Sled Dogs = Blackfish


Sea World Entertainment, the mother company for the popular marine parks of the same name across the southern tier of the United State, this week announced the layoff of more than 320 employees, and the move has some in Alaska worried.


One word: “Blackfish.”

“The movie Blackfish premiered (in 2013) telling the story about the battering and drowning of SeaWorld Orlando Orca Trainer Dawn Brancheau, ” CW6 TV in San Diego reported this week. “Attendance at the parks sank, and in December of 2014 there were more layoffs. The parks never bounced back.

“‘This is a result of the theme park attendance not recovering to the point that they expected they would reach,'” San Diego State business lecturer Wendy Patrick, Ph.D told CW6. She called it the ‘Blackfish backlash.'”

Blackfish not only focused on the death  of Brancheau, but on what the filmmakers considered the unacceptable practice of keeping killer whales or orcas in captivity.

Now comes “Sled Dogs,” a movie questioning the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the treatment of dogs kept in the sled-dog industry.

Take two

“Sled Dogs” has been touted as the “Blackfish”…of the dogsled industry,” wrote Yvette Brend at CBC News. 

“Sled Dogs” was funded in large part by the Canadian Media Fund, directed by Toronto film maker Fern Levitt, produced by her husband Arnie Zipursky, and so far shown only once in British Columbia at the Whistler Film Festival where it tied for the honor of best documentary.

Though seen by few people, the movie appears to have galvanized both participants in the world of sled-dog sports and activists opposed to the way some or all sled dogs are treated.

Canadian sled-dog tours have taken the lead in opposition. They see “Sled Dogs” as nothing less than an effort to put them all out of business.

Animals rights activists have embraced the idea that the putting the same tour companies out of business might not be a bad idea.

Unbiased observers who have seen the film are hard to find, but veterinarian Adrian Walton, owner of the Dewdeny Animal Hospital in the community of Maple Ridge just west of Vancouver claims to be one.

Walton was involved in the investigation of a now infamous, 2012 sled-dog cull in Whistler. Fifty-six dogs were shot or had their throats cut after business slumped for Howling Dog Tours Whistler. Walton has also testified as an expert witness in cases of animal abuse.

But he has also led opposition to pit-bull bans in Canada and has no obvious connections to animal-rights organizations.

“You’ve got a choice”

After watching the movie at its premiere in Whistler, he shot a youtube video that is part review and part a message to mushers.

“Please again note, I am for sled dogging,” he said in an email when he sent along a link to an edited version of the video. “I think it’s a wonderful sport.” requested the edited version of a longer video. The video was shorted to cover only what Walton saw in the film and what is something of a message from him to mushers.

“I know you have concerns about this film,” he says in the video. “You have concerns that this film is slanted, that it doesn’t depict, ah, both views. Is it slanted? Yes. But unfortunately the point of view it is presenting is a valid one, and something that you guys do have to deal with.

“I can tell you that (rookie Iditarod musher) Patrick Beall, which a lot of you are very upset is being mistreated by the film. I will tell you right now. He comes across as a completely likeable and caring individual who really cares about his animals. But other aspects of this film do paint your industry negatively, and I think it is something you guys have to deal with.”

Walton goes on to suggest that there is a “dark side” to the sled-dog business, that the situation for dogs can become difficult when big sled-dog businesses suffer financial or staffing problems, and that the movie isn’t going away.

“Look guys, the genie is out of the bottle,” he says. “You have two ways you can deal with this….You can either shoot for fortune and glory at the expense of the animals, or you can deal with this issue and make this a non-story. It’s up to you guys.”

Fighting back

To date, the reaction of the sled-dog community – where many feel both wronged and attacked by “Sled Dogs” even though almost none have seen the film – has been to fight back. The effort has been led by Canadian mushers with the Iditarod staying notably quiet although it reportedly sent Levitt a nasty letter warning her not to show the film in Whistler.

“If Ms. Levitt had set out to show the bad apples in the industry and truly cared about improving care in these kennels for huskies we all would have applauded her,” Hank DeBruin of Winterdance kennel in Ontario wrote in a Facebook post which has now been widely shared, “but she is now claiming the entire mushing world is the same. On her website that she put up for the film a month ago, she called for the ban of all commercial dogsledding and listed 200 names of touring kennels across North America for people to lobby and work to get closed down (that part of her website has now been changed). Winterdance was at the top of the Ontario list, along with many friends of ours who run exceptional kennels and care for & love their dogs as much as any pet owner we know.”

