‘Sled Dogs’ nets win


Sled Dogs ties for World Documentary Award

About the worst news imaginable for Alaska dog mushers was coming out of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, on Sunday.

“Sled Dogs,” the documentary that takes issue with the sled-dog industry in general and Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in particular tied for the honor of top documentary at the Whistler Film Festival.

It’s a Christmas nightmare for those who thought the film so slanted they threatened legal action to try to stop its premiere. What they got instead was pretty much the opposite.

“The World Documentary Award sponsored by Super Channel was a tie between “Sled Dogs” directed by Fern Levitt and “The Will To Fly” directed by Katie Bender and Leo Baker,” a press release reported. “The jury deliberated and had a hard time picking a winner but there was consensus on the top three films. In the end, they chose to give honourable mention to “Mr. Zaritsky on TV” and the award for the Best Documentary at the Whistler Film Festival is a tie between “The Will To Fly” and “Sled Dogs.”

Several Canadian sled-dog tour businesses said they were going to file suit to try to  stop the premiere of the movie in Whistler, a popular Canadian ski resort north of Vancouver.

“I threatened legal action because no one from the film had talked with me, seen my kennel or met my dogs,” Megan Routley of Kingmik Dogsled Tours told the CBC.

Festival sponsors said they were going ahead with the premiere no matter the threats, and no one every filed suit.

There were reports the Iditarod also contacted director Fern Levitt and threatened legal action, but those reports could not be confirmed. The Iditarod’s legal counsel refused comment when questioned. The Iditarod was known to be investigating whether Levitt acted unethically in trying to obtain permission from the Iditarod Trail Committee to film the race start and finish.

Levitt, in an interview with, denied any wrongdoing. She defended her film as a fair representation of what goes on in the sled-dog industry, though it might be more accurate to say it is a fair representation of the worst of what goes on in a business that has historically had problems.

Mushers say the issue they have with the movie, which few have as yet seen, is that it blames all for the sins of a few. Mushers have been raising a storm on social media and in alternative media where numerous testimonials to the sled-dog business are now sprouting.

Sylvia Currie, a canine trainer and adoption consultant at Angels Animal Rescue Society about 100 miles east of Whistler, came to the defense of sled-dog operators on Saturday. Many sled dogs do live different lives than the average family dog, she said, but that doesn’t mean they lead worse lives.

“They are not taught to sit, stay, shake a paw, and keep 4 paws on the ground around people. They do not suffer from hip dysplasia, breathing problems, skin disorders or any other issues commonly reported about dog breeders. They are not Christmas presents for children,” she wrote on her website. 

“They are trained to live cooperatively in a large kennel of dogs and to pull sleds.Some social media enthusiasts appear to be against having dogs pull sleds altogether, and picked up quickly on the #pullyourowndamnsled hashtag. What are the reasons? And what next? Don’t make border collies herd sheep?”

Currie also defended tethering or what Levitt, who thinks the retention method inhumane, calls chaining.

“…Here’s what I have to say about tethered sled dogs,” Currie wrote “I’m 1000 times more concerned about a single tethered dog outside a family home than I am with a yard full of sled dogs. The sled dogs I’ve been in contact with at various kennels are close enough to ‘mingle’ without need for concern about spats, and have awareness of their range allowing for 360 degree movement without reaching the end of their chain.

“Is tethering any worse than crating  8 – 10 hours per day, a common practice among dog owners? Is having a single dog in your home better than a group living environment? These are the types of questions I ask myself.”

CORRECTION: The original headline on this story was changed within an hour of publication to make it clear the film was declared a winner by the Whistler Film Festival and not, which has yet to view the film. The original headline was “Sled Dogs” a Winner.

42 replies »

  1. “I see only that which I wish to see. I hear only that which I wish to hear.” An old Ukrainian man in Yellowstone said that to me with a wry smile when I was 22 and ironically enough an old Cree man in Northern Canada said those very same words about 2 weeks later. 2000 miles and a world apart with the same insight.

