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Iditarod An Abuse of Dogs

Society & Culture  (tags: )

- 4299 days ago -
What happens to the dogs during the Iditarod includes death, paralysis, penile frostbite, bleeding ulcers, broken bones, pneumonia, torn muscles and tendons, diarrhea, vomiting, hypothermia, fur loss, broken teeth, viral diseases, torn footpads.

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Marjorie M (81)
Friday August 18, 2006, 12:56 pm
I may catch Hell here but having lived in Alaska for 25 years and being familiar with the Iditarod I think the author is misleading and overstating abuse. it's all pretty onesided. I'm not defending the race but there is no mention of the Vet checks all along the way and that dogs are flown out if they have any problems. Dogs that die are autopsied. Mushers that abuse their dogs are disqualified. There is no mention of all the excellent care these dogs receive. In regards to moose trampling dogs....moose trample and kill tied up outside dogs often ( a good argument for NOT tying dogs)....they also trample and kill people on a regular basis. Susan butcher died....why bring her into this. Ask a living musher like Martin Buser about dog care and dog abuses.

Jean McDermott (43)
Friday August 18, 2006, 1:51 pm
Thank you Marjorie! I am outraged that a letter to the editor from a person with an agenda, is being called "news" on Care2! Sled dogs are not pet dogs, they are atheletes who are musher's total focus. They do receive excellent care and everything you say is true: the vet checks along the race course (this is true of the Yukon Quest, as well), the top-notch food the dogs are fed. The author of this letter has no idea what dog mushing is about and clearly doesn't live in Alaska. Susan Butcher was a wonderful person. I was acquainted with her and several of my friends knew her very well. To smear her memory like this is absolutely juvenile and totally inaccurate.

Brenda T (9)
Friday August 18, 2006, 9:25 pm
This is somewhat confusing. The letter cites a report by the Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Did the writer of the letter or did the Journal fabricate the findings? Since there are vet checks along the way, what do they find? What do the autopsies of the dead dogs reveal? Would they have died anyway, meaning this race was not a direct result of their deaths? It is good to hear that abusive mushers are disqualified from the race. Do they get to keep the dogs just the same?

Marjorie M (81)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 12:36 am
Brenda, maybe I can answer some of your questions. The vet checks along the Iditarod Trail make sure that ALL dogs in the race have no problems for continuing the race...if any dog is having a problem it is airlifted out for proper care. The autopsies reveal any problems the dog may have had that it would have died from anyway and not the result of the race. Abusive mushers do get to keep their dogs but if they are disqualified for LIFE there is no point in keeping a dog team unless they use the dogs for transportation....which is not that uncommon in Alaska. I would like to see that Journal of Veterinary Medicine report myself. Contrary to what the article says the Iditarod Dogs are probably some of the best cared for dogs anywhere. It takes a well cared for well trained dog for this race. Mushers use some of their best dogs year after year....the lung problems cited would prevent this. And, as Jean says these dogs are not pets.....they don't make a good pet. They have alot of energy and they live to run....that's what they were bred for. if someone wants a pet, better to have a dog bred for pet qualities. As far as Susan Butcher goes, I can't begin to tell you all of the wonderful work she has done for animals. This I know.... She absolutely loved her dogs as her children. And she cared for them well.....her dogs always came first. She died very recently, too young at 51 years old. She had not raced in the Iditarod for many years, maybe 10+. My question is WHY a woman in Miami, Florida would slam Susan, a woman that she can't possibly know anything about,as is obvious in her article. I think there might be enough dog abuses in Florida to look after. Another thing about that article is that there is so much misinformation fed to us all the time through the media, I am thankful that I can comment and call it what it is.... misleading misinformation.

Marjorie M (81)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 12:39 am
OOPS!!! Maybe not Miami as in Florida...don't know.....

Mike H (252)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 8:24 am
"With a buildup of lactic acid and other chemicals from muscle degradation as a result of extreme exercise," said Dr. Paula Kislak, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, "toxicity in the liver and kidneys may not cause death for days or weeks after a race."

So the 122 confirmed deaths?