DeBruin is a fan of purebred Siberian huskies, something of a slacker breed when it comes to pace, and is never going to win the Iditaord, though he is now a veteran of the “The Last Great Race.” He finished 48th, fifth from last, in 2012, but he had some history with Iditarod before that.

He was forced out of the 2010 for going too slow, and he got into a bit of a dispute with Iditarod officials in Unalkleet afterward because he didn’t think the dropped dog lot offered his team enough protection from stormy weather while it awaited a flight back to Anchorage. DeBruin ended up camping out with his dogs in the dog lot to make sure their care was up to his standards.

One of the legitimate good guys, he and other Canadian mushers have been urging a broad section of Canadians to contact their member of parliament and push to have the film banned or edited to show what they consider a fair portrayal.

“Dogsledding is one of the most iconic images in Canada. Destination Canada (who promotes Canada to the tourism world) tells us when international visitors think of Canada a dog team is one of the images that is top of their mind,” he writes. “Canada Tourism and all the provinces promote dogsledding as one of the reasons to come to Canada, and yet on the other hand another branch of our Government is set to destroy the industry.”

Another view

But they aren’t the only Canadians speaking up.

No sooner did “Sled Dogs” screen than the Vancouver Humane Society jumped up to endorse the film.

“The film challenges the oft-stated claim of the sled dog industry that, because they are bred for endurance, sled dogs are unique ‘athletes’ and can be treated differently from other dogs,” wrote Peter Fricker, the communications director for the Vancouver group in a column for the Huffington Post. “Veterinarians and animal behaviouralists quoted in the film eviscerate this myth, explaining that all dogs have behavioural needs that are compromised by chaining for long periods or being pushed beyond their physical and emotional limits. It becomes clear that sled dog businesses are not celebrating the dogs’ unique hardiness. They are exploiting it.”

Fricker led that column with a connection to Blackfish, which seems to be on its way to becoming a touchstone for animal-rights activists opposed to almost any use of animals in sport or for entertainment.

“The impact of the documentary Blackfish on SeaWorld marine parks and the marine park business in general is well-known. The film was a turning point in attitudes toward marine mammal captivity, with public outrage appearing to grow exponentially every time the film was screened,” Fricker wrote. “Support for SeaWorld dropped considerably and the outlook for the industry looks bleak.

 “Now, another powerful documentary may be about to do the same for another animal-dependent business: the commercial sled dog industry.”

The Iditarod starts in Anchorage the first Saturday in March. It will be interesting to see what happens between now and then.

32 replies »

  1. Ms. Levitt has friends in the show jumping community. Do those horses WANT to jump fifteen 5 foot fences in a row for the entertainment of people. Does she know about the practices of rapping, blistering, and using spike boots to inspire in a horse a fear of touching the top rail? Why doesn’t she turn her lens on that community? It might be that she would have hundreds of angry, wealthy, north of Toronto equine industry neighbors banging down her door, whereas the ‘parochial’ world of backwoods dog lovers like mushers are an easier target. I’ve worked in the equine show jumping, and racing industries, and the sled dog tour business, which is more than many of those commenting in the ‘anti’ camp can say. The fact is, anyone who makes all or nothing statements about any topic is dangerous, as there is no compromise sought. This is not about animal welfare, it is about one person’s agenda. Any reasonable person would say that not all tour businesses have horrid practices, in fact, most do not. To take this kind of sentiment to an analogy of the ridiculous; because some foster parents are abusive, should we shut down the foster parent program?

    And dogmother, the ulcer research is OLD. In fact, all working dogs, horses in the horse industry, and including your pet dogs, have benefitted from this research. In fact, many house kept dogs also have ulcers. Stress of any kind can produce them, including over-processed kibble. Dog in rescue shelters and bumped from foster to foster are also under stress. So, most people in the know, with working animals (including top end show horses) give their animals pepcid or some facsimile, as a preventive. Many people take it as well.

    I will say one thing, if Ms. Levitt thinks that dogs are healthier living on the chesterfield or in a crate 9 hours/day while urban people are at work, then she is mistaken. Countless scientific studies on the decline of human health from this lifestyle are available. Why should it be any different for another mammal? To me, people who feed their animals to overweight and obesity are abusive, and there are plenty in the city.

