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Iditarod Dog Found Dead in the Snow

Iditarod Dog Found Dead in the Snow

Earlier this week, in a moving story about how a lost Iditarod sled dog found her way back home a week after somehow escaping from the race, we briefly discussed the dangers of the Iditarod. According to PETA, the historical race is to blame for the deaths of 136 dogs since they started keeping records.

Today, we learned that another dog has been added to that list: Dorado, who died after being removed from this year’s race and was waiting to be flown home. What went wrong? Well, he was left outside all night in freezing, blowing snow, where “temperatures plunged to minus 15 degrees and winds reached 45 mph,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

He wasn’t outside alone, either, or left there accidentally. No, he was intentionally put there, along with 35 other sled dogs who had been scratched from the race. They were put outside because the indoor area — two airport hangers — were already full with other scratched dogs waiting to go home, about 135 in all. They were all gathered there awaiting transport back to Anchorage.

More from Dogster Magazine: It’s About Time! Iditarod Plans Changes After Sled Dog’s Death

Dorado was found the next morning, asphyxiated “as the result of being buried by snow in severe wind conditions,” according to a release by the Iditarod Trail Committee. Other dogs were also buried, but Dorado was the only one who had died. Someone had last checked on the dogs at 3 a.m.

“Between that time and daylight, drifting snow covered several dogs, and Dorado was found to be deceased,” race organizers said in a statement. “The entire Iditarod family is mourning this loss.”

Many, however, are also outraged. PETA, for one, is urging that criminal charges be brought under animal cruelty laws.

“It would appear that [the dog owner] and any Iditarod organizers responsible for Dorado’s safety can be directly blamed for this animal’s horrific death,” the organization said.

More from Dogster Magazine: Finally, a Happy Ending at Iditarod: A Lost Dog Is Found After 7 Days

Nome District Attorney John Earthman doesn’t see anyone being charged, however, since animal cruelty laws in Alaska exempt dog-mushing competitions.

(Sign the petition below the Related Links to demand justice for Dorado.)

Plus, according to Earthman, dogs in Alaska are apparently buried in snow all the time and do just fine, and therefore jurors won’t be convinced that the Iditarod organizers acted criminally.

“To Alaska jurors, especially in Western Alaska, the weather out here in the winter can be very, very bad,” Earthman said. “And the local practice, and this includes excellent sled dog handlers, is these dogs usually spend the winter outside.

“These sled dogs do just fine in weather conditions that folks in the Lower 48 would find simply horrific.”

More from Dogster Magazine: Heartbreaking: The Last Dog at the N.Y. Hurricane Shelter Still Howls for His Person

Stuart Nelson, the Iditarod’s head veterinarian, says that Dorado was simply not used to the conditions, being from an area with a milder climate.

“Dogs that are in the coastal areas, they live like that all the time. This dog probably wasn’t used to being in those kind of conditions,” Nelson told the Anchorage Daily News. “It would be very unusual that a dog wouldn’t be able to just curl up, let the snow blow over, and weather the storm just fine.”

“You look at Iditarod history, teams have been caught out there in storms, and that’s what happens. For some reason, it didn’t work for this dog. Maybe being from the Interior, he was not used to high winds.”

As for the dog’s owner, he’s left with a lot of questions.

“We thought that our dog was being cared for,” said Cody Strathe, who owns Squid Acres Kennelwith his wife and team musher Paige Drobny. “That’s the race organization’s responsibility. We, as mushers, trusted them.”

Via the Los Angeles Times and the Anchorage Daily News; photo via Squid Acres Kennel’s Facebook page

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Read more: Animal Rights, Dogs, Pets, Safety

This post was written by Michael Leaverton, regular contributor to Dogster Magazine.

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154 comments

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2:57AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Whoops, sorry about the double post! I got "suckered in" by C2's latency and clicked "add comment" again.

2:56AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Tim, I agree with your comments, but you're actually a "day late and a dollar short".........sort of. PETA came out and apologized about a month or so ago and admitted they told a falsehood...............this dog did not die of neglect, but a freak and unexpected snow storm that caught the handlers completely unaware. It was an accident and unavoidable under the circumstances. I'm wondering if the handlers threatened to sue PETA because of their ridiculous and false accusations? They should be closed down for not only spreading complete lies and propaganda, but misappropriating donations from naïve and trusting people who think they're helping animals. If they only KNEW where their money was going!