    More dogs die every year by sicknesses/diseases/conditions brought on by over feeding, under exercising and over medicating than die in 5 years of traffic related deaths.
    More dogs die in traffic related deaths in 1 year than 25 years of Iditarod
    More dogs die in 1 year as a food source( but it’s OK for us to eat beef and pork?)than 5 years of “accidental” deaths of “pet” dogs (medical problems, obesity related problems, etc).
    More beef is killed in America in one day than dogs that die in/at/on the Iditarod had ever killed.
    More than 99.9999999% of Bison/Buffalo and Elk and Pronghorn and PrairieDog, 9 of the 27 DNA fingerprinted strains/ breeds of North American Wolf, 206 strains/breeds out of 212 genetically distinct preColumbian dogs ( the list continues) were all slaughtered in government enacted “cleansing” programs.
    100 millions “AmerIndians” we’re also slaughtered under the same plan.
    More than 600,000 “AmerIndians were raped emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically causing generationally passed on trauma.
    “Timber niggers”(yes a quote real quote of a real person in “position” sanctioned by USA government) were the ones to initiate a peaceful demonstration/”stand off protecting the drinking water of 50miilion American citizens downstream from an oil pipeline and were shot with rubber and real bullets, bombarded with concussion grenades and teargas bombs, sprayed with water from a water cannon in cold weather and sound cannons were “deployed” so that “rich oil” would continue on its destructive path.
    More SouthAmerican “Indians” died protecting their home from oil and mineral “extraction” in the past 5 years than Americans died in the Korean War.
    More acres of Nature is destroyed everyday to feed the “beast” and the “war machine” every minute than dogs that die in 1 week of traffic related deaths in USA.
    Look in the mirror………..

    I’ll “tether”my dogs and then when the need arises use them to pull a sled full of wood to keep my home fires burning, pull a sled with elk or caribou or moose or a box of fish to feed me, my family and my dogs. I’ll not subject my dogs (that evolved naturally to not only survive but thrive in my climate) to de-clmatizing their feet by staying in the house then their “cutie pie widdooo tootsies and toesies” to freeze when they go outside for walk on sub-zero cement or pave. I will not buy or acquire in any way for any reason a human engineered abomination that suffers from compressed sinus cavities(Pug) or dysplasia(Shep) or “separation anxiety” or “hyperactivity”(Border Collie) and then end up feeding the “pharmacy beast” buying all sorts of meds just to have to “feed the beast” buying a euthanasia for it when no other meds work to fight its affliction. All that just to make a K9 into a quadruped, furry, cute little speech challenged extension of me and my frail ego. Sounds like the beginnings of beastitiality to me. Oh! Did I say that out loud. Yes, I know that happens, and about 2,000% more often with urban dogs. Sounds disrespectful to me but to each his/her own I suppose. Or wait a second isn’t that abuse. Or is it inhumane or more in-human. Oh but wait, the dogs want to do that.

    I personally will not subject my dogs to some of the stupid crap I see people doing to their dogs anymore than I will ever again subject myself to a “crate trained” (9-5) job. My dogs are all happy, healthy, active, well adjusted K9’s. My “quality of life” is integral and linked to my dogs in so many more ways than most people will ever be able to comprehend.
    My fire burns for me and my family. If it weren’t for my dogs I would not have a fire. Or more rather if I did have a fire without my dogs it would be a pitiful fire.
    If anyone wishes to paint me with the same brush as they/you want to paint all people who”mush” that is their/your prerogative.
    However it is to be known I do not require anyone’s blessings to have and utilize my K9 counterparts for my life. There is no written “law/s” in the “law book/s” that states that I am subject .
    And even they/you create law/s that will affect people who wish to “mush” that/those law/s will not have me subject.

    respect… re: again, spect: see/look
    All said I doubt if any of the above information was, is or ever will be “main stream” media presented. Reason…its just too real.

    ” ‘INDIANS LOSE WORLD SERIES’:media frenzy. ‘INDIANS HAVE ALL THEIR LAND STOLEN AND ARE MURDERED BY 1000’s’:media blackout.’ “. post on Pinterest
    “The media is the message” ( on TV a few years ago. I. Can’t remember the guys name)
    “Don’t be fooled by the radio, the TV or the magazines. They’ll show you photographs of how your life should be, but they’re just someone else’s fantasy.” The Grand Illusion” by STYX.
    “Judge not lest he be judged” . Holy Bible
    ” I’ll do what I gotta do and everyone can go and do what the —- they want.” White Wolf, an Ojibway elder from Northern Minnesota.

    “If they think their gonna stop me I’ll be like my dogs. Even thought they’re friendly, happy and essentially good, they have a powerful bite and sharp teeth.” me

  2. Recently on another forum on this very subject someone posted,”We see only that which we chose to see. We hear only that which we choose to hear.”
    That said,
    My dogs are treated better than most humans treat most humans.
    My dogs eat better than most humans.
    My dogs are cleaner than most humans.
    My dogs’ quarters are cleaner than most humans’ quavers.
    My dogs are a lot healthier than most humans. ….and their butterball doggie relatives waddling down streets and “crated” in apartments and eating commercial dog food
    My dogs are a lot happier and well adjusted than most humans.
    My dogs are 99.8% mitochondrial DNA relative to Wolf.
    My dogs are carnivores.
    My dogs are not fussy, whiny, omnivore, quadruped, speach challenged, lazy, 9-5 loving, unatural square living, furry humans.

    I would rather see my dogs die free trying to kill a deer over seeing them get grotesquely fat, diabetes, early age cancer,(and many other ailments)from overeating chicken and cow food and their own dead relatives and “a walk” 1/2 block on cement in a totally unatural environment.
    [Following is a shortlist of some of the yummy ingredients utilized by the commercial dog food industry. Roughly 30% of euthanized pets, sick and disease killed beef, goat, horse, swine, fowl, fish, etc. Essentially a whole host of ‘scrap’ including meat and meat biproducts( guts & contents included, fur/hair/feather/scales/shells, hooves, nails, teeth, skin, etc)grains and vegetables (which by the way are herbivore food)that was deemed unfit for human consumption].
    re:mockumetary…. I am old enough to have witnessed 3 generations “bad” “stupid” “dumb” only to see the child grow into that picture.
    I have witnessed propaganda villanize an entire people. 100 million Native Americans were slaughtered by the same methods employed by this woman and her mockumetary on “Sled Dogs”.
    We are at war today all around the world with other humans and we want take my dogs from me?
    We are attempting to put an oil pipe line across the headwaters of the drinking water of 50 million humans and the only ones that wanted to stop it were a bunch of “prairie niggers”( yes a real quote of a real human who is a position of authority) and the media did a pisspoor job of getting that story out( for some reason/s or another) and we want to take my dogs away from me?
    We are killing South American people(that we only found out existed)because they don’t want us ruining their home for the sake of gold and oil….and we want to take my dogs away from me?
    We are ruining our planet by the use of fossil fuels and we want to take my dogs from me?!
    Sure. Why not. We’ve already killed 80 million Buffalo, 80 million Elk, 60 million Pronghorn, 8 strains/breeds of 37 genetically distinct North American Wolf, 206 of the 212 genetically distinct strains/breeds of preColumbian Dog, every single Great Auk, may as well get rid of my dogs too.
    Idiocy will be our undoing.
    Painting everything with the same brush disallows us to see the other guy’s/gal’s side of the fire. Makes for a dull or drab picture.
    “I’m right! Your wrong!” is for children that have been taught there is only black and white.

  3. There’s nothing evenly remotely sporting about putting a dog through these tortures. I hope people turn out in droves to see this film.

    • Craig: Your post makes no sense. What tortures? Are you talking about those fat, little waddling balls of lard I see everywhere that are being fed until they either blow up or their legs collapse beneath them?

    • loads of family dogs are bored in their full life, because the family doesn’t care about their needs. it is a misery. they live even 15-20 years, some of them almost never go out from the house. they just vegetate. most of them usually overweight, and have lots of behavior and health problems (because of the breeding and the unhealthy feeding). this is cruelty to animals. working dogs have their job (which is suitable for the breed), they are healthy, sporty, get the best food on the market, have a very very good relationship with their owners, because they are working together, learning together. this is a good life for a dog not 20 years of boredom with health issues and an ignorant owner.

  4. Sled Dogs deserves to win, hands down. This film is important because it raises awareness about the barbaric sled dog racing industry that leaves dogs to die all for a trophy. And clearly the public agrees, which is why I know this film will go on to win many more festivals.

    • Kim Marie- you have no idea what you are talking about and its alarmist generalized attitudes and movies such as this that spread information that is false.

  5. Try as some might to cover it up, the truth will win out. I’m elated that this film is getting the exposure it deserves, and that people are learning that forcing dogs to run hundreds of miles, day after day (and keeping them chained the rest of the time) is cruelty, plain and simple.

    • the “truth” is seldom painted in black-and-white, Lucy, and you’ve clearly never spent any time around the Iditarod. nobody forces a dog to run the Iditarod. in fact, some dogs have likely died because of the opposite problem – some musher kept them in the team because they wanted to go to the next checkpoint when they should have dropped. and it’s not cruelty to let dogs run hundreds of miles on the trail anymore than it is cruelty to let people on foot or fatbikes do the very same thing in the Iditarod Invitational. nothing is this simple.

      • Craig, with all do respect….who places “Family” out in a large dog lot on a four foot chain with an old car axle driven into the ground to keep the dog tethered next to a blue barrel or old dog house in freezing conditions and darkness for up to 24 hours a day?….Your argument that mushers treat these dogs like family is flat out stupid.

      • Steve: a.) don’t call people stupid. b.) is there somewhere i used the word all? as in “all” mushers treat their dogs like family? there is a huge degree of variation in treatment here that ranges from abusive to downright pampered.

    • First of all, if you are speaking up against the long distances races mushers and dogs take part in, you had better had either run one or two yourself, or handled for someone who ran one or two. Because what looks to you like one thing, is quite possibly the opposite. Sled dogs live on tethers or in fenced areas for their protection. They are runners. With their natural coats, they would be most miserable living indoors all the time. They are pack animals- and enjoy living in and amongst each other. Most mushers I know, including myself, have spent hour and hours with our dogs and know them quite well…remember- when you judge races like the Iditarod and lives of mushers and sled dogs, you are using the limited knowledge and perceptions you have to do so and, like I said, if you have not participated or have not had sled dogs, chance are, you don’t get it and that is ok, as long as you don’t draw false conclusions. These dogs (and people) are cold weather, happy go lucky, strong oh so strong work ethic, and the dogs need their mushers to allow them to run…for miles…in the cold …because that is were they are happiest. Mushers, good mushers, how many calories their dogs are burning, what types of nutrition the dogs need…its a science, man. And its a complicated science because it entails knowing temps/humidity/ snow fall and snow pack, terrain, etc. etc. etc. even down to the length of chain a dog may be tethered on. Don’t let those that have not upheld the ethics of the sport, give you a twisted perception. Remember, these dogs train and train and train and they love every single minute of being out on the trail. It is where they want to be…it is what THEY live for.

  6. A sport is engaged in by willing participants. In sport, there is no running other beings beyond their endurance to the point that some end up dragging the bodies of others along. There are no whips, there is no culling; participants aren’t restrained by chains in their off time.

    This is the 21st century. Time to grow up and do your own work in whatever real sport you choose.

    • The scene from the movie that was most telling of life on the Iditarod Race Trail was when Patrick (the rookie musher) was at a checkpoint with an Iditarod Vet while she was examining his sled dogs…he is beginning to get upset with her as she is suggesting that he might have to drop a sick sled dog….
      The Vet states: “His heart rate is currently 120 and every time I pick him up to stand he won’t stop coughing.”
      Patrick states: “You are not going to make me drop him are you… cause the last guy at the last checkpoint made me drop one?” The Vet states: “I am going to LEAVE IT UP TO YOU, but you might have to carry him through the next section and it is the gorge”…
      Patrick continues to run this sled dog out of that checkpoint and it was allowed by the Iditarod Vet after examination !!!
      After 20 years as a nationally registered paramedic, I can tell you that a H.R. of 120 at rest and uncontrollable coughing when attempting to stand needs rest and medical attention….not marathon race activity.

      • I’m not sure what being a paramedic for humans has to do with your comments on a sled dog. 120 is well with the “normal” heart rate for a dog, almost any dog depending on breed in fact. I have a young Alaskan Husky, yes, a sled dog who’s normal resting heart rate is 120bpm. I’m not saying the vet was wrong to recommend or that Patrick was right to run the dog, only that your paramedic experience has little bearing on the heart rate of a sled dog. Do you know what the normal temperature is of a dog? Hint, it’s more than 98.6F.

      • Hi David, I am a veterinarian, and have also seen the documentary. No, 120 at rest is not within a normal heart rate for a resting dog, especially an athletic dog. Nice try though.

      • Adrian: i don’t even quite know how to respond to this post without sounding rude. the Merck Veterinary Manual puts the normal resting heart rates of canines at 70-120 bpm.
        i am not a vet, but i’ve had a considerable amount of experience around endurance athletes and dogs, and – as a decent though not great endurance athlete at one time – studied a fair bit of physiology. resting heart rates tend to be all over the place.
        120 would be on the high end for a dog, but i’d also say the Merck manual is conservative on the range. i’d give it 10 percent either way. i once had a Lab that was down around 60 at rest.
        the “normal” for humans used to be 60 to 100. i believe it has now been “officially” changed to 50 to 90. mine has long been 35 to 45. i guess i’m Abbie Normal. i went in for a colonoscopy a few years and in prepping me some nurse freaked out because his automatic pulse meter wouldn’t work. it didn’t go low enough. i would guess it’s designed for a “normal range.” i was 38 that day after walking across the parking lot from the car to the clinic and then walking up the stairs.
        i have friends on the other hand, very good athletes, too, who are so high 90 – sometimes 90-plus at rest – that i am sometimes jealous thinking they can get a base workout just sitting at a desk.

      • Dogs and humans share nearly 84% of the same genes and 25 % are said to be matched in the exact same sequence….with that said…that leads to similar pathophysiological processes with humans…I believe we are seeing many Iditarod dogs suffer heart problems from running with an increased heart rate for too long a period of time…eventually the heart valves cannot take the pressure from running at such a high rate for so long……this leads to a “leaky” valve, which leaks blood into the lungs from an increase of “back pressure”….once this happens, signs and symptoms are those of “Acute Pulmonary Edema”…this would give us the “raspy” cough seen in the dogs and “uncontrollable” coughing when trying to stand and exert themselves….another classic sign is the tachycardia H.R. at rest…there are many documents from studies that report a sled dog’s heart rate at under 100 at rest….Aily Zirkle stated in an ADN article by Joshua Saul that 90 would be an average resting H.R. in Sled Dogs…..

      • Hi David, if this was a fat lab that sits in front of the fire place, 120 would be high normal, but normal, for a athletic dog at rest, heart rates should be between 60-100, Even the vet in the film was concerned. This is an indication that the heart is working harder then it should, that the animal is under physiological stress or dehydrated. This is the same conclusion reached by the veterinarian in the film.

      • Adrian/David: unless, of course, the dog’s name is Abbie Normal. i haven’t seen the film; so i have no idea of what the vet said or did. i also have no idea of what the musher knew or didn’t know. is that in the film? normal for one dog is not normal for another dog. normal heart rate is what is measured on a regular basis over time. high normal might be THE normal for this dog. without knowing the background, there is no way of knowing what is normal. as to the rest of your statement, i agree. a HR that doesn’t return to normal at rest is a sign of physiological stress or dehydration. it would appear you saw the film. was the dog showing signs of dehydration?