    Laura, I think you have made it clear where your stance is. You tried to raise money for an anti-mushing film yourself, which I see in Alaska, was a very tough row to hoe. It is so in my country too, Canada, a land that is still largely unpopulated. Dogs can be a political signifier in the Canadian north. Why? The government killed off the majority of Inuit-kept sled dogs in the 50’s, and their reasoning was suspect. Not only did the government repress the indigenous with this act, they wiped out the diverse gene pool of a real rare old working breed. Now, Canada’s Inuit, Cree and Dene are reviving their cultural practice of breeding, keeping and running dog teams. Are you going to attempt to sway legislation in my country and tell the indigenous that you know best? If that is so, then you are no better than the colonial administrators of earlier centuries.

    • Jason I am not “anti mushing” and neither is the film, which you haven’t seen. The project I tried to fund was not a film, nor was it anti mushing either. I have no problem with traditional or recreational mushing, so long as the dogs are well treated, and therein lies the debate. The shit you are making up has nothing to do with the ethics of chaining dogs for profit or sport.

      In the traditional sense, sled dogs and native families depended on each other for survival. Families kept no more dogs then could sleep in the home on a bitter cold night. Maybe they still had tie outs, but it wasn’t the dog’s primary method of confinement, and mushing was a necessary (and occasionally brutal) form of transportation.

      These days? The “sport” is dominated by relatively affluent mushers of European descent, minus a token Jamaican. It takes a kennel of a hundred or more hybrid “super dogs” to win the Iditarod, at least forty to race competitively. Many of these dogs do spend their whole life on a chain when they aren’t pulling a sled. When they eat more than they earn, they are given away or shot in the head. That’s Mush with P.R.I.D.E. protocol.

      Rick Mackey said this about the Iditarod to ADN in 1990, and it’s much the same story today:

      “Among the advantages attributed to women were more patience with dogs and less weight on the sled. ‘The weight factor is in favor of women, but I don’t think that really matters,’ said Rick Mackey, the 1983 champion. ‘It’s not that type of sport. Mainly it comes down to being a determined person. (Working a kennel) is probably worse than milking cows. It’s “dog farming.”‘

  2. Oooooooo.
    1 brush…… My side of the fire… I’m right your wrong….
    Media is a tool licenced and utilized by(1 guess) for the purpose of(1 guess). It cares only about one thing in the end. (1 guess).
    Ask the Standing Rock Sioux (the ones referred to as “prairie niggars” by a “person in position”). You know, the humans who initiated a peaceful protest to protect the drinking water or 50million American citizens down stream of where they were shot with rubber bullets, bombarded with concision grenades and teargas grenades, being gunned with water cannon in freezing temps, dog attacks, and all assaults performed by government endorsed “law enforcement agents”. A granny praying while sitting in a chair praying suffers a heart attack after a concussion grenade lobbed at her by said “agents” blows up in her face, an 11 yr old girl gets shot by (agent)sniper from a hill 100’s of yards away(real bullet)a teenagers horse shot(by agent)while he’s riding it(real bullets).
    Over 12,000 caribou drowned after falling through ice that was left hanging 17 feet above the water after the hydro company let the water flow from “their” retention dam? This caused the starving death of 700 “Indians”.
    1000’s of 1000’s of “Indians’) dogs slaughtered in government implemented plan.
    How are these stories relevant to the article at hand you ask.
    This may require some free thinking.


    Where was the media? Why?
    Who licences the media? Why?
    Conspiracy? Maybe.
    Conspiracy theory? Maybe.
    Did they really happen? Fact. Yes they did.
    1 brush makes the people using look like idiots.

  3. There are other issues with dogs running endurance races, such as the Iditarod. From Dr. Paula Kislak: “As a veterinarian I have analyzed the medical literature and found that research in well-respected veterinary journals demonstrates that up to 61% of dogs who run in an endurance race suffer from painful bleeding stomach ulcers which can rupture causing death, and 81% sustain pulmonary damage to lungs and airways, predisposing some to cancer ultimately.
    And these do not include the crippling fractures, soft tissue injuries and chronic arthritis for those who survive. It is a sad commentary when we run dogs to exhaustion, organ failure and death in the name of sport and entertainment.”

  4. In the treacherous, unnecessary 1,000-mile Iditarod race 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. This is from the Iditarod’s own website at “Standings”.

    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.

