Dog in cuffs

Alaska’s Last Great Race is still a month and a half away, but the Idit-a-craziness has already begun.


Detroit Police had the mother-of-all-dog protesters in pawcuffs this week at the North American International Auto Show where animal rights activists showed up to object to Anchorage Chrysler-Dodge’s sponsorship of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and vent their pent-up anger on a junker of a soccer-mom van.

OK, the so the “dog” turned out be a woman in a dog suit, but the craziness was real enough.

“Protesters lined the road outside Cobo Center in Detroit, shouting ‘Chrysler has blood on their hands’ when a battered silver minivan pulled up,” Gus Burns reported for Michigan Live, although the MLive video of the event  showing about a dozen protesters makes the use of the word “lined” look to be a stretch.

Facebook video of the incident posted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is both more entertaining than the MLive video and filled with less propaganda.

It focuses on an overweight woman in a dog suit smashing the windows of a late-model Chrysler Town & Country with a sledge while people in the background chant “Chrysler has blood on its hands; Chrysler has blood on its hands” before the police show up to put an end to the silliness.

The van is spray painted with graffiti: “CHRYSLER Sponsors Deadly Iditarod – 150+ Dead Dogs.”

One hundred fifty is a big number, but it is a small number compared to the 1,925 to 2,374 dogs killed every day in U.S. animal shelters as estimated by a 2018 study in “Animals,” a scientific journal. 

The Iditarod number dates back 44 years to the first Iditarod. The death rate in the first Iditarod was extreme. It has gone down since, and the long-term average is now 3.4 dogs per year.

Statistically, veterinarians says that if they tried to keep more than 1,000 dogs – the usual number of Iditarod starters – together for two weeks, they’d expect to have a death or two.

But Iditarod has in recent times had some phenomenally good luck.

No dogs died in the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 races, and the only dog that died in 2013 was attributable to race volunteers who left it out in the cold and wind after it was dropped from musher Paige Drobny’s team so it could recover in Unalakleet on the Bering Sea coast.

Unfortunately, things have not gone so well since 2014. Two dogs in the team of four-time champion Lance Mackey from Fairbanks died in 2015. Mackey was at the time struggling with his own health issues, but pushed on along the trail.

The next year a dog in the team of four-time champ Jeff King died after his team was hit from behind by a speeding snowmachine on the frozen Yukon River. Everyone agreed there was nothing King could have done to prevent that accident.

The next year, four dogs died – three on the trail and one aboard an airplane the Iditarod was using to haul dropped dogs back to Anchorage. The latter death was again attributed to race volunteers and officials who loaded the dog in the plane in such a way that it overheated during the flight.

One dog died last year. It belonged to musher Katherine Keith from Kotzebue, one of the mushers who had a dog die in her team the year before.

The five-year average death rate now stands at 1.6 dogs per year, and that string of races with zero deaths appears like it might have been an oddity. Alaskans seem willing to accept a dog death or two per year.

Explaining = losing

What the rest of America is willing to consider, let alone accept, is another matter. Americans increasingly live in a society in which everyone, and certainly every dog, is expected to live to a ripe old age, except in video games.

Given this new reality, PETA’s protesting has gained traction. Outside sponsors have abandoned the Iditarod, and the race has been forced to reduce its budget.

The Iditarod will start this year with the smallest field in 22 years. Long-time Iditarod executive director Stan Hooley is leaving; his going away party is today.

The race has an almost entirely new board of directors. Other Iditarod staff are reported to be soon on their way down the trail behind Hooley. Fund-raising, always difficult, is proving harder than ever.

And PETA is reportedly planning a bigger, better protest at the race start this year.

Iditarod has weathered attacks from animal rights activists in the past and bounced back. The same is only more true of its past financial problems.

But the world was different then if for no other reason than that it was yet to welcome social media and internet news that can spin stories in all sorts of directions. Both have allowed animal rights activists to expand their reach.

And so, once again, Iditarod – a race that has in recent years become almost all about winning – finds itself in a battle for hearts and minds. Only this time it is battling in a world where winning, at least in sports involving animals, seems to be less and less a selling point.

PETA might be the least of the race’s problems. American views on sports are shifting.

“As recently as 1991, $3.5 billion was wagered legally at 60 greyhound tracks in 19 U.S. states,” The Guardian reported last year. There are now only five states left with active greyhound tracks, according to Grey 2K – a group trying to end greyhound racing. 

