In 2009, six dogs died. Among them, two dogs on Dr. Lou Packer's team froze to death in brutally cold winds. A romanticized version of the Iditarod fails to reveal dogs who endure death, paralysis, frostbite, bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral disease, broken bones, torn muscles, tendons and sprains. For more facts, see the Sled Dog Action Coalition's website: http://www.helpsleddogs.org
Even training runs can be fatal, when dogs encounter moose, snow machines, semi-tractors, ATVs or other vehicles. Dogs drown, strangle in harnesses and suffer heart attacks. They are gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dogfights, and more. Training injuries or fatalities are rarely reported.
Mushers beat dogs as a form of intimidation style training. Eyewitnesses at the 2007 Iditarod said musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and hit dogs with a ski pole and chain. "A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective," writes Jim Welch in his Speed Mushing Manual. "It is a common training device among dog mushers."
At Iditarod puppy mills, mushers over-breed dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Dogs who are disabled, old, or otherwise undesirable are shot in the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death.
"Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don't pull are dragged to death in harnesses," wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford for Alaska's Bush Blade Newspaper. Jon Saraceno claimed in USA Today that "He [Colonel Tom Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens..."
During the race itself, mushers speed past checkpoints. At best, veterinarians give dogs brief visual checks. Rather than pull sick dogs, veterinarians often dose them with antibiotics to stay in the race.
I urge your organization to cut ties with the cruel Iditarod dog sled race.