruel race.
These kind of educational letters are the only hope the Iditarod dogs
have. Please send all the letters you can.
Go on to Free
Return to 17 March 2002 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright