Iditarod deaths

Happy to Rest

One of the athletes that make the Iditarod possible/Wikimedia Commons

Update: This story has been updated with a Seavey comment.

As if the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race didn’t have enough of a problem with accusations of doping and sabotage rippling in the national media (see related story), now the dirtiest of the race’s dirty skeletons has been pulled out of the closet and thrust into public view.

A veteran Iditarod musher is publicly accusing a top kennel of killing a lot of dogs as its breeds and weeds its way to building top Iditarod dog teams, and another musher and the husband of a one-time Iditarod veterinarian is suggesting this sort of killing – culling as it politely called – might be more common than most people want to believe.

Most of those associated with Iditarod, most of those who make the run up the 1,000-mile trail from Anchorage to Nome with a group of their best canine friends, none of whom have any chance of winning the race have talked quietly for years about fears that culling was on the upswing in the kennels of top teams.

But until today the talks had been largely private. No more.

Ignoring an Iditarod gag rule , veteran Iditarod musher Zoya DeNure went public with a post on her blog that could make doping the least of the Iditarod’s problems.

Speaking out

Upset after being attacked online by fans of Mitch and Dallas Seavey for suggesting there are reasons a musher might dope dogs with pain killers along the Bering Sea coast near the end of the race, Denure, a musher from the small community of Delta Junction in Central Alaska, kicked open the door on the most sensitive of Iditarod topics.

“I believe there have been hundreds on top of hundreds or more dogs –  dogs that didn’t make the cut- put down (culled ) routinely from (Seavey) family kennels for several decades…and this practice continues,” she wrote on her blog. “I believe this because I’ve heard stories first hand for over 10 years from people from all walks of life who had tried their hands as a handler in his or his dads kennel. The stories are callous and ruthless – for dogs- and traumatic for any sane thinking person that cares for these canines.”

The Seavey kennel could not be reached for comment, but Dallas Seavey posted this response on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon: “My official kennel policy: #dogsmatter.”

DeNure finished the Iditarod in 11 days, 19 hours this year. She was three and a half days behind winner Mitch Seavey, and almost as far behind his son, Dallas, the runner-up and the musher now accused of doping.

A back-of-the-pack musher, DeNure could have an axe to grind given her lowly finishing position, but DeNure is not the only one pointing a finger at top Iditarod contenders.

“One of my earliest experiences in Alaska (having just taken part in filming an early Yukon Quest) was of shooting footage of a several foot high mound of dead sled dogs, dumped at the end of season in the Fairbanks shelter,” Dave King posted on the Craig Medred Facebook page. “Since then have seen similar piles in an Iditarod winners kennel, have seen dogs chained with cold shuts, others dead in dog houses and over 25 years similar scenes each year. I’ve also tried to balance those observations against examples of the best of human/animal relationships out there including some stellar examples of good racing. For years, my sentiment was that this was a sport that was largely honorable, ethical and that the ‘bad eggs’ where a tiny majority. Sadly, and in recent years, I’ve had to revise that.”

King is a veteran Alaska musher now living in Sweden. He is married to Annette Kriller, a veterinarian who worked on the 1,000 mile Iditarod from Anchorage to Nome as well as the Quest, a 1,000-mile race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.

King and Kriller now run a sled-dog tour business in Sweden. 

Culling was once a fairly common practice in the sled-dog racing world. The 1983 Iditarod winner, Rick Mackey, once complained he wanted to get out of the business because he was simply tired of “dog farming.”

And “dog farming” is what the business once was. Sled dogs were treated much like cattle. They were commodities, not pets. They were raised for a purpose, and it wasn’t to be man’s best friend.

Dog farming faded as selective breeding improved the quality of dogs in most kennels, but selective breeding can only do so much.

In text messages from Sweden, King echoed the opinion of a lot of mushers unwilling to publicly speak out but who suggest the Iditarod has become so fast that it is hard to find dogs that can run the pace needed to have a hope of winning.

Sports realities

Training can only do so much to make a good athlete a better athlete – be the athlete human or canine.

It was long believed that only the genetically blessed could become world caliber marathon runners, and study by a group of Spanish scientists proved that earlier this year.

“In a study, published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, experts of the Exercise Physiology Laboratory analysed marathon runners with the aim of determining the influence of genetics on muscle damage that occurs during the test,” Science Daily reported. 

‘This research was based on the fact that there are athletes who complete the marathon with very low levels of muscle deterioration, while others reach the finish line with profound muscle pain – even when there are no differences in training between these runners.

“The results were conclusive: runners with a higher genetic score had lower levels of creatine kinase and myoglobin in their blood, that is, less damage to muscle fibres, compared to marathon runners with a less favourable score.”

But this knowledge isn’t exactly new. The former Communist country of East Germany understood it well. It built itself into an Olympic powerhouse in the 1970s with a program that began by recruiting the potentially best of young athletes from across the country, running them through training programs that culled out all but the very strongest, and then doping the survivors so they could train even harder.

 The country could do it, Sherm Chavoor, a United States swim coach, told the New York Times in 1991 because to the East Germans “bodies are expendable.”

The charge DeNure, King and others now leveling against some of the mushers behind the dog teams at the very front of the Iditarod echo that theme:

The dogs are expendable.



78 replies »

  1. I admit that I hate PETA. They’re liars and kill animals. PETA’s latest press release shows how uninformed and/or opportunistic they truly are! That Levitt film shows dead dogs in Canada. No Iditarod mushers involved. (PETA probably gets a cut of film revenue.) Read on:

    October 27, 2017

    Report of Hundreds of Iditarod Dogs Killed Prompts Complaint

    PETA Asks Alaskan Authorities to Investigate Secret Practice of ‘Breeding and Weeding’ for Prize Money

    Following a veteran musher’s revelation that trainers of the dogs used to pull sleds in races—including trainers at Dallas Seavey’s kennel, whose dogs tested positive for tramadol after this year’s race—have killed “hundreds on top of hundreds or more dogs” because they didn’t make the cut, PETA has sent a letter today asking the State of Alaska Department of Public Safety to conduct a thorough and immediate investigation into the mass killing of dogs in the sled-racing industry.