    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. The Iditarod, as well as Yukon Quest, should be terminated, and hopefully, this documentary will help toward that end.

  5. I have been a starry-eyed Iditarod fan for a very long time. I bought the story that all the dogs are well-treated, exercised all summer and live a great life…and I know that many do. I believed the story that bad treatment of the dogs was exposed and the abusers shunned. I believed the stories that dogs are no longer culled, but were sold or adopted into homes. But I have been really shocked to learn that this is not true of all the people who enter the endurance races. I am still a fan of sled dog sports, and I know there are very many people who excel at dog care. AND I agree that this situation needs to be cleaned up, NOW. I have not seen the film; I am familiar with some of the horrors, like the Whistler 100 and the Kabloonik hell hole; it certainly sounds like this is a very biased film, especially from one who participates in fatal horse “sports,” but the only way the world ever gets better is by shining light into dark truths so action can be taken.
    “You can either shoot for fortune and glory at the expense of the animals, or you can deal with this issue and make this a non-story. It’s up to you.”

    • Fern Levitt does not participate in fatal horse sports, that is simply untrue. She rescued a racehorse that had been starved to near death, same as she rescued a sled dog awaiting a cull. She is actually a respected journalist who has interviewed several world leaders, including President George Bush Sr., President Bill Clinton, President Gorbachev and President Havel (the last president of the former Czechoslovakia). And given the media wash job that has come to support the Iditarod facade, the film is hardly bias at all. It merely shows the situation from the perspective of the dogs and the people who have taken action to try and help them.

  6. ‘Sled-dogging’? ‘Malamutes’? Many vets, including this one, know little about mushing and his vocabulary indicates his own lack of such knowledge. His practice is in Maple Ridge, a snowless satellite city of coastal Vancouver, BC. A land of teacup dogs, retired people, commuters and the stall-kept horses.

    And yes, the point about horses in stalls is a good one, especially given that Levitt is a member of the tony hunter/jumper/eventing community north of Toronto. Seven horses die/year competing in 3-day events. Those are published FEI stats. There is usually a cruelty case or insurance fraud horse death in the news annually. Many horses, biologically a range animal, are stall-kept the majority of their lives, taking up 16% of the stall space, in an unheated barn. A sled-dog takes up 2.5% of the area on a 6′ tether. But then, mushing evokes the indigenous, the colonial and the hardscrabble, whereas the the aforementioned equine sports are borne out of the military and aristocratic traditions and classes. These traditions are still apparently untouchable, even, I might add after the very public on-course death of the Canadian show-jumper Hickstead, after completing a round in 2011.

    Am I calling for a ban of Olympic horse events, sleigh and trail rides? No. Like any human endeavour, there are bad actors and brutish practices, and I applaud efforts to improve standards of animal welfare in all industries, activities and sports. Any aspect of a culture will suffer when any extreme view is allowed to provoke public sentiment and legislate changes. With Levitt and her cadre, there is no compromise. Levitt is NOT about improving animal welfare and she has stated in social media: … ‘congratulate me when the industry is shut down and all the dogs are in homes where they belong’. As for the film, not showing a balanced view is not journalism, it is propaganda.

    • Jason, Fern also rescued a horse from this industry and she is not a member of the hunter/jumper community. Can you site anything other than misinformation on FB to support your conclusion?

    • Hi Jason, yeah I am a little late to the party on this one, been busy shoveling all the snow that blankets our Snowless satellite city with a vibrant agricultural mix. You seem a little confused about the nature of my practice, so allow me to explain that besides the tea-cup dogs, we also work with a large number of hunting and working dogs, both for security, herding, and sport. Another small side point, I am actually quite involved in animal welfare, including presenting at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Ottawa conference this year. That means I am quite familiar with the standards of care set forth by the Canadian and American Veterinarian Associations and am therefore qualified to comment on what are or what are not appropriate husbandry standards. That being said, I will repeat I am not against sled dogs, mushing or any such activities as long as there is appropriate animal welfare. If you feel these standards are inappropriate, well the current legal environment is that you must take the animals welfare into consideration. My response was quite balanced between both sides of the argument, something that is sometimes lacking in our society.

  7. “There are some really good mushers out there whose dog care provides a model for animal care and compassion more generally, but I don’t think there’s any way for fans to know who the good guys are and who’s kicking dogs.”