"Adding the dogs who were culled, died in training and died after the race from complications," Dr. Kislak said, "the number is in the thousands. That is obscene. The race only is run for entertainment and to make money."

Greed is not confined to professional baseball players. The economic impact to Anchorage alone is estimated at $5 million. The Iditarod is a money-maker. Glickman, 56, has launched Sled Dog Action Coalition, a nonprofit volunteer-only organization. She has been so successful, sponsors like Pizza Hut, Pfizer and Costco have dropped out. She has received death threats, enough of them so that she doesn't go to Alaska.

"It is unconscionable," Glickman said. "They (mushers) say they love their dogs, but they don't love their dogs. It is an act of barbarism. It is a shameless, bloody business."

In the Iditarod, dogs are a car tire that goes flat. Just get another one. Except a car tire was never named Lassie or Ol' Yeller. A car tire never welcomed you home at night. A car tire never took the edge off feeling lonely. A car tire never played with the kids, and a kid never cried when the car tire died.

If a dog is man's best friend, this is not how you treat your best friend. You don't push him so hard he can't even exhale to vomit but instead chokes on it while falling down.

And as he watches his dog writhe on the ground, what can the musher possibly say that would even remotely make this sight worthwhile?


Mike H (252)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 8:28 am
A majority of Iditarod veterinarians belong to the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association (I.S.D.V.M.A.), a group which, according to its membership materials, has "furthering the cause of the sport of mushing" as a main objective. This creates a conflict of interest, because mushing often endangers the health and sometimes the life of these dogs. The International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association's involvement includes:

• Sponsoring the Iditarod

• Endorsing permanent tethering as a "preferred" method of confining dogs although animal protection groups and the United States Department of Agriculture have determined this practice to be "inhumane." The permanent chaining of dogs is prohibited in all cases when federal law applies.
Dogs drink water containing flakes of rust.

• Having members who have accepted funds for their research from the Iditarod Trail Committee

• Having members who act as veterinary volunteers during the Iditarod, thereby saving the Iditarod Trail Committee thousands of dollars and enriching the prize pot

• Having members who accept money for their participation in the race and who accept gifts such as free hotel rooms and rental cars from race sponsors

• Having mushers among its membership, including at least one that markets mushing and the Iditarod to schoolchildren (Sonny King, DVM)

• Reserving voting privileges for "veterinarians with trail experience on recognized sled dog races," thereby making it difficult for veterinarians who oppose mushing to be involved in policy decisions

• Encouraging the media to compare dogs to human athletes to explain "sudden death" among dogs in the Iditarod

• Providing pro-Iditarod statements to the press to lessen the impact of dog deaths and injuries on public opinion

• Inviting any non-veterinarian "who supports our objectives and wishes to encourage our efforts" to become members

The Iditarod veterinarians who are also I.S.D.V.M.A. members are not independent and objective observers and protectors of dog welfare. Instead, they are people with a strong allegiance to the mushing community and the Iditarod.

Reasons why International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association members support the Iditarod:

Dr. Paula Kislak: "The veterinarians who belong to the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association are industry veterinarians, basically. They're a small group of veterinarians whose livelihood is supported by the industry of dog sled racing. So, they may or not be corrupt, but they're certainly very much invested in believing that what they're doing is OK, and invested literally, financially, as well as emotionally in promoting it. But they do constitute a small percentage of veterinarians that think this is OK."

- Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, is president of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.
- Her remarks were made on the Animal Voices radio show, Toronto, Canada on February 28, 2006

Information on poor veterinary care


Mike H (252)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 8:38 am
Money motivates mushers, race organizers and the city of Anchorage

"The study done for the visitors bureau in the winter of 1999-2000 by the Juneau-based McDowell Group concluded that the Iditarod accounted for one of every 10 Outside tourists who came to Anchorage in the winter."

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 4, 2005

"This sick marathon is operated by masquerading mercenaries who romanticize the race as some sort of noble man vs. nature test of endurance. It's really shameful marketing carried out on the backs of defenseless animals."

