The graceful beauty and power of a husky barreling through snow shouldn’t invoke feelings of suffering and torture. But every year since 1973, during Alaska’s 1,000-mile Iditarod race in early March, hundreds are forced into a state-sanctioned nightmare.
The Iditarod has long been controversial for its treatment of sled dogs. They’re whipped and driven to run more than 100 miles a day in sub-zero temperatures. And while the power to keep those dogs safe lies with the State of Alaska, exemptions are actually in place precluding the dogs from protection under animal cruelty laws.
Hardly an Iditarod has been held in which a dog did not die.
In almost all of the Iditarod races, at least one dog death has occurred. According to the Sled Dog Action Commission, at least 147 dogs have died in the history of the race, with 15 to 19 falling dead from overwork in the very first, 43 years ago. At least 107 dogs were dead after the 1997 race, as reported by the Anchorage Daily News at the time. In 2009, five dogs died, leaving local veterinarians and animal rights workers helpless to do anything but watch.
“Last year, three dogs died. That is near the average for the Iditarod, and the causes of two of the 2008 deaths were quickly obvious,” the Alaska Dispatch News reported the gruesome state of the race in 2009. “One dog was struck and killed by a snowmachine. The other had at some point during the race spit up intestinal fluids and then inhaled them. It was dropped at a checkpoint along the trail and flown back to Anchorage only to die here of what is called ‘aspiration induced pneumonia.'”
The dogs that aren’t killed by machines are killed by the effects of hyperexhaustion as they burn over 12,000 calories a day, for 9 straight days or longer. Their bodies are later tossed into the dump.
That first race (1973), from Anchorage to McGrath, all you could see along the trail was dog blood and dead dogs,” McGrath, AK resident Ted Almasy told the Wasilla Frontiersman 1986. “Thats when I got into it with them. After each Iditarod, we used to see dead dogs at the dump. Youd see them poor dogs, blood coming out of both ends.’
This is not how these dogs deserve to live.
Sign below and tell Bill Walker, Governor of Alaska, to remove the clause exempting competition sled dogs from its animal cruelty laws.
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