      • Yes, saw the film on Sunday, the conversation from the veterinarian to musher included many of her concerns, that the dog wasn’t eating, that it seemed depressed and that it had an elevated heart rate. She mentioned that she had concerns, but that ultimately it was his decision. She mentioned that all the other dogs had heart rates under 100 bpm. The film depicted this as one of those grey areas whereupon a veterinarian is uncomfortable with the state of the animal, but feels that its the musher who should be making the call. The film does not say whether the Musher (who up until this point was very relatable and a great face for the hobby) elected to pull the dog or continue. The film left the impression (again this could be editing) of a musher caught between the needs of the dog, and the effects that it will have on his team (again a very relatable position to be in). Without further information I would not be able to tell you if this animal should or should not have been pulled. Again, the film really makes Mr. Beall look like someone who really cares about his animals. Its other aspects of the film that are….. well they are the parts that the mushing community will have to deal with. In the end, I left still supportive of the Mushing hobby, just not so sure that large commercial outlets are…. well certainly we are left with some serious animal welfare concerns.

    • “A sport is engaged in by willing participants.” From what I can tell, these dogs seem more than willing to run. Except when they’re not, and then they’re taken off the team. So what’s the problem? Are you equally against horse racing? Polo? Snail Racing? Fishing (this would seem the cruelest of all to the animal)?

  7. In addition to Best World Documentary, Sled Dogs also received an award for the Best Female Directed Documentary​. Congratulations!

  8. It has been 6.5 years after the Whistler massacre of at least 56 sled dogs on April 21 and 23, 2010; the guy. The Liberals claimed that BC would have the best provincial animal protection following the massacre of the sled dogs. However, the animal abuses continue.
    The Sled Dog Task Force lied about the sled dog slaughter being isolated when it was proven that cruelties are inherent. At the one day closed meeting the Minister Terry Lake denied Lifeforce’s request to have a moment of silence for all of those who have died. Was this task force formed to protect sled dogs or the sled dog industry?
    The Liberal government then formed a Mushers’ Association to obviously protect the industry not the dogs. The new guidelines permitted the continuance of 24/7 chaining, inhumane shooting and all the other abuses. The Lifeforce Report: “The Case Against Dog Sled Industries” and recommendations were not implemented.
    Outdoor Adventures that owned the murdered dogs “donated” their business to Whistler Sled Dog Co. then that shut down. Where did all the dogs end up? And where do all the industry dogs who are bred and bred and bred to get the best ones finally end up now?
    The Lifeforce petition was to the three Whistler Dog Sled Companies, Outdoor Adventures, Whistler Tourism, and Premier Christy Clark.
    Stop “Whistler Sled Dog Cruelty Industry!” Petition…/whistler-sled-dog-massacr…/
    Lifeforce also started “Stop Whistler Sled Dog Cruelty Industry!” Facebook

  9. The Iditarod should end. This treacherous, unnecessary race is exploitative and cruel to the dogs in many ways. It kills dogs just about every year; the total known is 146. Dog deaths average about two per race. They are raced beyond their limits. Six dogs died in 2009. Two dogs (Stiffy and Wyatt, both only three years old) died on “champion” Mackey’s team one year. Many dogs do not finish the race every year. The dogs are dropped due to injury, illness, exhaustion, or not wanting to continue. Mushers finish with only half (or less) of the 16, and some finish with only 5 dogs.

    These dogs are chained (considered inhumane and illegal in many communities) their entire lives to their small, dilapidated enclosures, unable to play or interact with their kennel mates, unless they are training,—all at the behest of their mushers. They are treated as slaves at the ready to perform.

    • dogs die every minute in America. the greatest number of accidental deaths are road kill because people don’t tether or kennel their dogs. i had one poor little dog die this way on a busy neighborhood street just weeks ago while another neighbor, who happens to manage Animal Control, was trying to catch the poor little guy. not restraining is more of a problem than restraining. as for those Iditarod deaths, yes, dogs do die. but that doesn’t make the race by definition inhumane. the winningest musher in race history lost one dog in decades of racing and that happened in a freak accident at the very start of the race. other dogs have died from problems that could not have been foreseen and might have made them drop dead in your living room. have there been deaths that could have been prevented? yes. and there have been mushers kicked out of the race for that.