2:54AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Tim, I agree with your comments, but you're actually a "day late and a dollar short".........sort of. PETA came out and apologized about a month or so ago and admitted they told a falsehood...............this dog did not die of neglect, but a freak and unexpected snow storm that caught the handlers completely unaware. It was an accident and unavoidable under the circumstances. I'm wondering if the handlers threatened to sue PETA because of their ridiculous and false accusations? They should be closed down for not only spreading complete lies and propaganda, but misappropriating donations from naïve and trusting people who think they're helping animals. If they only KNEW where their money was going!

1:57AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

PETA’s 2010 donations totaled $33 million ($35 million if you add on merchandise sales and other revenue). So where did your money go last year? According to PETA’s 2010 annual report: less than 5% went to help animals.....

Most Americans are not aware of these facts.According to national polling, 71 percent of Americans think HSUS is a pet shelter “umbrella” group. Also, 59 percent think HSUS contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for dogs and cats. Neither of these is true.

Despite its annual budget of more than $100 million, the Humane Society of the United States doesn’t actually provide much hands-on care to pets. HSUS and its affiliated groups have more than $191 million in assets, $160 million of which HSUS itself holds. And HSUS has put away millions in an executive pension plan—more than $16 million since 1998. During the same period, HSUS shared less money with pet shelters.

1:52AM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

WOW.... I always get amazed about armchair judges. Your so great intelligent one liner post or post with out knowing all the facts. 95%,of all dog sledders love the dogs, the dogs are very used to this weather. How do you think the wolf survives. DAAAAA!!! OMG A dog dies, yes its bad, if the dog was not given enough room to get under the snow properly then its even worse. However do not assume it was intent or neglect.

Lets see... how many FAT nasty animals live indoors, slowly dieing horrific deaths due to obesity. How many have heart, lung, kidney issues. How many suffer long painful deaths due to lack of knowing something is wrong. My Doberman of 14 years died running playing and jumping, had a heart attack.... why is that? Maybe I made the choice to allow her first and foremost to be a dog. Maybe because I understood her role and need in life. Yea winter she slept at the side of the bed. Spring, summer and fall she was outside. She was running in the woods all the time. she was guarding all the time, its what she did, it was her thing. She loved hours of running with the 30 horses she so loved to be keeper over. And before you arm chair judges open your mouths know this, she was a certified companion dog, good canine citizenship award, was featured two times on television shows, gave blood in times of need and won several humane awards.

Not all people are good, not all life is fair. However before you judge learn to investigate the truth before making decisions bas

8:57AM PDT on May 4, 2013

very sad news but thanks for sharing R.I.P Dorado

4:08AM PDT on May 1, 2013

This story was posted without checking the facts. I thought I'd posted this last night but don't see my comment. PETA has publically issued an apology for releasing this story and has admitted it was nothing but a tragic accident due to a sudden and very unexpected change in weather. No negligence or abuse was involved, whatsoever.

Responsible journalists would issue a retraction of an article such as this one. I don't expect to read one in C2 anytime soon, though.

6:21AM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

Very sad all the way around. And for a dog to have to die that way.And sounds like he is not the only one. I was under the impression that the care of the dogs were by their owners and that the dogs were well taken care of; as family. Thank you for the eye opener on many levels.

5:11AM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

As for Alaska, you have the honour of having Sarah Palin, and that says it all.

5:09AM PDT on Apr 30, 2013

I have 2 sibes, 1 mal and a husky cross, and yes they love to run. I have no objection to sledding when it is for the dogs and short distances. This race is for humans (sic) not these poor furbabies.I fully believe that if you love your dogs you would not subject them to this, bottom line.
These dogs are so eager to run because they spend most of their lines on short chains outside and again they say they love their dogs, realllllly.
I have not and would not chain up my dogs and they all have the option of sleeping in or outside by way of a doggy door in my back door that cannot be closed.

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