- Jon Saraceno, USA Today, March 5, 2001

"Commerce has so come to dominate the race that you can tell who has a chance to win by the number of sponsor insignias he or she wears. Even the handlers of last year's winner, wore matching jackets sporting a sponsor's logo. Lots of people are anxious to turn myth into money."

- Mike Dugan, Anchorage Daily News, March 5,2000

"The show start in Anchorage is done for television, and to give Anchorage publicity."

- Gary Paulsen discussing the ceremonial start of the race
- Paulsen, Gary. Woodsong, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990

"Mostly it's all marketing for the Iditarod and the city of Anchorage." "We're trying to get as much exposure as possible...."

- Iditarod race start coordinator Rick Calcote
- Doug O,Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2000

"Anchorage gains about five and a half million dollars from visitors and locals during the Iditarod....."

- Ellen Lockyer, Alaska Public Radio Network, website, March 10, 2006

"Economics are a big reason why the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will remain anchored in Anchorage come drizzle, chinook or -- God forbid -- another Hawaiian express.

Not only is the world-famous sled-dog race good for Anchorage's slow winter economy, but race officials say Anchorage is good for the race's bottom line.

The Iditarod sales outlet at the Regal Alaskan Hotel usually moves about $60,000 in merchandise during the three weeks Iditarod activities are centered there, Iditarod president Rick Koch said."

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, February 12, 2003

(Due to warm weather, the restart of the 2003 Iditarod was changed from Wasilla to Fairbanks, but the 11 mile ceremonial start was kept in Anchorage.)

"Baker knows, like every Iditarod musher, that each move up or down in rank means thousands of dollars in prize money. If he holds his current standing of sixth, Baker wins $32,476. If he moves up a place, he earns $35,619. Down one, the prize money drops to $29,857."

- Elizabeth Manning, Anchorage Daily News, March 13, 2001

Back to the top

Mushers profit from giving sled-dog tours and rides to tourists

Martin Buser:

"Big Lake, Alaska - Four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser is far from retirement. In fact, he’d like to add two more trophies to his collection in the next few years.

But, in the meantime, he’s thinking about his financial future. Summertime tours at his Happy Trails Kennels are part of that future."

"Aside from Iditarod wins, Buser’s yearly income comes from several sources, including major sponsors that pay an income and others that provide goods and services. He says the summer tours are part of an overall plan to diversify.

'After 22 Iditarods, we gotta look at broadening our income base,' Buser says. 'What if I am deciding not to, or if my body doesn't hold up to running Iditarod anymore? How are we going to sustain our lifestyle, how do we pay the bills and how do we have fun and what can we do?'"

"Tours cost $35. It’s $15 for those 12 and under. Right now, the Busers are working with four of Alaska’s tour planners, companies that plan Alaska vacations for tourists."

- KTUU-TV website, June 20, 2005

Jeff King:

"Step back from the crowds and join an intimate group for a personal tour of the homestead and kennel of three-time Iditarod champion Jeff King and his wife, well known wildlife artist Donna Gates King.

Meet champion sled dogs
Visit with puppies and see summer training in action
1 ˝ hour narrated kennel tour"

19.00/children under 12"

- Husky Homestead Tours, Goose Lake Kennel, website, 2005

Bill Hall made arrangement with Princess Lodges to advertise tour:

"Discover everything you've always wanted to know about the Iditarod - Alaska's great dog sled race. When the elements allow, the south face of Mt. McKinley graces your route to the Danly-Hall dog kennel. Meet Iditarod musher Bill Hall for an in-depth look at the pursuit of dog mushing. Learn typical feeding routines used along the Iditarod race trail and how to harness and hitch up a dog. See a demonstration of how the dogs are taught voice commands using a summer training cart. Find out about training, racing and breeding sled dogs and receive autographed musher cards and dog booties as a souvenir of your delightful visit.

Price $50 per person"

- Princess Lodges website, 2005

Ryan Redington:

"He [Ryan Redington] works with dad Raymie giving tourists sled-dog rides at Iditarod headquarters."

-Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, February 9, 2001

Linda Joy:

"...Linda Joy, a 42-year-old grandmother who runs dog tours at a bed and breakfast just down the road from me."

- Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

Many mushers:

"Many mushers earn additional income by offering (sled dog) rides to tourists."

- Hood, Mary. A Fan's Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland: Alpine Publishers, 1996

Joe Redington:

"Since 1993, Joe Redington [race co-founder] has guided a group of tourists along the length of the Iditarod Trail behind the race competitors." "The price per person for this outing is $15,000."

- Hood, Mary. A Fan's Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland: Alpine Publishers, 1996

Seavey family:

IdidaRide Sled Dog Tours in Seward, Alaska

"Located a few miles from the seaside town of Seward on Alaska's stunning Kenai Peninsula, IdidaRide offers summer dog sled rides and tours that are guaranteed to be a highlight of your Alaskan vacation."

- Seavey's Iditarod Racing Team, website, 2005

Mushers profit from selling and leasing dogs

"Good dogs for a competitive Iditarod team might cost upwards of $2,000 and a fine leader may be worth $7,000-$10,000 or more."

- Rennick, Penny, ed. The Iditarod, Anchorage: Alaska Geographic, 2001

"Many dogs in the kennel are worth $2,000 or more, and this figure increases to more than $8,000 for a fully trained lead dog."

- Mattson, Sue. Iditarod Fact Book, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2001

"...Leaders can cost thousands of dollars."

- Freedman, Lew and Jonrowe, DeeDee. Iditarod Dreams, Seattle: Ecpicenter Press, 1995

"I've got to win. That would be the turning point in a guy's career, to win the Iditarod. Everything would go well after that. Being able to sell dogs, to get sponsors...."

- Musher Tim Osmar
- Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

"Winning gives you credentials...." "It's good for business, definitely good for dog sales."

- Musher Joe Runyan
- Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

"The dog is leased from Dean Osmar."

- Jon Little, Cabela's website, March 8, 2005
Little formerly reported for the Anchorage Daily News
He is discussing a dog DeeDee Jonrowe leased for the 2005 Iditarod.

"[Frank] Winkler, whose team is leased from Raymie Redington...."

"He [Guy Blankenship] has borrowed and leased dogs to fill out the team...."

- Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 2, 1989

"It was Plettner's Big Lake kennel that supplied the dogs for [Domenico, "Dodo"] Perri, the one-time winner of the Italian mushing championships, when he ran the Iditarod in 2005."

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, July 18, 2006

Mushers get royalities from books they've written about Iditarod

An example of those who have written books:

Mushers who have written books about the Iditarod include Gary Paulsen, Libby Riddles, Brian Patrick O'Donoghue, Joe Runyan, DeeDee Jonrowe and Dick Mackey.

Daytona Dayton plans to write a book:

"Daytona plans to broadcast her radio show from each checkpoint, writing a book and spending the next nine months training for the race in Alaska."

- Daytona Dayton is host of the "Daytona & Friends National Radio Show"
- Boise Weekly, June 22, 2005

Mushers advertise to be speakers

Rachael Scdoris:

"Rachael [Scdoris] is available to deliver inspirational speeches at special events and corporate meetings across the U.S. For more information about booking Rachael to speak at an upcoming event, please contact Sports Unlimited Management & Promotions, Inc."

- The Official Rachael Scdoris website, 2004

Susan Butcher:

Here are just some of the speakers bureaus Susan Butcher is registered with, and the 2004 fees for having her speak (fees are normally for the US, and do not include travel and accommodation expenses):

Speaker Bureau Fee for having Susan Butcher speak
Premiere Speakers Bureau $20,000
Keppler Associates, Inc. $10,001 to $20,000
Speak, Inc. $16,000-$23,000
International Speakers Bureau $15,001 to $20,000
Goodman Speakers Bureau No fee given on website
AEI Speakers Bureau No fee given on website
Speakers Guild, Inc. over $10,000
Lordly & Dame, Inc. No fee given on website
Speakers-Network No fee given on website No fee given on website
Eagles Talent Connection, Inc. No fee given on website


Brenda T (9)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 8:42 am
The question I am curious about is, what is the point to racing animals? With regards to this race, it sounds obvious that if veterinarian checks are necessary all along this race that the potential for harm and injury to the dogs is high. Maybe the dogs would fare better if checked by veterinarians before the race? Are there medical doctors along the race for the mushers also? Regarding breeding: what happens to puppies and dogs that don't or no longer make the athletic grade and are not considered as viable companions due to the selective breeding practice?
Having shared my life with a 7/8ths wolf companion, I find it difficult to believe in that latter absolute.