    Agreed. Unfortunately, the mushing community is only nailing its own coffin shut with their actions right now. I support humane mushing. The Canadian “Coalition” for Sled Dogs that was created right after Whistler in order to “develop a ‘bullet proof’ iron clad system to do something good for our industry and let the light shine where it needs to… without worry…” – recently posted photos of supposed sled dogs free-running. When asked to identify the kennels so we could promote the humane mushers, they stated, “for these types of enquiries, please email us directly.” When asked why, they deleted the comments and blocked further communication. People in the industry are claiming they aren’t given a chance to show the good – but they are, and they’re shooting themselves in the foot. They don’t want to help the sport, they want to help their wallets.

  8. I was once at a rodeo in Oregon when a group of protesters arrived. I was sitting on a fence with a cowpoke bronc rider who was also a veterinarian. “I could argue all day with these people and not change their minds” he said. “Their minds are made up.” He went on to say he’d done his doctoral thesis on stress in rodeo animals. “If these people wanted to do some good they’d be protesting the keeping of individual horses on small lots by people all over the country. Those are the horses that need help.” I thought of this guy when I visited San Francisco and saw a woman walking her Siberian down a city street. I had a Siberian too and my dog’s idea of a walk around the block was a 25 mile top-speed run up the frozen Kobuk River at 20 degrees below zero. There’s no way a Siberian in an urban California environment can get the exercise she needs. Plus she’s prevented by cultural prejudices from chasing cats – not a problem in Bush Alaska! This film maker’s intent is to promote her own personal situation by attacking something.

    • James Mason you clearly have not seen the film so how can you speculate on the filmmaker’s intent? There are many ways one could be cruel to a dog. The hypocrisy of chaining them up and shooting them in the head in the name of “sport” is one of many types of cruelty this film addresses. If you have such a concern for one northern breed dog being leash walked through the city, then it should be far more concerning to you that thousands of these same dogs are chained up for perpetuity across Alaska. Surely you have witnessed conditions in some of the rural dog lots. A great many of these dogs are bred for profit, run for profit, and disposed of or discarded when they are no longer profitable. The filmmaker adopted an older sled dog who would otherwise have been shot to free up a chain for a younger, stronger dog. How does that promote her situation or make her the cruel factor in the equation?

      • Arguing with an animal rights activist is no different than arguing with a religious kook. Their mind is made up. What Leavitt is promoting is Leavitt.

      • “Arguing with an animal rights activist is no different than arguing with a religious kook.” That is a good spin, because trying to reason with those who use animals for their own agendas is like talking to a wall. A wall of complete self-centeredness, with all focus and effort on protecting their agenda, and turning a blind eye to what the animals wants and needs are.

  9. Melinda, A new race in the White Mountains? Please, don’t. The Whites used to be such a cool place. But with so many events now during the sweet spot of the winter in the Whites, it’s become an over-crowded shit hole. Please don’t make it any worse.

    And yes, Malamutes. The state dog of Alaska. Big dogs, so you can have 5 Mals with the pulling power of 12 Idita-midget dogs, and all five Mals live in your house. (Medred can vouch for me on this). Used to spend lots of time mushing/skiing in the Whites back when it was not crowded with hipsters on fatbikes. Lots of time spent sleeping on cabin floors, because my wife and our Malamutes took up all the bunk space.

  10. Malamutes?

    Anyway, I think Walton is right but the film isn’t likely to change much of anything, in part because it’s generated a backlash and put otherwise sympathetic mushers on the defensive, but also in very large part because relatively few people doing the big races are in the tourism business. Dogsled tourism could go away tomorrow and you’d still have over 80 people signing up for Iditarod and you’d still have sketchy broke-ass incompetent people aspiring to run it and stockpiling dogs.

    I’ve been trying to puzzle this out over some number of years and basically I think it comes down to mushing cleaning up its own act. There are some really good mushers out there whose dog care provides a model for animal care and compassion more generally, but I don’t think there’s any way for fans to know who the good guys are and who’s kicking dogs. RGOs and other mushers do, though, and the good ones need to be held up as role modelsI do think the races need to start dropping the hammer on people caught mistreating dogs (for example, giving them a chance to scratch rather than a public DQ is extremely not cool). I really dislike Iditarod and the ITC but credit where credit is due and they did a good thing by changing the criteria for the vet care award. And it’s possible to incentivize good dogmanship – for example, in the new race we’re setting up in the White Mountains we’re giving an award for the team whose traveling speed on the last leg is closest to their traveling speed on the first. (C’mon, snow!)