    “A veteran musher has now come forward to report that hundreds of dogs are bred and killed because they aren’t deemed fast or strong enough to win them prize money,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “We are asking Alaskan authorities to investigate this despicable and heartless practice as well as exactly what killing methods have been used.”

    In the letter, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—notes that the documentary Sled Dogs profiles more dog killings, including dead dogs found in a shipping container in Willow, Alaska.

    For more information, please visit

    PETA’s letter to the State of Alaska Department of Public Safety follows.

    October 27, 2017

    Colonel Hans Brinke, Director

    State of Alaska Department of Public Safety

    Dear Colonel Brinke,

    On behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, including thousands who live in Alaska and thousands more visitors to the state, I’m writing to request that a thorough investigation be conducted into the allegations of yet another abuse associated with the Iditarod: the large numbers of dogs killed by those breeding them for the race.

    Veteran musher Zoya DeNure has come forward to allege that “hundreds on top of hundreds or more dogs” have been killed because they didn’t make the cut, including dogs in the Seavey kennels, which are now in the news for having dogs who tested positive for opioids. This secret extermination of dogs who don’t make the race cut apparently goes back decades. Another musher described seeing a “several foot high mound of dead sled dogs, dumped at the end of season” back in the 1990s.

    It’s time that a comprehensive investigation be conducted into the mass killings of dogs in the sledding industry, including an examination of the methods used.

    More evidence of dog killings can be found in a new documentary, Sled Dogs, by director Fern Levitt, and we urge you to use it and Ms. Levitt as a resource in your investigation.

    May we please hear what specific steps will be taken to investigate the intentional killing of hundreds of dogs bred for dog-sled racing and deemed useless by the breeders, as well as the methods used to kill them? Please contact us if we can assist you in any way with this investigation.

    Thank you for the difficult work that you do. May we please hear from you soon?

    Thank you for your time.

    Yours truly,

    Tracy Reiman

    Executive Vice President

    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

    • Mike Korn:
      The PETA letter seems pretty informed to me. They are quoting sources that have become public. Whether they are accurate maybe a question. But that is what an investigation is for; to ascertain the truth. Surely, if the accusations have some truth, you would not object to unmasking the behavior, I assume. And I assume that you are aware that dogs are culled by mushers and that the practice has been going on for decades. It’s not a matter of if, just how many and how!

      • I can see Mike’s viewpoint. It’s rather amazing that PETA didn’t previously know about the culling. (Crappy research on their part?) They probably are using the statements on Craig’s blog for their own PR purposes.

    • Mike: sadly that film also shows a container full of dead dogs in Alaska. thankfully, it did not involve an Iditarod musher per se. but he was the sponsor of a Junior Iditarod musher, and a lot of mushers did know his kennel was a trainwreck and said nothing. it was sort of a Weinstein deal. a lot of people knew, nobody did anything.

  2. I spent a period of time as a handler,, and handlers tend to talk. There was a long standing rumor I heard from former handlers at the a championship Iditarod mushers kennel that he would make his handlers keep report cards on the dogs and the bottom few would be culled every week or two. It was something I had heard multiple times from multiple sources on different occasions, which makes me believe that there was at least some truth to it. Personally, I believe that, if true, it is one of the most disturbing practices in the world of mushing and something that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, everyone I know still in the sport is afraid to speak out because they don’t want to be black listed or sued. And, without digging up half of the property or getting these people to come forward, it will never be an issue.

    • You’ll need to say what you mean, here Tommy. If, by culling, you mean killing then say it and my guess is that you will be joined by others saying “something ..needs to be addressed.” Also, what time frame (how recent) are you talking about here?

      • In most circles, culling does mean killing, so yea, that is exactly what I meant. As far as time frame, as recently as about 5 years ago. I have since moved on from mushing, but I have no doubt this individual probably continues to do and will continue to until they get caught.

      • Thanks for that, Tommy.
        Do you know the method of killing used or know if this was humanely done? Also, was there any attempt made first to adopt these culled dogs?

      • Bill Yankee: Since you have been a musher for many years I am confident that you know the answers to the questions about how the dogs were killed or whether their killing was humane. Would like to know how humane you view killing dogs might be regardless of the method used to kill them. I am similarly confident you were very aware that “culling” meant ” killing” and did not need clarification. Tell us Bill, do you deny ever culling dogs. Are you saying you are unaware of that occurring with other mushers. Did you ever speak up against this practice. What is your position? Can you answer this simple question with out asking a question? Remember some others reading these comments will know if you answer truthfully.

      • They were pretty adamant about the dogs being taken “out back” and shot. I’m not quite sure about what you’re getting at as far as whether or not it was done humanely or not…the point is, they were killed for underperforming. Again, as far as whether or not they were put up for adoption first, the point is, they were still killed. And no, it was done pretty immediate (within hours to days).

      • Until this post of yours Tommy, I didn’t know how they were killed. I’m very opposed to inhumane killing and shooting can be quite humane IMO. And it appears that a decision was made to carry out the sentence rather quickly, so probably no attempt at adoption. This could be for several reasons, of course, only known to whomever made the sentencing decision.
        There are a lot of dogs let loose in rural areas to fend for themselves (when they are no longer wanted) that passes the problem on to the farmers in those areas. It comes down to dogs sometimes become no longer productive or welcome in certain instances and what is considered a proper way of handling the situation? As far as I know there are no laws against putting down your own dog(s), as long as they are put down humanely. A chance at adoption would very likely be suggested by some, if the situation were known but my feelings are that to let a dog loose in farm country is criminal (just my opinion). Obviously many think otherwise. Alaska doesn’t have much of that sort of issue and when some underfunded kennels get behind the eightball on funding up here they often resort to shooting the whole bunch. I realize this is not what you are referring to but its also an issue that needs discussing IMO.
        Thanks for your candid responses, Tommy.

      • Bill Yankee:
        Is there some reason you are not answering my questions? As a musher for all the years you claim, did you ever cull ( kill) dogs? Are you aware of others who culled dogs? Have you ever spoken out about the practice of culling? Did you really not know what was meant when a commenter used the term culling? Do you think that killing dogs that don’t make the grade is humane regardless of the method used to kill them?
        Come on Bill! Have the courage to answer these questions. Don’t be a Noogie. Man up!

    • Tommy: Thanks for shedding even more light on the subject of killing these dogs. And don’t worry about this practice never becoming an issue. It IS an issue and a big one that can no longer be swept under the rug. Questions whether these animals are being killed humanely or whether there were attempts to find someone to adopt them first are just diversions from someone in the Iditarod club who wants to mask the extent of the culling (killing) and they do not warrant an answer.

      • AF, your comment makes no sense. How could the answer to either question mask anything??? And further, why would you not want the questions answered?
        I personally am interested in both the method and whether/not they were humanely killed. These may/may not be known to this poster but if they are why would you object to his answering? The adopt thing is most likely not something these handlers might discuss but still could be known. If there was no attempt at adoption, and large numbers of animals were/are being killed I’d like to know. Evidently you aren’t interested.

  3. Craig:
    You are wasting your time trying to reason with Bill Yankee. He is clearly more interested in name calling than engaging in a dialog that might be productive. Some are part of the solution and others part of the problem.
    Your pieces have shined a needed light on the Iditarod, the practices employed, and its participants. Time will tell what will become of the “last great race”. But it will probably never be viewed the same.

  4. This is a once-a-year treacherous, unnecessary race for only about 70 mushers, and should end. Approximately 1,120 dogs (70 mushers each with 16 dogs) start the race, and half the dogs don’t finish due to illness, injury, exhaustion, or not wanting to continue. More important, dogs die just about every year; the total is at least 150 since 1973, which averages 3 per race.

    Most of these dogs are housed chained (considered inhumane and illegal in many communities) their entire lives, except when they’re training, to their small, dilapidated enclosures, in their feces and urine, unable to play or interact with their kennel mates, —all at the behest of their mushers. They are treated as slaves at the ready to perform.

    Now the hidden truth comes out about culling hundreds of dogs. Breeding and culling “Man’s best friend” and running them beyond their limits to death, just for a once-a-year, unjustifiable race for only a handful of mushers is disgusting and disgraceful.

    Sponsors should withdraw their support (as Wells Fargo and State Farm) for this cruel and pointless activity. People who truly care about animal welfare do not tolerate exposing animals to such hazards so likely to kill them

    • Lucy: what in life is “justified”? do you think all these little poo-poo dogs chose to be someone’s comfort animal? or maybe they do. and maybe there are dogs that like to run. maybe some of the dogs that get to run the Iditarod. most of those who get dropped have minor injuries or are just tired, and 99 times out of 100, they’re pissed at being dropped.
      the Iditarod isn’t perfect. but it isn’t quite what you make it out to be either. it’s like a lot of things in life. it’s should come see for yourself.

      • Yes Craig, there are dogs who like to run. But I know they don’t like being kept confined, usually on short chains, and then made to run beyond reasonable endurance, at the command of egotistical people.

        When everything else is stripped away, human ego and selfish desire ARE the reasons for defending, excusing, justifying, engaging in, awarding prizes for (to themselves and each other), cruel exploitation which is never in the best interests of the dogs. And, as if what is obvious to perceptive individuals isn’t enough, there has always been a hidden, even darker, side.

        It’s about walk the talk. Play any sports you like, but do it under your own steam, with your own stamina , and stop involving other beings as your slaves; riding to “fame and fortune” on exploitation, suffering, and deaths, of non-voluntary participants.

  5. Those of you who don’t know me. John Schandelmeier. I have been actively involved with dogs for 60 years. I have been training and racing sled dogs for 4 decades. Zola is my wife. Much of her information is from me. It is far from “here-say.” It seems time to move on from personal attacks.
    Culling is real. Whip-training does not have to be done with a bullwhip. Some kennels may be okay with these methods of keeping dogs. Our kennel is not.
    Those who choose what I consider to be abusive training are entitled to advocate their methods. I disagree strongly with the methods Mitch Seavey speaks of in his book, but I respect that he has the balls to say what he thinks.
    Culling is another discussion entirely. It may be okay to get shut of the dog who bites intentionally. It may be okay to do away with the dog that doesn’t pull. Let’s talk about it and try to set some standards for our sport. It is time.

    Twice over the last 3 years I have attempted to start this discussion on SDC and they have deleted my requests and posts. Suggest a venue and let’s talk. Forget the personal crap and let’s work for the good of our sport.

    Those of you who scoff at piles of dead dogs and demand photos? Read. It is public by some the mushers we consider famous. Most of them saw nothing wrong with culling dogs they considered unfit to race competitively and were not afraid to say so. Quit hiding your head in the sand and make an effort to resolve issues that you perceive as problems.

    Want sources to read? Jim Welch, Bill Vaudran, Joe Runyon, Mitch Seavey, Charlie Boulding, That will get you started. When you are done with those, get back to me. There are many more. You would like a photo? Talk with the folks who filmed “Sled Dogs” and ask where they filmed that.

    • I don’t know you John but know of you and have read much of your stuff.
      I am not sure but think that most know that culling has and does take place but that said, not all mushers need be painted with that brush since I also think that most are not guilty of that (at least on the larger scale). Further, the idea of removing unwanted dogs goes much farther than sled dogs, for example, the shooting of roaming packs of dogs that are out of control in many villages as well as the euthanizing of dogs in shelters for intentional biting or just plain not viable as adoption material. Society has already decided on these things, mostly, but for some reason we have a problem with a musher making the decision to cull some of his own dog(s) not easily adopted out.
      How about the feeding of the slow dogs to the faster ones??? I’m sure you’ve heard of some mushers near Tanana that collected dog carcasses as a source of dog food (how’s that for hear-say). Who cares what happens to the carcass, frankly, but it probably makes some economic sense to utilize that energy, rather than throw the carcass into some pit where I believe someone on here supposedly saw the carcasses mixed with the kennel feces. Economics also goes to the native sewers wanting those village dog shooters to shoot the dogs with the nice coats so they can get the hide-there’s a lot to talk about along these lines. Do you really think that the PETA types on here would want to get into a conversation about feeding the slow dogs to the fast ones?
      I’ve spoken with the late Bill Vaudrin (back in the 70s) and his feeling was that, unless your dogs were driven in training, they might quit on you and that would not be the time to try your driving method. And that makes perfect sense, to me, if you depend on your dogs for your life, but perhaps not so much if its only to get from one checkpoint to another in a dog race. Clearly some mushers could be in both of these worlds (Charlie Boulding perhaps was). Bill didn’t get into whip-training but that could have been his driving technique, but some form of punishment was most likely involved in getting their attention IMO. And he is no longer with us so’s we can’t get his take on it, now. He’s been gone long enough that these issues would, I’m sure, be perplexing to him.
      Well, this should be a start to get some interesting takes on the spectrum of things that could be going on with some of the kennels involved here. Animal cruelty is a touchy subject, especially if you elect to throw in farm animals, but even with dogs not everyone will agree what level is acceptable IMO. Chaining dogs and keeping them in the cold are never subjects that will be agreed on, either IMO. Perhaps the only thing that any two individuals will agree on is if a dog is already determined to be put down then it should be done humanely. I’m not sure that many on here would consider a shooting as a humane way to do it, though.

      • Bill, You are right. An acceptable level of culling will be very different from kennel to kennel, much as it is with livestock. The advantage that dog kennels have is that their critters can also become pets or companion dogs. Personally; I would have very little problem with someone euthanizing a dog that bit intentionally. Dogs that bite from fear can usually be fixed, but naturally there are exceptions.
        This is a tough one because every owner out there will draw a different line. Who am I to say they are wrong? However, as caretakers of the sport of mushing, I think we need to make an attempt to hammer out some guide lines. We should also make an attempt to find or establish a method or venue where competing kennels can find or post dogs they see as unfit for their particular needs. Also establishing some guidelines for spay/neuter. At first glance these proposals may appear unreachable. Mush with Pride gave all of these things a shot a few years ago.
        Maybe now is the time too try it again?

      • Thanks for your reply, John.
        I too think its time to make the attempt at getting a handle on this “tough issue.” However, sort of on the lines of attempting a discussion on “trapping,” I doubt that much headway will be made.
        Certainly few would have a problem with any effort made towards adopting out these unwanted dogs but there will still be some push-back even from those wanting to completely “outlaw” dogsled racing IMO.
        Society has dealt with spay/neuter issues and the results have been quite good at reducing the number of animals being euthanized at animal shelters but I see problems here as many kennels are not subject to zoning laws and, of course, the expense issue will be involved too.
        Best of luck in getting some feedback on your ideas.

      • You are right on Bill. A trapping discussion will go nowhere constructive. However, maybe with a dog discussion we will get a conversation with the choir– odds of converting the someone from an anti group are probably small.

    • “Competitive dog mushing is built on dead dogs, from the time slow-looking puppies are culled to the moment some overbred, undersized racing hound expires of overexertion.”

      – Mike Doogan, Anchorage Daily News, April, 1994

    • John, you mentioned the SDC. Did you mean SDAC? I believe the person who runs it would very much like to talk to you. Email?

    • John,
      with all do respect, your group of fellow mushers have had 40 years to come up with any humane guidelines, such as limiting breeding, restricting culling, prohibiting the whip, and constant tethering (which has been shown to make an animal aggressive)…
      your group’s answer has always been DEREGULATING the sport…that is why outside influences are stepping in to try and help the welfare of K9’s affected by Iditarod mushing dog lots and puppy mills here in Alaska.
      Mush with Pride is a disgrace to sled dogs everywhere!

  6. It may take time — too much time — but eventually the truth is revealed. The deplorable, cruel, primitive business of 1,000 mile sled dog races is on its way out, and it’s way overdue. Lies cannot stand forever. People who know the truth and have been long bothered, but not courageous enough to stand up to a monolith, are finally coming out of the woodwork. It’s only a matter of time when the abject misery and murder of innocent dogs will not be tolerated any longer and the Iditarod and Yukon Quest will retreat into the dark ages where they belong. This world needs more compassion and humility — not more greed and egomania. These races feed the lowest instincts of humankind and create an ongoing canine holocaust. May all the sponsors wake up and drop away. When the money, prizes and fame disappear, so will this dirty business. I hope I never have to hear anyone call a dog an “athlete” ever again. THEY ARE DOGS AND THEY DESERVE SO MUCH BETTER.

    • Sandra: your view is way too dark. a whole bunch of the people in the Iditarod and Quest are full of compassion and humility and are really just on a grand adventure with their dogs. and the same is true for some of those competing, but where animals are involved with human competitions things always get tricky.

      • Craig, its my opinion that you’ve bred a whole bunch of “nonthinkers” that have this “too dark” view here.

        They speak of knowing the “truth” when nobody else does, just like this latest nutjob. For whatever reason they all have an agenda that is just ideology and they wouldn’t know the truth if it stared them in the face IMO.

        Hope you are getting what it is you need from this group of crazies but I’m disappointed in much of what you have written, relative to Dallas’ situation. And now it spills over into dog deaths.

        You have enabled these folks, for what reason??? Are you expecting them to get at some sort of truth, here?

      • what i’ve written in regards to Dallas’s situation is that nobody knows. Iditarod says his dogs were doped. he says he didn’t do it and his handlers didn’t do it. he suggests sabotage. the Iditarod says, and these are their exact words: “It was rejected by ITC because it was
        not supported by identifiable facts but only by supposition and speculation.”
        but i’m willing to consider it. so we have three musher suspects with Dallas in the dog lot at Nome: his dad, Nic Petit and Joar. both of the latter say they didn’t dope Dallas’s dogs. i can’t see his dad doing it. which do you think did it?
        we have four suspects in the lot at White Mountain. the three already mentioned plus Jesse Royer. i just don’t see Jesse doing it, but i haven’t talked to her yet. which of them do you think did it?
        Dallas says the dogs were doped in Nome. ITC says, and again these are its words: “Mark Nordman, the Race Marshal, never told Musher X (ie. Dallas) that the fact that the test instrument ‘was noted to be saturated/overloaded’ meant the levels of the drug present indicated it was likely administered after the race finish. It is possible that interpretation is a conflation by the musher of separate communications.”
        so that leaves open the possibility the dogs were doped anywhere along the trail from White Mountain in. i think its safe to say no animal rights activist doped the dogs on the trail. can you imagine one slipping into White Mountain unnoticed?
        maybe Nome works better? can you imagine that?
        we’ve got the top three teams in the Nome lot and the vets scurrying around and lots of people watching. i’d be guessing from my experience that whatever volunteer they’ve got watching this seen is pretty pumped full of his/her responsibility to maintain security. it would take a crafty PETA-ette to sneak in there and do the dirty deed. is that what you think happened?
        wouldn’t someone associated with Iditarod as a volunteer or a vets be a much better suspect either there or WM? could there be an infiltrator? if we’re talking sabotage, doesn’t that seem most likely?
        or could Dallas be fibbing?
        i don’t know the answer to any of those questions. if you have the answers, please forward them.
        as for the rest of it, the antis were already enabled. you think they’re so sophisticated they could figure out how to infiltrate the race to dope Dallas’s dogs, but not sophisticated enough to run an anti-Iditarod PR campaign. i didn’t report anything it isn’t pretty easy for PETA to dig up if they want. in fact, i’m way short of what PETA could dig up because i haven’t used but a fraction of the information i’ve been given.
        and if they wanted to infiltrate a few kennels or the Iditarod volunteer core i’m sure they could dig up a lot more.
        Iditarod has some problems. Stan Hooley alluded to them the other day in a recorded in interview with KTVA in which he mentioned how “the competition is so intense.” intense competition in endurance sports has a long history of causing bad behavior. Iditarod appears to have competition related problems now, but if it doesn’t, it will soon.
        some people believe the pace has already reached the point where some mushers have resorted to East German training tactics in order to win, ie. get a big pool of potential top athletes, train the hell out of them, select from among the few that survive the training, and jettison the rest. and then maybe dope the survivors on top of that.
        i’m willing to accept that you don’t believe we’re there yet, that someone can just get lucky on the draw and come up with a winning team of dogs. so you tell me, where do we hit the point that people like Zoya, Dave King and others already believe the race is already at? sub-8 days? seven days? six days?
        and why shouldn’t Iditarod fans and supporters, who are really what make the race what it is, not be involved in this discussion? they all want to see the race survive. and there’s reason to be concerned that it won’t if it continues down the current track. the pressure to dope will only grow. the pressure to breed big and cull a lot to get that winning team will only grow. and the pressure on sponsors to disassociate themselves from the race will only grow.
        so what’s your solution? other than just calling the messenger names?

      • “some mushers have resorted to East German training tactics in order to win, ie. get a big pool of potential top athletes, train the hell out of them, select from among the few that survive the training, and jettison the rest. and then maybe dope the survivors on top of that.”

        sounds like you are getting to the source Craig…

      • First of all, Craig-the only messengers I’ve called names are those who have stated their “truths” when all they’ve given are their beliefs, with no any back-up except more beliefs from some others. If it were just opinions given, everyone would just discount their beliefs IMO. The number of days it takes probably has little to do with anything, sort of akin to the old 4-minute mile being a barrier. While drugs and dog culling are certainly possible, for an edge, both of these possibilities can be dealt with without the several “nutjobs” on here pushing their agenda of stopping the Iditarod-you know who I’m talking about and you also know the loss of the race would involve some serious culling of dogs that would be more than tragic IMO.

        Further, you seem to have evolved somewhat by not pushing your (and others) theory that this drug was very likely used to move Dallas (or someone else) up in standing from WM or Safety. Dr. Sept’s description of the drug involved makes it almost impossible that any knowledgeable musher would drug their own dogs to get any advantage on the trail. Clearly nobody knows if the dogs were drugged by Dallas (intentionally or not), and they sure don’t know of anyone else involved, but it also clearly is “asinine” to think that Dallas intentionally drugged them (whether in Nome or on the trail) IMO. I believe this based on Sept’s description of what the drug does to dogs, in his opinion (which I value) and what could he have gained by drugging in Nome other than a chance of being DQ’d? You’ve made comments about your believing Dallas may have felt he could beat the drug test-that’s absurd IMO. You’ve also made comments alluding to the ridiculousness of a sabateur trying something that may/may not even be caught in the drug test-I think that’s absurd as well, unless a belief that the ITC would let something like that pass (we know now that that’s not going to happen).

        I just have no help for you as to whom it may have been, just that its looking extremely unlikely that it was Dallas IMO. That said, something must be done to avoid this situation in the future-I suspect a lot of push-back from mushers on the new drugging rule but it does jive with rules in other animal related sports (even though it could be looked at as somewhat unfair). As to who gets the job to make certain it doesn’t happen by sabatoge, this will no doubt be examined in detail be everyone involved.

      • Bill: who said he doped in Nome? and though Bob Sept is an old friend of mine, what he knows about this drug AND running dogs is limited. Smars, a highly respected physician, and a one-time musher, might actually have a better understanding, but i frankly don’t know. what i do know is that there isn’t nearly enough information to conclude that it is “asinine to think that Dallas intentionally drugged them.”
        and that’s discounting the fact there have been a number of doping cases in sports involving people using drugs they thought would given the advantage even if all the science said otherwise. in your view NO cyclist would be using tramadol for the same reason Bob suggests no dog musher would use it, and yet the drug is widely used in the peloton.
        and you somehow seem to conveniently overlook that the ITC DID try to let this pass. you tell me, Bill, why would a saboteur try something the Iditarod was going to let pass? and don’t give me one of your bullshit answers. because Iditarod really did try to make this pass before a bunch of mushers made a fuss about how it made them all look like dopers.

      • No, Sandra is correct. The mushing community always finds (as do all other animal exploitation industries) ways to “justify,” hide, twist, euphemize, what the dogs are enduring, in order to favor their self-centered desires.

        Empathy always has a difficult hearing, where narcissism exists. We know that if the “human competitions” were strictly between the humans, the conditions would be infinitely improved.

      • OK Craig, I have no idea of what you mean about who said he doped in Nome. I don’t think anybody knows where the doping took place or if they do they aren’t talking.
        As far as my opinion about a cyclist wanting to use this drug, that’s entirely possible and the difference between men and dogs is explained by Sept because of brain receptors-the drug doesn’t help with dogs according to Sept because they don’t get that euphoric feeling that men do. But, we are talking dogs here and not cyclists and according to Sept, there is no reason to use the drug on dogs for anything other than rest after the race (say in Nome).
        I have no idea of what you speak about some sort of unpublished drugging that may/may not have happened. If you know of something, spell it out, and don’t give the run around the tree about it-just tell us what you know. Or don’t you really know, sort of like some of your regulars on here giving us their take on dead dogs and whips, etc, etc. How’s that for a bullshit answer!

      • well, the AKC would beg to differ with Bob on that one. it clearly states on its website that dogs do get that feeling. but whatever they get; they get pain relief. tramadol would be an good drug to give at White Mountain or when you’re loading a dog in a pull sled to let it rest and recover. did you read Smars’ comments? he painted a pretty good scenario in which the drug would be useful.
        and i can’t spell things out because i still don’t have answers to some key questions. but i can tell you the first question that arises when you see a time frame of 0-to-15 hours for when the drug was given: is it possible there was more than once dose, ie. one in White Mountain and one in Nome tover the White Mountain doping?
        and i’ll repeat from the statement ITC gave me today:
        “Mark Nordman, the Race Marshal, never told (Dallas Seavey) that the fact that the test instrument ‘was noted to be saturated/overloaded’ meant the levels of the drug present indicated it was likely administered after the race finish. It is possible that interpretation is a
        conflation by the musher of separate communications.
        “ITC, Dr. Nelson and Mr. Nordman also categorically deny that ‘Musher X (that would be Dallas) was led to believe that they suspected either an accident or possibly foul play in the Nome dog lot or food bags.’ In fact, that was a hypothesis put forward by Musher X. It was rejected by ITC because it was not supported by identifiable facts but only by supposition and speculation.”
        so if we track back to before this became public, both the idea the drugs were given in Nome and the idea that it was sabotage belong to Dallas, who might be the doper. we should be led by his narrative because?
        and one would think that by now that given all the attention this has attracted and all the talk it has caused in Nome that if anyone saw anything or anyone suspicious around the Nome dog lot in the early morning of March 15 we would have heard from them. since we haven’t, it seems more and more likley that if someone slipped drugs to Dallas’s dog in Nome, it was most likely to be someone authorized to be around the dogs.
        so who you picking? Nic? never can trust those foreigners. one of the vets? most of them come from Outside; somebody could have gotten to one in California. Mitch? maybe he just wanted to give Dallas a good excuse to take a year off. the disgruntled Dallas handler who didn’t get the raise she wanted?

      • I’ll buy Sept’s take on it over AKC, Craig.
        Pretty clear that ITC and Dallas are on different pages on what was said between Dallas and Nordman. That entire handling of the situation doesn’t make a lot of sense and only contributed to their misunderstanding IMO.
        About that saturated test, as I understood the saturation was based on the amount of the drug that would be present after three days based on how they designed their tests. How they came up with that 0-15 hour range doesn’t fit anything IMO.
        It appears to me that we are just going to have to bite the bullet about who administered those drugs to those dogs-we don’t know and unless someone confesses we aren’t going to know. Too bad, but since the idea of “intent” seems to have stopped the authorities from doing anything, that “intent” will most likely suffer in any future rules adopted. This cannot be allowed to happen again IMO.

    • Sandra; I need to jump in here. Yup…. there is a dark side to sled dogs, whether racing, recreational mushing or ski-jouring. Same can be applied to folks who keep horses. You may not want to hear it, but dogs and horses can indeed be athletes.
      Before you jump on this post, take a short moment ant consider the life of a city dog who lives in a small kennel while his/her owner is at work. That dog gets out, hopefully, for a short leash walk in the evening. In my mind that scenario is much worse than that of the sled dog who gets to interact with his pack of buddies on a daily basis. Realize that there are a fair number of dog kennels where the old guys that no longer pull sleds are loose or in the house. Many kennels, such as ours, take these old dogs on loose walks at least once a day. They get to chase squirrels, dig holes and do dog stuff. We aren’t alone in treating our dogs this way. Retired athletes.

      • John, that reply to Sandra would be a great argument if it didn’t rely on pointing to a different form of transgression in order to justify and defend the one at hand.

        The problem with a “sport” which relies on a dog or a horse, or whatever, to win the money and bring the fame, is that there are always be people who stop at nothing to get those prizes and that fame. And so, there is cruelty, abuse, killing, involved.

        It’s not a matter of whose cruelty and/or neglect is worse – it’s about ALL of us becoming more mindful of the lives of those who can’t protect themselves from our whims.

  7. I’ll pass on posting pictures, nothing good will come from that. But if you dont believe me, go online and look at reviews. And to “Alaskans first” point regarding opening an investigation, I’m not sure the mushing community wants tourists from all over the world posting” less than perfect” kennel conditions. The Iditarod doesnt need that right now. FYI, I’m a fan of the Iditarod. I just dont like the way its going. Too much about winning, and i feel they are pushing the dogs too much. I think there should be more manditory stops and layovers. JMO.

  8. DeNure is a self-promoting dirt bag. Waits until a top musher is down and then kicks dirt in his face and yells “Look at me! Look at me!”. Pathetic.

    • James,
      you are way out of line.
      Why don’t you pull your head out of the sand and look at all the folks who have spoken out on this issue…
      Zoya is not the first, yet folks are scarred because her voice is heard in the mushing community.

  9. The issue of killing dogs, including puppies, is as old as competitive dog mushing. Dead dogs used to float down the rivers in Alaska and in some areas they still do. The question is, why has it taken so long to get public attention? Competitive dog mushing is a dirty business.

