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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 24 March 2005 Issue

CNN's Iditarod coverage is heavily weighted toward promoting the Iditarod.

CNN's Iditarod coverage is heavily weighted toward promoting the Iditarod. In the transcript from Paula Zahn Now, copied below, you'll see that many people spoke in favor of the race. Jo Sullivan from the ASPCA was quoted as saying she has concerns but does not condemn the Iditarod. Zahn didn't interview anyone who knew about the cruelties.

CNN's Science & Space web page has a gallery of Iditarod photos, an interactive race route, and a demonstration of a musher being outfitted. The web page gives the animal protection viewpoint last, with more far more space devoted to race hype.

Please educate the ASPCA about the cruetlies of the Iditarod and tell CNN to stop promoting the race.

EMAIL Paula Zahn: [email protected]

EMAIL ASPCA: [email protected]
,  [email protected]


Transcript of Paula Zahn's Show
ZAHN: Alaska's Iditarod dogsled race is heading into the homestretch today. Sixty-eight teams are still in the 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, battling the Alaskan winter and rugged wilderness.

The leadersZAHN: Alaska's Iditarod dogsled race is heading into the homestretch today. Sixty-eight teams are still in the 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, battling the Alaskan winter and rugged wilderness.

The leaders are about 120 miles from the finish line. And they wouldn't have made it this far if it weren't for some incredible athletes.


ZAHN (voice-over): They are the real competitors of the Iditarod, the four legged ones that cover 100 miles a day across some of Alaska's toughest, most brutal terrain. The race certainly takes a toll on humans. But in this marathon, it is the dogs that will ultimately win or lose.

TYRELL SEAVEY, IDITAROD MUSHER: A good dog has to have anything. There's far more to it than the strength and stamina. There's heart and the spirit of the dog.

ZAHN: Tyrell Seavey is only 20 years old but is already racing his second Iditarod. He and his team of huskies have spent a year of tough training getting ready for it. SEAVEY: It went the equivalent this winter on a dogsled from Anchorage, Alaska to Georgia, the driving distance. And this was this winter alone on a dogsled. That's enough time to bond with anything.

ZAHN: These sled racing dogs are especially bred Alaskan huskies. They're built run and to pull. But surprisingly, they're also known for their sweet dispositions, vital in keeping a team together through the harshest conditions.

SEAVEY: There's more things than I can ever list: wind, snow, rain, whatever you can run into, Moose. They're telling us we're going to get stomped this year.

ZAHN: The 16 dogs in a team will play different roles. Those up front are the lead dogs. They're the fearless take charge kind. The dogs behind them are called the swing dogs. They turn the sleds left and right.

To get through the nine-day to two-week race, these dogs eat an astounding 10,000 calories a day. Eight times as much, pound for pound, as a Tour de France cyclist.

SCDORIS: This is Angel. She's 4-years-old.

ZAHN: For first time Iditarod musher Rachel Scdoris, who is legally blind, her dogs aren't just her muscle; they are her eyes. Rachael relies on her 7-year-old dog, Duchess, to lead the team.

SCDORIS: I can just, you know, look at her a certain way or make a certain whistle and she's -- she just goes and does whatever it is I want her to do. I don't know how. She doesn't speak English.

ZAHN: Out on the trail, Rachael makes sure her dogs stay healthy.

SCDORIS: Well, I do a lot out there whenever we stop and check their muscles, you know, do -- do a little range of motion, see how well they can stretch, see if anything bothers them. And I'll check their feet, you know, look between their toes for web splits.

ZAHN: Dog hair is a big part of the Iditarod.

DR. STUART NELSON, IDITAROD OFFICIAL VET: We have a very elaborate protocol for evaluating the dogs before they start the race.

ZAHN: Dr. Stuart Nelson is the Iditarod's official vet.

NELSON: It starts about actually 3 1/2 weeks before the race. Every dog has an EKG, blood work, a physical exam, must be current vaccinations, dewormed, all that sort of thing. So it's -- it's a very time consuming effort to get the dogs to the finish line.

ZAHN: The dogs wear booties to protect their feet from ice and rocks. Imagine changing shoes on 16 dogs everyday. That's 64 paws that need attention. SEAVEY: Just like any kind of athlete that's physical and on their feet. For the dogs, it's wrists and soldiers, you know, similar to a runner's knees, hips, ankles, that sort of thing. Getting a sprained wrist is not uncommon.

ZAHN: If dogs do get in trouble, they can be dropped off at checkpoints along the way, where there's special color-coded medical attention.

NELSON: Most dogs that are dropped would be considered a white dog. They're probably just tired. They don't really need anything special other than a little time and rest.

But we are prepared, if we have a critical dog, we categorize that as a red dog. Then they're flown to a commercial hub and once again, reevaluated by veterinarians.

ZAHN: Besides all the fans of dogsled racing, there are also critics, people who say the Iditarod amounts to cruelty. One dog has died in every recent Iditarod. Last year, Norwegian racer Shadow Bokken (ph) lost his lead when one of his dogs collapsed after a particularly grueling stretch of trail.

JO SULLIVAN, ASPCA: Any time an animal is at risk or participates in an event that costs their life, there is absolutely a concern.

ZAHN: Jo Sullivan is with the ASPCA. While she doesn't condemn the Iditarod, she does warn that proper care and observation of the animals is needed.

SULLIVAN: Just like any other athletic event, people can push themselves. In this case, animals are part of the tool they need to succeed and will push themselves. And in this case, their animals are part of the tool that they need to succeed. They'll push themselves, through competition, beyond what's normal and what's expected.

One mush team at a time needs to make sure that their animals are well taken care of, well loved, well cared for by a vet and that they're not pushed past their point of endurance.

ZAHN: Iditarod vet Stuart Nelson promises here in Alaska, that's happening.

NELSON: I wouldn't be here if I thought it was cruel thing. My goal is to learn as much as I can about these dogs, to educate mushers of ways to work the race and that we can continually up the level of care for the animals. And you know, if it was cruel, I wouldn't be here.

ZAHN: Not all the dogs or human competitors will make it to the end of the Iditarod trail. Many teams do drop out because of injury or just plain exhaustion. Those who end up crossing the finish line in Nome are truly champions, whether they have two legs or four.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: Such beautiful animals. We should tell that you race organizers now have confirmed that one dog did die in the race this past weekend. Her name was Rita. She was in sled racer Paul Gephardt's team, which is running in seventh place right now.

Sled Dog Action Coalition: [email protected]

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