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.