      • Craig, presumably you are referring to Rick Swenson as the “winningest musher in history” and your statement regarding him is grossly misleading. Here is an excerpt from his book…

        “But on the average, a fellow like myself, who raises a minimum of 50 pups every year, using almost all proven breeding stock, still doesn’t get more than two pups out of a litter that wind up making the race team when they are three years old.”

        “If a pup is slow, I am not going to mess with them. It is not worth messing with a pup if it hasn’t got any speed and doesn’t want to go- yes, I am talking about draggers. That is the first culling – they just plain don’t want to go. Then I look at their gaits or if they throw their legs out funny or obviously are too slow, if their lines are slack all the time. There is no sense wasting good dog food and your time on a dog that isn’t fast enough to keep up.” “If you want to have trotters, you can save yourself a lot of dog food, keeping the faster ones and eliminating the others.”

        And when 5 dogs died during one Iditarod, including one of Swenson’s, you conceded it was “troubling.” Yet the admission that dozens of puppies are culled every season from one “winning” kennel alone doesn’t seem troubling or inhumane???

      • and the copyright date on that book is? a lot changed, Laura. the book certainly catches the old school. Swenson became a leader in encouraging selective breeding and ending those sorts of practices. by the time that article got written in 2009, that sort of old school “dog farming” was history. i think it went away because a lot of mushers just didn’t have the stomach for it.

      • And in electing to end his practice of overbreeding, Swenson ceased to be competitive. Yet the competition has gotten faster and faster and winning Iditarod mushers still maintain kennels of 100 dogs or more. The conclusion that dog farming “went away” is simply untrue, rather it just became taboo to advertise it. In 2014 the Mat-Su borough legally defined sled dogs as LIVESTOCK, which in and of itself is telling of how little has actually changed.

      • You’re talking about “accidental” deaths in dogs. Come on, Craig,– you know, that this is not about accidental deaths, but about a once-a-year, purposeful, yet totally unnecessary race for only about 80 mushers. It is cruel to have such a long, 1,000-mile (the distance from Canada to Mexico) treacherous, race when half the dogs cannot finish, at the proven risk of illness, injury, exhaustion, or death. There are laws in at least 38 states against over-driving and over-working animals, which is exactly what the Iditarod does. The Alaska cruelty statue that would apply to the sled dogs was changed in 2008 to exempt them.

        Also, to be chained their entire lives (except for training),in their small, dilapidated enclosures, in their own urine and feces, and unable to play/interact with their kennel mates, is inhumane and totally disgusting, especially when their only purpose in their short lives is to race in the damn Iditarod.

        Wake up, Medred, and stop promoting this inhumane, deadly, cruel race.

      • you’ve clearly never run a marathon or ridden a long-distance bike race or learned anything about physiology. all animals tire long before they are over-driven or over-worked. as a practical reality, Iditarod dogs usually get dropped at checkpoints significantly before being over-driven or over-worked because the fact of the matter is a team can only go as fast as the slowest dog. most of the dropped dogs are simply tired, physically or mentally. and yes, some get injured. most athletes do. the injuries heal. you’ve obviously never spent any time on the Iditarod Trail and have no clue as to what that is like. there are actually a significant number of happy dogs who seem to be having a damn good time. as for the rest of this, you’re right, and you’re wrong. some kennels suck. some don’t. some are dirty. some are clean. some don’t let the dogs interact with each other much. some let them interact regularly. see Kiersten Lippmann’s post referencing the Ellises. the problem here is you paint with too broad of a brush. you might as well say all city folk with so-called companion animals have their heads up their asses because some do.

