Anti-cruelty protections for sled dogs

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I used to be a fan of the great Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race. It seemed like a truly noble event; a throwback to when man and man's best friend worked together to defy the odds and conquer nature. But then I learned the truth: under Alaska law, sled dogs are exempt from animal cruelty protections.

Since the race began in 1973, at least 140 dogs have died during the event, because of injuries and strain from overwork. But even off-season, sled dogs can endure cruel conditions: those that are kept in unregulated commercial kennels are too often tethered on short chains, unable to play or even move freely, forced to eat where they defecate. At these nightmare kennels, when a dog is no longer profitable, it is often destroyed.

We must remove the clause in the current law that exempts competition sled dogs from anti-cruelty protections. Until we do, the animal abusers in the mix will too often get off scot-free, without fear of prosecution, and will have no reason to change their ways.

The Iditarod has turned into a massive event with many corporate sponsors, and a lot of money at stake. Because of this, the race will not police itself -- uncovering animal abuse could hurt sponsorship and attendance. And even if the event did work to protect dogs, this current law limits the charges they could file against known abusers.

Changing the law is the first step to ensuring that sled dogs are treated humanely. Moreover, removing the anti-cruelty exemption would also help limit “over-driving” of sled dogs, which happens when they are overworked to the point of irreparable harm, including internal hemorrhaging, broken bones, internal organ damage and fatal injuries.

Let’s bring the nobility back to Alaska’s Iditarod, and change the animal cruelty laws to reflect the respect these sled dogs deserve. Please sign my petition asking Alaska lawmakers to remove the anti-cruelty exemptions for sled dogs.