  10. Think economics of money and time. Every unwanted dog is a waste of time and money for mushers and their handlers. Some dogs freeze to death, others are given no vet care and die, while still more are brutally killed.

  11. In the past, I’ve heard Zoya talk about the abuses. It’s wonderful that with time and in her own way she’s started to talk about some of what she knows!

  12. Zoya de Nure and Dave King – are these really the best authorities you’ve got?! If they are the best you can come up with, you are straying way off your thinkers-path and going deep tabloid.
    What a ridiculous shame.

    • Let’s add my name in along with Zoya and Dave King. I have 4 decades of competitive mushing and dog rescue. Alaska, Canada, France, Lower 48. Competing, as Trail boss, Race Marshall, Judge and Veterinary.

  13. Craig,
    Thanks for getting the truth out to those of us who still care about it.
    Zoya and Dave are spot on with their comments.
    Living in Willow for the last 11 years, I have heard many stories from handlers who literally ran away from “Top 10” Iditarod kennels when they saw the horrors perpetrated there in the face of competition and greed.
    One retired musher told me how he shot a dog on a chain in a dog lot in front of all the other dogs to show what happens to those who do not want to run…he told me it still bothered him 30 years later.
    Another handler that left a “Top 10” kennel told me that the musher just pilled the dead huskies as they were culled right into the same pit that they were tossing the dog shit into.
    Alaska has no laws that prevent mushers from shooting a hundred dogs a year if they want to…leave the rest on 4 foot chains….the ones that die in 30 below….oh well, saves a bullet….that’s how these top finishers think.
    This animal abuse must end!
    I believe there will be more coming forward with experiences and we all know those who have shared their sad stories, but said; “Please do not tell anyone”.
    Those of us against these inhumane practices must stand together and demand the end of the Iditarod culture in Alaska.

  14. Dallas’s blow up with the ITC board has put the spotlight on the Seavey family. I’ve never met Dallas, so I can’t speak to anything about him.

    I worked for Mitch Seavey one summer. He had a kennel of around 300 dogs. I can’t imagine this has changed. His best dogs get the best care in the world. If his breeding program produces approximately 30 puppies each year, and the best racing dogs have a career of about 7 years: where do the rest go? There’s only so many B & C team dogs to sell to other kennels, only so many other persons looking for recreational mushing dogs and pets. I don’t think a dog’s life means anything to him until it can prove itself. For years, I’ve told friends he treats his employees a little better than his dogs, and he shoots the dogs he doesn’t like. I didn’t witness it, but I was told by immediate family and long time associates about culling. I was also told by Danny Seavey the younger that if pressed, they would simply admit it.

  15. One has to ask, is Chris Messed a trained journalist or is his “a place for readers and thinkers” just a tabloid magazine.

    Good grief, I’m for clear information but this guy’s writing can’t possibly be taken seriously, can they?

  16. from the facebook comments on your article my repsonse to bryan imus etc–>

    Bryan Imus Zoya should probably lawyer up while she’s working on her next excuse to scratch.
    Like · Reply · 18 · 5 hrs
    Lev Shvarts
    Lev Shvarts Best one liner today.
    Like · Reply · 6 · 5 hrs
    John T. Hessert
    John T. Hessert i think its a dangerous way to be on facebook threatening people when they speak out about something. sounds a little like ITC who dont want conversation from mushers on anything. the gag rule needs to go, if zoya and other mushers, for example want to organize and present something to the baord that would be a way to enforce a no cullilng rule for kennels entered in say the iditarod and or yukon quest, and develop a system and plan to help find good working homes, even if its thru canicross, youth programs etc, for all dogs, than i think she sure shuold be able to tackle it. and if she has heard some things, and wants to voice her opinion, on things going on. than certainly she can do it. we live in a country with freedom of speech. and i also think, dallas etc ought to sure be able to make a petition, like he did a year or so ago, and try to change the rule re cell phones, or trailers. two other issues. that like the culling thing, really effect the landscape of the race. and if its the board, at itc. that is the only thing, and their staff with their monstrous salaries, complaining of no money for anyything but gettin paid like 170 k a year, for hooley, or for chas st gerorge, having several peripheral businesses hes running and a part of beyong his role at iditarod–> maybe we need to hire someone who can exclusively focus on iditarod, and not be spread so thin. or a nordman as race marshall: we need to cycle people thru that position, cuz its a hard one, and because to avoid the economic and political corruption. if all the mushers sign a petition, we need change. we dont need a gag rule, we dont need a nordman bullying a dallass for six months in a strange unqualified process. if someone like zoya wants to organize and come up with a good enforceable solution to lowering rates and or potential of rates of culling in big kennels, than she should be able to voice her opinion and owrk on that angle. i dont see why zoya, or dallas etc, or anyone. cant voice their opinions. the people who want to shut them down, are the ones at the metaphorical dinner table of iditarod that need to excuse themselves and no longer be part of the healthy and growing future of the sport of dog mushing. in my opininoin.

  17. Jealous is not, I think. the cull is real. I see it too. Mr. Runyon say it in his book. Seavey in his book. Real, unnecessary, sad. Emotion doesn’t change real

  18. After his 2004 victory, Mitch Seavey was invited to speak at Race to the Sky’s Rendezvous. There, he essentially boasted about killing a dog who was no longer running. I was there and heard him. So were many others.

  19. Key words used by Zoya Denure were “I believe”. Thus, she has not personally seen culled, dead sled dogs nor the actual act of culling a sled dog team!! Dave King’s statement regarding piles of dead sled dogs behind a Fairbanks shelter was based upon his own assumption. Did he verify the dead dogs were indeed sled dogs? Having volunteered at a shelter in Alaska, I know factually that some shelters euthanize dogs, then have to place their carcasses outside to stay frozen until such time they can be cremated!! Packs of wild dogs which have been abandoned in Alaska are prominent in the winter months and often the shelters are overloaded. Thus, the upsetting yet practical use of “outdoor” freezers. I was born and raised in Alaska and am proud to state I will always be an Iditarod fan and supporter. Before Iditarod naysayers make ridiculous statements about mushers, I firmly suggest they personally substantiate any allegations they choose to make public.