Mike H (252)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 8:43 am
How does the current speed record compare to the speed record in the first Iditarod?

According to the Iditarod website, the current speed record for the race was set by Martin Buser in 2002 at 8 days, 22 hours and 46 minutes. In the first Iditarod in 1973, the speed record was set by Dick Wilmarth at 20 days and 49 minutes.

What is the cost of running in the race?

The Iditarod Trail Committee website said the average kennel budget is approximately $50, 000 a year and the cost of running the Iditarod is $10,000, including entry fee, dog food for the race, dog supplies, musher supplies and freight.

Do many native Alaskans participate in the race?

The Humane Society of the United States says, "With the annual cost of putting together a competitive Iditarod team estimated at up to $60,000, very few native Alaskans are able to participate."

Does the Iditarod make a profit?

Yes. According to AP Sports Friday (May 28, 1999), "The race is turning a profit and the purse this year (1999) was more than $500,000 - the biggest ever."

Please read Greed Fuels the Iditarod for more information.

How do the Iditarod dogs live when they are not racing?

The Iditarod Dog Sled Race has led to an increase in the number of husky dog kennels in Alaska. In these kennels, many dogs are treated cruelly. Many kennels have more than 100 dogs. Some have as many as 200 dogs. None of the kennels is inspected or supervised by the State of Alaska. Mushers raise many dogs hoping that a few will be strong enough to run in the race.

Do these mushers cull or kill unwanted dogs?
Culling is a common practice among mushers. The Iditarod mushers breed many dogs, hoping to get a few who will be fast enough to race. According to an article in the Anchorage Daily News, "Killing unwanted sled-dog puppies is part of doing business" (October 6, 1991), most of the mushers cull by shooting their dogs in the head. An animal who is not properly restrained when the musher shoots may suffer an agonizing death. Mushers also cull dogs who are injured in the Iditarod, old but otherwise healthy dogs, or any dog who is not wanted for any reason. Musher Lorraine Temple said, "They (the big racing outfits) can't keep a dog who's a mile an hour too slow" (Currents, Fall, 1999).

Please read Abuse in Kennels for more information.

Are Iditarod dogs kept permanently tethered on short chains?
In many kennels, dogs spend their entire lives outside chained up to their dog house. In these musher's kennels, a dog can have a chain as short as four feet long. In 1997, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) determined that the permanent tethering of dogs, as the primary means of enclosure, was inhumane and not in the animals' best interests. The permanent chaining of dogs is prohibited in all cases where federal law applies.

Some reasons why permanent tethering is cruel are as follows:
1) 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.

2) Because the chained dog is always close to his own fecal material, he can easily catch deadly parasitical diseases by stepping in or sniffing his own waste. The ground within the dog's chained area may have a high concentration of parasite larvae.

3) Even if the fecal matter is picked up, the area where the dog can move about becomes hard-packed dirt that carries the stench of animal waste. The odor and the waste attract flies which bite the dog's ears, often causing serious bloody wounds and permanent tissue damage.

4) Continuous chaining psychologically damages dogs and makes many of them aggressive animals.

5) Dogs who forced to live on a chain are easy targets for stinging bites from insects and attacks by other other animals.

6) The tethers can become entangled with other objects, which can choke or strangle a dog to death.

7) The neck of a chained dog often becomes raw and covered with sores in part due to the dog's constant yanking and straining to escape confinement.

Please read Tethering Facts for more information.

Dogs are tethered to exercise wheels. Is this practice safe for the dogs?

Some dogs are tethered to exercise wheels as part of their pre-race training. There is a picture of one of these wheels on this page. Because the dogs run at varying speeds, the slower runners are pulled along by the neck, which causes injuries. Dogs who are tired or ill are forced to run. The number of injuries from the exercise wheel goes unreported.

What kind of veterinary care do the dogs receive in their kennels?
Some mushers live in towns that have no veterinarians, so that their dogs must be transported great distances to receive veterinary care. Mushers who live in small towns where there are no roads and no veterinarians have to fly their dogs in small airplanes hundreds of miles to obtain treatment. Do you think the many dogs who live in kennels far from veterinarians and animal hospitals receive adequate veterinary care, or any care at all?

What other kennel conditions do the dogs endure?
These 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.

All of the dogs, even those who are injured, old or arthritic 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 such 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 is raised off the ground.

Some kennels have few employees, so that each dog gets little attention. These dogs are unhappy prisoners with no chance of parole.

Please read Quotes for more information.


Marjorie M (81)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 1:21 pm
Everyone will have a better understanding about use of dogs and horses for transportation when oil prices are so high we turn out vehicles into flower planters. You have created quite a forum for your self Mike H. good for you...well done!

Brenda T (9)
Saturday August 19, 2006, 1:39 pm
Mike H. , I did not see your previous posts on my screen before submitting my 0842 post.

Quite the little industry, running on sore paws and bursting hearts. I am curious regarding the abusage of drugs, such as steroids. To have a speed record drop from 20 days to 8 fires the imagination in multiple ways and all unpleasant.

Thank you for the facts regarding this industry's underbelly.

Marjorie M (81)
Tuesday August 22, 2006, 12:24 pm
Brenda, Mike has given you a load of information.....and that is one side of the story.....keep an open mind and keep asking the good questions, as you have been. To answer your question about the speed record drop from 20 days to eight.....The Iditarod was originally organized as a Commemorative "race" remember the past event of a diptheria outbreak in winter in Nome in about the 1930's? There were bad winter storms and the only way to get diptheria serum to Nome was by dog sled....some brave men and dogs took on the task, made the run to Nome and saved the people of that village. Balto the lead dog on that run is considered a Hero in Alaska. Joe Redington started the Commemorative" race". For the first few years of the race it was more like a long dogsled camping trip. Mushers took all the time they wanted. As years went by it became a race. For many years no one from Outside knew about it or cared. As years went by it changed. The Business of America is Business.......and the Iditarod became a business and a lifestyle. Now it has become a Really Big Business and part of the Alaska Mystic based on an historical event. It went from a camping trip to a race. Joe Redington died from esophical cancer many years ago and Susan Butcher died of leukemia recently......I knew them both and they were Good People and both of them did alot of community service work that is not mentioned above. The Veternarians began looking at the dogs from early on with pre-race checks and vet checks along the way. This was done not only for the health and safety of the dogs but for mushers and everyone to know that the dogs are well cared for. The dogs are all drug tested....there is no abuse of drugs. Don't think that the dogs run nonstop...they don't. There are Manditory Rest Stops along the way and the dogs are not "running" either. They trot along at the pace that the lead dog sets. There is so much to know about this........this race is not all about dog abuse...that's just ignorant.

Mike H (252)
Tuesday August 22, 2006, 1:18 pm
Marjorie- too bad you had to stoop to name calling by calling me ignorant. That shows who you are and invalidates your defense of animal abuse

Marjorie M (81)
Tuesday August 22, 2006, 1:59 pm
Did I say YOU were ignorant MIKE?? NO !! This is not about you Mike. You supplied a load of good and valid information. I gave another point of view and answered some questions, my information has validity as well. I would never stoop to name calling, I am not that ignorant. I look at all sides of an issue, don't you? I like to be well informed. And, I'm not judgemental. I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Answers are plentiful....questions are more important and Brenda had many good questions. I had a few answers. Done.



Mike H (252)
Wednesday August 23, 2006, 1:43 am
If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and swims like a duck- It's probably not an elephant.

Margery G (7)
Sunday August 27, 2006, 5:07 am
Stories about the dogs receiving top notch health care during the Iditarod don't square with the facts. Dogs don't receive veterinary physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers often speed through checkpoints with their teams of dogs, so that vets only give the dogs brief visual checks, if that. Remember, too, that dogs arrive at the checkpoint at night, which means that the vets see even less as the dogs speed through. But even when they are examined, the veterinary care they receive is often poor. For example, in the 2006 race, Ron Cortte's dog Jack was examined by veterinarians at the White Mountain Checkpoint. They said Jack was normal, but he dropped dead thirty minutes later.

Margery G (7)
Sunday August 27, 2006, 5:20 am
In the Iditarod, dogs are forced to run 1,150 miles, which is the approximate distance between Detroit and Miami, Florida, over a grueling terrain in 8 to 15 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 Sled Dog Action Coalition (SDAC) was founded in 1999 to educate America about the exploitation of sled dogs in Alaska's annual Iditarod dog sled race. The SDAC and its efforts to educate people about the brutalities associated with the Iditarod was profiled in USA Today and in the Miami Herald. I am emailing copies of these and other articles.

Please visit the SDAC website to see pictures, and for more information. Be sure to read the quotes on and on all the quote pages that link to it. Links can be found in the drop box at the top and at the bottom of the page. All of the material on the site is true and verifiable.

Iditarod dogs are simply not the invincible animals race officials portray. Here's a short list of what happens to the dogs during the race: death, paralysis, penile frostbite, bleeding ulcers, broken bones, pneumonia, torn muscles and tendons, diarrhea, vomiting, hypothermia, fur loss, broken teeth, viral diseases, torn footpads, ruptured discs, sprains, anemia and lung damage.

At least 130 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," a nonfiction book, 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. Swenson is now on the Iditarod Board of Directors.

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.

No one knows how many dogs die in training or after the race each year.

On average, 53 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do cross, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who finish the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

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).

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 Iditarod, with its history of abuse, could not be legally held in many states, including Michigan, because doing so would violate animal cruelty laws.

Iditarod administrators promote the race as a commemoration of sled dogs saving the children of Nome by bringing diphtheria serum from Anchorage in 1925. However, the co-founder of the Iditarod, Dorothy Page, said the race was not established to honor the sled drivers and dogs who carried the serum. In fact, 600 miles of this serum run was done by train and the other half was done by dogs running in relays, with no dog running over 100 miles. This isn't anything like the Iditarod.

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 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.

Iditarod dogs are prisoners of abuse.
Margery Glickman
Sled Dog Action Coalition, 


Brenda T (9)
Sunday August 27, 2006, 10:57 pm
Marjorie, from my reading of all of the above and my life experience to date, the dogs sound like they are being treated like machines, symbols, and objects.. as if they are extensions of human personalities rather than distinct living entities having their own intrinsic worth. I am sorry if this is disappointing- in view of all of the above, I think the Iditarod race should be abolished.
I have heard animals and humans scream in agony. These sounds haunt and speak to me in the sense that they guide my thoughts and decisions, therefore anything that increases the potential for more agony and suffering, I can not abide or support. I prefer to side with the alleviation of suffering. Nor do I think animal races are essential.

With regards to the business/economic frame of reference, do you not think we could come up with businesses that do not create harm for other living creatures? In every aspect of this race that has been discussed, it seems the dogs, from birth onwards, are living in a threat system. It is an industry having multiple spin offs, all the way to inspirational talks, and each race dog's ultimate reason for being and remain being, depends on how fast their legs can trot.
You say the race mushers love their dogs, I love my dog companion also yet would not put her through a trial such as this so I am questioning what exactly are they loving. My companion is 14 years old, in pretty good shape. She earns no money for me. This leads me to be curious about the average lifespan of sledrace dogs, taking into account all of the puppies born from breeding for this race.

