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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From Animals in Print 3 December 2000 Issue:

From the Sled Dog Action Coalition

National Geographic Films and Avenet-Kerner will be producing Disney's film "WinterDance," which will glamorize Iditarod cruelties. Please ask them not to produce National Geographic Films and Avenet-Kerner will be producing Disney's film "Winthis film. A sample letter and email addresses are below:

John M. Fahey, Jr., CEO
National Geographic
1145 17th Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-4688
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected] 

Jordon Kerner
Avnet-Kerner Co.
3815 Hughes Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232-2715
Phone: 310-838-2500
Jordon Kerner can be reached through the Starbight Foundation.
Email message box:  

Sample Letter:

Dear Mr. Fahey and Mr. Kerner:

I understand National Geographic and Avnet-Kerner Company are planning to produce "WinterDance," which glorifies the Iditarod dog sled race. I would like to bring some facts to your attention. This race is condemned by animal protection groups across the United States.

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 Denver and LA. Dog deaths and injuries are common in the race. Jon Saraceno, sports columnist for USA Today, called the race "Ihurtadog" and "an outrage." Please visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website to view kennel pictures and for more information.

The Iditarod violates accepted standards regarding animal cruelty as is shown by the laws of 38 states and the District of Columbia. These 38 states and the District of Columbia have animal anti-cruelty laws that say "overdriving" and "overworking" an animal is animal cruelty. The California law is typical:

"597. Cruelty to animals. (B) Every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks... any animal... is, for every such offense, guilty of a crime punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony or alternatively punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony and by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000)."

--Animal Welfare Institute, Animals and Their Legal Rights

The dog deaths and injuries in the Iditarod show that these dogs are "overworked" and "overdriven." If the Iditarod occurred in any of these 38 states or the District of Columbia, it would be illegal under the animal cruelty laws. Unfortunately, the State of Alaska's animal anti-cruelty law does not say that "overdriving" and "overworking" an animal is animal cruelty.

In almost all of the 27 Iditarod races, at least one dog death has occurred. The first race is reported to have resulted in the deaths of 15 to 19 dogs. In 1997, the Anchorage Daily News reported that "at least 107 (dogs) have died." In the three years since that report, seven more dogs have died in the Iditarod, bringing the grand total of dogs who have died in the Iditarod to at least 114. There is no official count of dog deaths available for the race's early years and this count relies only on a reported number of deaths.

Causes of death during the last ten years have included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury, heart failure, and pneumonia. "Sudden death" and "external myopathy," a condition in which a dog's muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise, have also been blamed. In 1985 a musher kicked his dog to death. The 1975 Iditarod winner, Jerry Riley, was banned for life in 1990 after being accused of striking his dog with a snow hook (a large, sharp and heavy metal claw). In 1996 Rick Swenson's dog died while he mushed his team through waist-deep water and ice.

The race has led to the proliferation of husky dog kennels in Alaska. In these kennels, many dogs are treated very cruelly. Many kennels have over 100 dogs and some have as many as 200. None of the kennels is inspected or supervised by the State of Alaska or by anyone else.

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. Being 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.

In their kennels, the dogs are never given the opportunity to run free even in a fenced in area. Many of them drink water from hard-to reach rusty cans that are bolted to their doghouses and are rarely cleaned or disinfected.

Injured and old, arthritic dogs are kept outside in the winter when the average daily minimum temperatures range from -24 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It is painful for these dogs to be in the intense cold. Some dogs are never bathed, and nothing is done to help them cool off no matter how hot it gets in the summer. The only shade they get is inside their dirty doghouse, or under their doghouse if they are lucky enough to have one that's raised off the ground.

Some kennels have few employees, so that each dog gets little attention. Mushers believe in "culling" or killing unwanted dogs. Dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, are killed with a shot to the head.

Iditarod dogs are unhappy prisoners with no chance of parole. Please do not produce "WinterDance."


Return to Animals in Print 3 Dec 2000 Issue

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