      • Convoluted logic. Two, three, or four (etc.) wrongs don’t make a right. Pointing out one form of neglect/abuse to excuse another is ludicrous. Where and whenever the intent is to USE other beings for one’s own wants, the door opens to all kinds of abuse. The rationalizations and justifications are over the top. What is deemed acceptable, even by those who are trying to convince the rest of us that they are capable of “policing their own” is still cruelty.

    • Kiersten: i’ve seen some neat, clean, well-managed kennels with dogs on tethers. i don’t have a problem with it if the dogs are regularly exercised and get some human attention. when they’re left on chains all summer in some vacant lot with someone showing up to feed and water them once a day, if that, well, then we’re into different territory.

    • Better is subjective and your perspective. Personally I don’t like the small concrete stalls with only a view in one direction and no way for the dogs to see each other or interact. I’ve also seen plenty of GSD’s and BMD’s that are just screwed up and not capable of working well in a pack or group and some not very good with people at all. They might have been raised in a nice clean hard floored kennel but so what? That doesn’t prove anything to me about being “better”. No doubt better for that breed. Likely those stalls are that way so they don’t have fence fighting.

      Abuse is abuse. Inhumane is inhumane but simply saying that tethering as form of confinement vs’s a 6×10 stall is inhumane for alaskan huskies is simply unsubstantiated. I happen to think that overfeeding Siberian Huskies that I see over and over in the city is not inhumane, but certainly wrong and detrimental to the dogs health and longevity. Keeping the same Husky in an apartment and taking it for a romp for an hour a day is equally inadequate, yet perfectly legal and not attacked in the manner in which mushers and their dogs seem to be over and over, regardless of their care and love of their dogs.

      • Belgians and German shepherds are not pack-minded dogs. Unlike hounds and racing huskies. They can and do live in groups just fine, but it does take more management. And chain a Belgian, you’ll have a psychotic probably dangerous mess of a dog, for sure. I am in complete agreement on that. Genetics matter a whole lot.

        Given that, I guess Huskies do adapt better to life in a yard on a chain. I am not unfamiliar with well-run mushing kennels. The Ellis’ facility was spotless and the dogs were content. He ran them loose daily in a huge fenced in area. His dogs were bred to have next to zero aggression of any kind. They have one purpose, to run all out for 20 or so miles. The dog houses were intact and insulated- he had to keep the houses in good order because Eurohounds will freeze parts off otherwise. But I think Ellis would have, anyway. He was good to his dogs.

        Others I’ve seen, including sprint kennels, do not come even close to that level of care. How can they when they have 100 dogs?

        I’ve seen and heard directly from others truly horrible treatment and conditions for sled dogs out in Willow and other parts of Alaska. My boyfriend traveled to a lot of native villages and brought home photos of deplorable conditions at Iditarod musher’s dog lots.

        It does still happen regularly, culling, overbreeding, neglect and outright abuse.

        There are certainly good mushers out there. I am in no way saying there are not. But there are some really terrible ones. In most winning mushers I do not see someone who loves his/her dogs, but a calculating person who knows exactly how to best use dogs as tools to get the win.

  10. It’s strawman argument, to say that sled dogs have a better life, than, say a genetic mess of an English bulldog that is chained in the mud outside the family’s shanty. Silly, useless argument.

    • I don’t think of it as an argument so much as an invitation to gain perspective — consider contexts, question our own perceptions, contrast the familiar with the unfamiliar…

    • My sled dogs certainly do. No strawman about it. To lump “sled dogs” into one pot due to the abuse of a few is logically flawed. Child abuse happens, therefore humans shouldn’t breed as they can’t take care of their offspring. Good argument.

      I grow tired of the call to ban an entire sport that would also mean the demise of an entire breed of working dogs, if not a several breeds. I don’t condone nor can I stomach the thought of “culling” working dogs, and I know of no mushers who do. I do know many who either put their slower dogs to work as tour dogs, or sell or give these dogs to recreational mushers or mushers interested in the growing drylands sports of scootering or bikerjor, canicross, skijor etc.. I believe the continued spotlight and focus on abuse is healthy and warranted but vilifying the Iditarod and mushers as a class of people is simply misguided and wrong.

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