The point I am making is that this race that evolved from camping [according to your post of August 22 -"For the first few years of the race it was more like a long dogsled camping trip. Mushers took all the time they wanted. As years went by it became a race." ] sounds like a breeding ground for animal abuse now. Evolution doesn't always turn out to be progress and, in my opinion, big is not necessarily better.
Lastly, I hope this was not too frank a read Margorie. It was not written with the thought to tarnish the memories of your friends. It is the dogs welfare and well-being that concern me.

Brenda T (9)
Monday August 28, 2006, 9:31 am
I have just read the website

With regards to the above mention of the Iditarod being "part of the Alaska Mystic", my sense impressions are that this part is bordering on mystical madness and the website has a clear ring of truth running through it.

Heather Fair (60)
Tuesday September 19, 2006, 6:10 pm
I, too, have lived in Alaska for 31 years. Although the Iditarod is difficult on the dogs and the mushers, it is not INTENTIONALLY cruel. For the most part, the mushers are totally devoted to their dogs - they are their livelihood! And the mushers that AREN'T devoted to their dogs are on!!!

Margery G (7)
Tuesday September 19, 2006, 7:12 pm
Of course, mushers are intentionally cruel. People who love their dogs don't force them to run in the Iditarod, a race with a long, well-documented history of dog deaths, illnesses and injuries. These people need to find ways of making money that don't involve abusing animals. For information about the cruelties of the Iditarod, to see photos and to read quotes, visit

Heather Fair (60)
Tuesday September 19, 2006, 7:19 pm
Do you really believe that, Margery? Do you know any mushers? Have you seen how they care for their dogs? Accidents happen and a lot of these dogs LOVE to work - they are not forced! A dog that doesn't like to run doesn't do well and doesn't make the cut! Really, I have TONS of mushers for neighbors and I have yet to meet one that didn't take EXCELLENT care of their dogs.

I respect your beliefs but urge you to look at the realities and beyond the propaganda. Here are some thought provoking questions for you - you don't have to answer, of course, they are just to help put things int perspective. Do you believe it cruel to ride horses? Is it cruel to use horses to pull carts? Is it cruel to keep a cat indoors as your companion and never let them outside? Do you believe it cruel to eat meat? Do you believe it cruel to farm animals? Do you believe it cruel to ...? Again, just to get the thought process working... ;)

Heather Fair (60)
Tuesday September 19, 2006, 7:24 pm
That is an excellent point - that racing is not "necessary". The way it's billed as part of the Alaskan Mystique is the importance it played in the history of Alaska's development - fur trading and other things were done with the use of dogsled travel. The famous serum run, in which dogsleds were the essential and sole mode of travel to bring much needed medicine to the villages decades before is incredibly invaluable to understanding how our community came to be.

It is also important to note that our infrastructure is significantly less (even less per capita) in comparison to the other 49 states. Although racing isn't an issue here, mushing is still a valid way of travel for many these days! Is that considered cruel or is it just the racing that hits home with you?

Again, this is just a positive discussion toward understanding one another and the issue.

Margery G (7)
Sunday November 5, 2006, 6:20 am
The serum run was certainly important in Alaska's history. However, Iditarod administrators promote the race as a commemoration of sled dogs saving the children of Nome by bringing diphtheria serum from Anchorage in 1925. However, the co-founder of the Iditarod, Dorothy Page, said the race was not established to honor the sled drivers and dogs who carried the serum. In fact, 600 miles of this serum run was done by train and the other half was done by dogs running in relays, with no dog running over 100 miles. This isn't anything like the Iditarod.

Recreational mushing isn't an issue with most people. However, people are appalled when dogs are forced to spend their lives at the end of chains. Animal cruelty concerns are fueling a nationwide trend to ban tethering. Please read the information on .


Margery G (7)
Sunday November 5, 2006, 1:07 pm
Dogs are sentient creatures, just like humans. They don't enjoy being sick or being in pain any more than we do. The dogs don't love to run 1,150 miles over a grueling terrain in 8 to 16 days. It's the mushers who love it and it brings Outside money into Anchorage in the slow season. Basically, the Iditarod is fuel by greed. There is nothing in it for the dogs.

Mushers don't take good care of their dogs. People who love their dogs don't force them to run in the Iditarod.

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