    But, I don’t see this film as doing much other than generating a lot of indignance.

    • Melinda, its pretty clear you haven’t seen the remaining eighty minutes of the film. It also seems odd you partner with an Iditarod musher, to host an Iditarod qualifing event, if you claim not to like either the ITC or the race itself. Regardless, Sled Dogs was not produced by mushers and it was not intended for mushers as the primary audience. Most of them already know what’s going on behind the scenes.

      The mushers have totally failed at self regulation, which is why this documentary was funded to begin with. And if individual mushers have withheld knowledge of abusers, then shame on them for not speaking up for the dogs, both then and now. That is as cowardly a thing as Penn State and Joe Paterno covering up for Sandusky, and it will only hurt their reputations more.

      Among other things, this film beautifully illustrates the hypocrisy of the Iditarod and the chaining of the dogs. While mushers vehemently defend their chains, it is largely regarded as a cruel form of primary confinement for any animal, particularly a high energy dog. The Cornell Study (if anyone actually bothered to read it) at best proved that previously chain broken dogs were equally as bored in their pens. But no one has ever proven that chaining is humane.

      You are under estimating the potential impact of this film on the commercial sled dog industry as a whole, and on the Iditarod in particular. Sea World is a multimillion dollar corporation. ITC is a one star charity that depends heavily on sponsorships and donations of time of money from people in the Lower 48. I doubt all the propaganda ADN could print could save the Iditarod from the wave of public sentiment once people realize the majority of Iditarod and touring sled dogs spend their time off trail chained (aka “stockpiled”) in a field of shitty little houses. And that’s not to mention all the rest of the dirt the ITC has hiding under the rug.

      • Laura, has anyone done a study on the activity level of a dog or dogs that are kept inside all day long while their owners make breakfast, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch the news, then go to bed. I imagine those dogs are pretty bored, also.

      • Doug Williams – Bringing up another form of malfeasance in the attempt to distract from your own, or to excuse your own, doesn’t qualify as a valid argument. Most caring people arrange for activities for their dogs. The responsible ones don’t breed, but rescue, cleaning up after the irresponsible ones. And they certainly don’t cull, because they realize they are here to care for, not to exploit (and then rationalize the exploitation).

  11. Blackfish was crap and this is even MORE stupid. Dogs like Malamutes were BRED for this activity. They WANT to run like crazy. Shite like this is why I stopped supporting animal rights and now support animal welfare.

    • Did you actually watch it? It was court cases, SeaWorld’s own industry documents, SeaWorld’s own filming. Three peoples’ deaths are not “crap.” Their families and friends are in that documentary. How can you even say that?

      • When dogs are bred by people to provide a “function” which benefits the people (even though there is no basis in it for survival, nor is there any need for a race), and in this case it is to run, and those dogs are kept on chains when not being raced or trained for the race, of course they want to run like crazy. And, bottom line, it translates to exploitation, which opens the door to cruelty, and there is plenty of it here. It’s just extreme self-centeredness disguised in euphemisms, like “sport.”

    • I don’t think anyone is arguing the dogs weren’t bred to run. The argument is that the industry based around these dogs is very poorly self regulated. How mushers treat their dogs varies greatly from kennel to kennel and unfortunately there are no organizations as far as I am aware that are trying to make sure the dogs are put before peoples need for money. Like someone said in the above comments, APBTs were bred for dog fighting, that does not mean we should allow dog fighting. Huskies can get exercise different ways than just pulling a sled, though there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with sledding when done by people who actually care about their animals.

    • Running a marathon is a physically grueling feat – one most of us don’t even attempt. For those who do and finish, it’s considered a remarkable accomplishment. Now try to imagine running four marathons in a single day, and throw in biting winds, treacherous terrain, and freezing temperatures … then doing it again for eight more days. That’s exactly what the dogs used in the Iditarod are forced to do. NO DOG “wants” to run 1,000 in a week or so.

      • For “”Doug” see DogMother above,– “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. This is from the Iditarod’s own website at “Standings”

      • Dogmother: So, “some dogs” do not want to continue, and “some dogs” cannot continue. My question still stands.

      • Since we have not proven that “no dog” wants to run 1000 miles, WHAT IF a dog WANTS and is ABLE to run 1000 miles?

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