  20. So let’s see if I read this right…. Zoya – the magazine chasing former model turn ‘musher’ I guess – who needed a counselling coach to help her get through this year Iditarod race because she has embarassed herself in the mushing world by quitting a race 9/10 times said: “I believe this because I’ve heard stories first hand for over 10 years….” . In my world and a court of law, unless she has viable proof she would be thrown out of court in a hail of laughter. It’s HEARSAY. I can’t help but think “Don’t write checks that your mouth can’t cash Zoya”.

    • Maybe she has quit nine times because she is not willing to hurt her dogs?
      Let’s face it….those dogs forced to run to Nome in 8 days from Willow are being abused.

      • Steve: no dogs are “forced to run to Nome.” they might be programmed to run by time they get on that trail, but the Iditarod as a very good record on cracking down on forcing along the trail.

      • Craig,
        If no dogs are forced to run, then why does the ITC still allow mushers to carry the WHIP?…
        The old timer I spoke to is still alive and said as soon as mushers leave the checkpoint areas, the WHIPS come back out!

      • Steve: i’ve spent a lot of the time on the Iditarod Trail when the dog race was being run going back to the ’80s, and i’ve never seen a whip. not one being used, not one in a sled, not one in a checkpoint. i think a few people might cracked them over dogs back in the 1970s, but i wasn’t out on the trail then. but i have a recollection of Dick Mackey cracked a whip in that photo finishe with Swenson, but it could also be a memory of some other old timey photo

      • Even if not hitting the dogs, a whip cracked above your head on the trail is persuading enough to most animals to keep running.

      • Steve, I’ve never seen a whip on the Iditarod.

        And further, unless a team had been trained with a whip it would not work. I know of only one dog team that responded to a whip (a team of Malamutes from Whitehorse) and that was not even on a race, but just a run from Carcross to Atlin, BC. The driver used a bullwhip on those hard headed dogs but the teams that approached his team had a hard time getting by him because of their being totally spooked by the cracking of that whip. All the cracking of that whip did was spook most dogs (his malamutes didn’t seem to hear it as they didn’t run any faster).

        There may be other means of driving dogs but we’ve all seen numerous teams that just plain quit after being tuckered out or depressed from a tough race-which says to me that what you have here is just some more of your imagination running wild, Steve. And all based on some old timer’s belief.

        I don’t buy it.

      • Unlike other sled dog races, the Iditarod doesn’t ban the use of whips. One race champ went so far as to use cattle prods on the dogs. Look at training videos. There was one of King’s kennel. The treadmill was ramped up to high and the dogs were forced to pull a parked ATV. Some of those dogs looked like they were about to drop dead. Other than dying, there way no way for them to get off that treadmill. So, Craig, it’s real and true that these dogs were being forced.

    • Ev, unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have to know as well as everyone else that dogs are culled. Trying personal attack methods as adiversion is as old as the hills, and says something about YOUR character – that you’re in with the self-absorbed deniers. I’ve known about the culling for over 40 years!

    • I can cash that check Ev. Been there, seen that. Hiding in the sand won’t change the facts. While I do not personally believe in wholesale culling, there are those who do. There are those in the sport who feel it okay. Again, I disagree strongly, but have respect for those who will stand by their beliefs and are willing to say so. You don’t believe culling is real? Ask some of the top Iditarod finishers, or any top kennels, sprint or distance. The majority of them are upstanding folks who will tell you straight.

    • Mark,
      maybe you should watch Fern Levitt’s movie: Sled Dogs
      a group of vets in BC dug up a huge pile of dead dogs at a commercial kennel in Canada (and this was not even an Iditarod lot where culling is approved by Mush with Pride, their “ethical” oversight organization)

      • Mush with PRIDE doesn’t have to approve of culling, because if mushers follow the guidelines there would be no reason to cull. Also, PRIDE is not an “oversight” organization–it provides responsible information on how to care for dogs but has no teeth to enforce compliance.

      • Jane,
        Bob Fawcett was actually on the board of “Mush with Pride” (Vice President) and he was the musher who culled around 100 dogs in Whistler…while they were stuck on chains watching their brothers and sisters die a horrible death.
        and, Mush with Pride has a photo of where on the skull to shoot a dog in the head for culling…
        so Mush with Pride is not worth anything to the welfare of sled dogs in North America.

      • Steve,

        Bob Fawcett was on the board of PRIDE, but PRIDE does not have a picture of where to shoot a dog in its publications or website (not sure where you got that). I can’t find anything recommending the shooting of dogs in PRIDE. I can’t find anything recommending that people kill dogs without the aid of a veterinarian.

        Also, Fawcett did not kill 100 dogs–the actual number was closer to 50. He plead guilty, went to court, and pretty much got off with no punishment. Makes you wonder why bother to try prosecuting.

        You may not think our organization is worth much, your comments are not worth much if you choose to be dishonest.

  21. I went to the Seavey kennel while on a trip to Seward. We both left stunned and nearly in tears. We will never go back. Working dogs or not. Short chained outside in the rain with urine and fecies covering everything. you could smell it 100 yards away. Cruel and Sad.

    • To “Just” Chris
      Do you have pictures to corroborate your accusations about the Seavey(father or son) kennel?
      I think Dallas Seavey has a textbook case of defamation of character against several people, not necessarily you.

      • Jane: remember that truth is a defense to defamation. And when a person files such a suit he opens his whole life to inquiry about what kind of reputation he has or deserves. Grandpa once said: ” never ever ask for an investigation”.

      • I’ll pass on posting pictures, nothing good will come from that. But if you dont believe me, go online and look at reviews. And to “Alaskans first” point regarding opening an investigation, I’m not sure the mushing community wants tourists from all over the world posting” less than perfect” kennel conditions. The Iditarod doesnt need that right now. FYI, I’m a fan of the Iditarod. I just dont like the way its going. Too much about winning, and i feel they are pushing the dogs too much. I think there should be more manditory stops and layovers. JMO.

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