In case you missed it, People for the Ethical Treatment of animals jumped on the tragedy suffered by four-time Iditarod champ Jeff King on Saturday to note his dead dog and proclaim “but dogs suffer every years in this cruel race — and just since 2004, at least 27 dogs forced to endure the Iditarod have died from heart failure, exposure, pneumonia, drowning, asphyxiation, and more.”
While the Denali Park musher was in a Nulato dog lot fighting back tears as he described the loss of a teammate, an unnamed PETA publicist was sitting at a computer in Norfolk, VA typing away.
The result of that effort? A PETA communique “calling on the Iditarod to show that it has some modicum of consideration by calling off the rest of this year’s race and to forever stop running dogs to death.”
There is no evidence any dogs are being run to death, although two did die last year. An investigation by veterinarians concluded they likely suffered from undiagnosed heart problems.
The deaths came after two years without a dog death during the race, but PETA ignored that to focus on another issue:
“Official race rules actually forbid mushers from saying anything negative about the race —and not just during their run but for an additional 45 days after they’ve crossed the finish line. Recent years have brought poor (and dangerous) trail conditions that posed a significant risk of injury to both humans and canines involved in the race, and this gag order has likely been placed in an attempt to keep concerns about such issues quiet. In their own words, Iditarod organizers declared that mushers ‘shall not make public statements or engage in any public conduct injurious to and in reckless disregard of the best interests of the Race. This includes public statements or acts which are disparaging to any of the sponsors of that year’s Race.’ With rules in place to protect financial sponsors, it would appear that the business interests of race organizers trump concern for the health and safety of the dogs being used in this deadly event.”
The so-called “gag order” has also come under fire in Alaska, too, giving PETA and many Alaskan at least one thing in common.
Categories: News, Outdoors, Uncategorized
Let’s consider the raw numbers here. According to the Iditarod website, mushers are required to have a minimum of 12 dogs at the starting line, and a maximum of 16. I do not know how many dogs each musher left with this year, but there were 85 teams that started, again according to the website. We’ll average out the number and say that each started with fourteen dogs. That means there were just short of 1200 dogs on starting day. Take any population of 1200 dogs over a roughly two week period, even dogs in their prime, and you will likely see one or more of those dogs die. It’s going to happen, even if those dogs are all extraordinarily well cared for, because that’s just too many dogs for it not to be likely to happen. The real noteworthy thing about the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest is how few dogs die.
Are there bad mushers? Yes. There are people in every field and every sport who are bad people because some people are just mean. Bad mushers do not win however, and most mushers are in fact very good people. Some of them have pretty big egos, but when it comes to dog care they put themselves second to their teams. This year we saw Lance Mackey scratch and Brent Sass fall from the front of the pack. Both men are winners and both said they let their dogs down, not that their dogs wouldn’t perform. That should tell us all something about what kind of people go into this sport.
Animal rights activists could do animals a lot more good if they focused on all the unwanted and genuinely abused animals in this country instead of going after good people who have remarkable relationships with canine athletes that love nothing so much as to pull a sled with all their might. But since focusing on unwanted animals isn’t as lucrative a way of getting donations as making a stink about the Iditarod is, we know they can’t be bothered with addressing the real problem.
In a way, PETA is right to run with the gag order news. That was a rule that makes the Iditarod looks like it’s hiding something. It’s rule that does more harm to the Iditarod image than good.
One story that Alaska’s news media didn’t run with is a story that ties together the gag order and Iditarod race marshal Mark Nordman quite well. Between Takotna and Ophir, Dee Dee Jonrowe mistakenly broke a digital devices rule. She left her GPS tracker in a sled at Tokotna. You are required to carry this tracker at all times. Mark Norman’s response: “No problem Dee Dee, we’ll fly the tracker out to you.” Good thing she wasn’t young, new-comer Brent Saas. What was Nordman’s action when Brent mistakenly broke a digital device rule? He shit-canned Sass from the race. Bottom line: The gag order is to protect the Iditarod good-ole boy/good-ole girl club from being called out for their cronyism.
Mr. Dave King,
You have some valid points and have a right to your opinion. However, I take some issues with your statement. Mainly you talk about facts, denial of such facts, making inaccurate, and even tell the author to go do his homework.
Your statement, “Almost all the front runners in this current Iditarod have a well documented legacy of dog deaths both whilst racing or training, fatal numbers that eclipse the numbers of other racers perhaps less competitive, ie, less willing to push dogs as hard.” I ask you out of the front runners (top 5), especially the 3 who have consistently finished in the front over the last 5 years of the Iditarod, where is this documented legacy? Simply fact is the teams winning and are very close to winning consistently, the ones the are supposedly pushing dogs hard have very good legacies in racing. Maybe the gander might want to checkout that homework that was assigned to the goose.
Have to agree and probably should have pointed that out in my response. Dog deaths over the years have been scattered throughout the field. There is no statistical correlation between where someone is running in the race and dog deaths. Lance Mackey was running as a back-of-the-packer last year (he eventually finished 41st) when he bizarrely had two dogs die. They were the only dog deaths in the race.
Dave: I appreciate your long and thoughtful response here, but again to repeat, there is no evidence. Humans die running marathons, too. They are not “run to death,” and what the data there shows is that while running a competitive event will increase your chances of heart failure during the event, it actually strengthens your heart in the long run.
Given, of course, that you have a healthy heart to to begin with. Thus the pre-race cardiac screening of Iditarod dogs — something that no competitive events does for humans.
Is it theoretically possible to run a dog to death? I guess so. But I’d certainly question your claim that “any dog that dies while in a harness, before a sled, died in a pursuit it had no choice in participating in, therefore views such as those of PETA et al, do have some substance in they were ‘run to death.’”
My observations from watching hundreds of dogs in countless dog races is that dogs that don’t want to participate anymore sit down. If you’re familiar with Iditarod, you also know there have been some pretty high profile cases in which this happened.
You appear to mixing two issues here; science and personal philosophy.
Are there some dog teams in the Iditarod run harder than I would run them, or you judging from your comment? Yes. It’s a race.
Some people are a lot more willing to push teams to the point where they quit than other people. Witness Hugh Neff’s shutdown on the ice outside of Golovin and his subsequent rescue. It put dogs in jeopardy. But it wasn’t an overt act of cruelty. It was an act of stupidity.
And when it comes to canines in America the acts of stupidity are endless. There are far more dogs — far, far, far more — whose lives are ruined and whose deaths come prematurely because they are overfed and under-exercised than because they get to run Iditarod. Yet PETA seems little interested in this colossal problem.
One has to ask why?
I am an animal rights activist, and a fan of The Iditarod and Yukon Quest. PETA is the most hypocritical org I know of. PETA even steals people’s pets so they can kill them. I don’t know why anyone even pays attention to their lies. Part of their statement says that dogs are slaves and better off dead. And then they act self-righteous about dogs dying while doing what they love.
“How much money did PETA take in last year from unsuspecting donors who helped pay for[ [their] mass carnage? $50,449,023 in contributions” I wonder how many of those donors know that PETA kills hundreds of perfectly healthy dogs and cats every year?
In the last 13 years, PETA has killed 32,744 companion animals. While PETA claims the animals it takes in and kills are “unadoptable,” this is a lie. It is a lie because employees have admitted it is a lie. They have described 8 week old, 10 week old, and 12 week old healthy kittens and puppies routinely and immediately put to death with no effort to find them homes. http://www.whypetaeuthanizes.org/
According to PETA and the Virginia Department of Agriculture, in 2014, …PETA also took in 1,021 dogs of which they killed 788 (a kill rate of 77%). Another 210 were transferred to kill shelters. Like the cats, if they were killed or displaced others who were killed, the dog death rate would also be as high as 98%. …PETA continues to be little more than a slaughterhouse. (link here: http://www.nathanwinograd.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/PETA2014.pdf ) Easier to read from 2010: http://www.nathanwinograd.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/petainspect.pdf
Blessings, Jane ~^..^~ Denali’s Legacy ~^..^~ Arctic Dog Rescue Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life. “ The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Everything has its own voice. Thunder and lightning and stars and planets, flowers, birds, animals, trees—all these have voices, and they constitute a community of existence that is profoundly related. ” -Thomas Berry
“There is no evidence any dogs are being run to death, although two did die last year. An investigation by veterinarians concluded they likely suffered from undiagnosed heart problems”
But there is…lots. Dogs did, and, do die in the Iditarod, fact.
Your perspective is as one sided as the perspective of PETA`s.
Until there is some transparent balance in that, your views as much as PETA`s or other detractors views are simply weak responses without substance, and more importantly, effect or contribution to change.
PETA and others attack races such as Iditarod, most often basing their attacks on hearsay and speculation. Those who defend, defend from the corner and often, in denial of fact, make matters worse.
Yes, dogs do die in races. Some accidental, others not. There is plenty evidence to support dog cruelty on the Iditarod and other races.
Your statement ” There is no evidence any dogs are being run to death, although two did die last year. An investigation by veterinarians concluded they likely suffered from undiagnosed heart problems ” is a very weak defence. Any dog that dies while in a harness, before a sled, died in a pursuit it had no choice in participating in, therefore views such as those of PETA et al, do have some substance in they were “run to death”
Almost all the front runners in this current Iditarod have a well documented legacy of dog deaths both whilst racing or training, fatal numbers that eclipse the numbers of other racers perhaps less competitive, ie, less willing to push dogs as hard. Diagnosis from necropsy of many of those dogs are most often non conclusive. The “cause of”death will almost always be cardiac failure. The non conclusive COD if the worst it possibly can be and would in a clinical sense, support an accusation of being “run to death” When a heart stops for no clinically identifiable reason, it leaves a huge question mark open to interpretation, interpretations that may well not be so far from the truth.
If we are to maintain some integrity and ethical values in our sport and races such as Iditarod, we may well want to pay heed to those who criticize it. For the most part, the views of PETA in regard to Iditarod and other sleddog events, are far far off base, but they are certainly not without substance and those of us who care for this sport and dogs participating in it, do ourselves\a greater disservice by ignoring that.
Until races such as Iditarod start taking a different tack on the welfare of the dogs participating along with the ethical considerations attached to that, there will be constant pressure from outside entities that seek mostly not to improve dog care, but to shut the whole event down all together.
There are some serious breaches in animal welfare and ethics occurring in races such as Iditarod, Yukon Quest and others and it will be a matter of time in this digital media age, when more and most of those breaches will become visible to a greater audience and mere defensive words in print will not halt a tide of negativity that can easily engulf, overwhelm and destroy an event such as the Iditarod.
Mr Medred, I suggest you do some more homework, investigate a little deeper and take a different look at the event you defend. If you truly care about this event, its values, history and the greater meaning of the race, then perhaps some real focus on some of the real negatives might contribute to betterment, a better and fairer competition and a heightened ethical perspective.
That would be a far better defense against the detractors than simply making fun of them and making inaccurate statements.