Forty-one states have outright banned greyhound racing. Florida, once a hotbed for greyhound racing, banned the tracks by a popular vote in November and is in the process of a phase out. And the Des Moines Register doesn’t present a very optimistic picture for the last track in Iowa in the wake of the Florida closure.

Horse racing is doing better, but not much.

“Even a Triple Crown won’t end the problems facing horse racing,” the Louisville Courier Journal headlined in June after a horse called Justify aimed for that distinction.

“…Bob Baffert’s latest thunderbolt will attempt to sweep the 3-year-old classics in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes,” wrote reporter Tim Sullivan. “And then, whether he wins or loses, horse racing’s systemic problems will again resurface, just as they did after American Pharoah won the Triple Crown in 2015.

“The industry’s ills have so far confounded potential cures and brief bursts of mainstream interest in the sport. They include a steadily shrinking foal crop, numbers of races and total starters that have been cut roughly in half since 1990, a five-year streak of declining purses and an on-track handle that has plunged by 51 percent since 2001.”

And horse racing has legalized betting on its side. The Iditarod doesn’t.


















36 replies »

  1. Mushing race organizers need more consistency and common sense in handling dog deaths. That would help PR. The Quest and Iditarod bans Neff for a dog dying of aspiration pneumonia. Yet it doesn’t ban Keith for two dogs dying for the same reason. I like Mackey. But come on, he is a health basket case and shouldn’t be allowed to race. In 2015 his hands were nearly non-functional, his brother had to help him out constantly and he had 2 dogs die. Letting him race this year knowing he doesn’t have the physical capability to take care of his dogs is stupid. All of this brings me to Iditarod race marshall Mark Nordman. He is a redneck moron that fosters a protective good ole boy network amongst old guard mushers. He should have been canned decades ago.

  2. The reality is that Animal Rights is becoming a global platform for world reform.
    The Green Party is the only Global political party in existence and growing stronger every year.
    “Green parties exist in nearly 90 countries around the world; many are members of Global Greens.”
    So as the Iditarod has become a world event, so too are the protesters who wish to see it ended. (Especially from Corporate Funded donors…hence the PETA protest towards Chrysler)
    Here is journalist Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept speaking on the subject of Animal Rights.

  3. I am old enough to remember when mental people were put away in institutions. A good place for them. Democrats saw another potential voting base and said “they would be fine as long as we medicated them”. “Release the beasts” is the term I believed they used. Now they roam our streets. Rush said this year, what I have been saying for 30 years that “todays Democrat liberals are the mentally insane of yesterday”. Sadly, with all our “victimhood” entitlements these loons rise to authority here and there, “scorching the earth” as they go.
    MAGA!!!! Trump, the best thing America has done to expose the insane. Watch, niw somebody will say “you’re a racist, your inhumane, your mean, etc..”

    • Bryan,
      You do remember how Rush wanted to lock up all the “drug addicts” in America, then we found out he was “addicted” to pain pills…
      Does that not fit your definition of “Insanity”?

      • “They began investigating Mr. Limbaugh in 2003 after the National Enquirer reported his housekeeper’s accusations. He took a five-week leave from his radio program to enter a rehabilitation program and acknowledged he had become addicted to pain medication. He blamed severe back pain for his prescription drug abuse.”
        Apr 28, 2006

    • Interesting take, Bryan. Wasn’t it Regan who defunded mental health care in the late ’80’s and turned tons of folks out onto the streets who are completely unable to live normal lives without supervision? Why would the Repub hero let loose on the world all of these insane libs? Speaking of insane, I wonder if those MAGA kids who were taunting the Native American elder were raised by crazy libs or highly intelligent and thoughtful repubs?…

      • Interesting Jack –
        The Democrats controlled the House for all 8 years of Reagan’s presidency.

        The Republicans controlled the Senate for the first 6 years, but lost the Senate for the final 2 years.

        Congress felt that state provisions were sufficient and section 501 served as a recommendation to states to review and refine existing policies.

        I am not sure what a “Native American” is but, I’d be willing to bet those kids in the MAGA hats you referenced were staged by liberals, as is usually the case in their bouts of anti-Trump HYSTERIA. Showing their mental illness if you will.

      • Figures Jack, so typical:
        “One student wrote to a local news outlet begging it to tell the full story about what happened at the march:

        I am a student at Covington Catholic and was present at the occurrence. Here is what truly happened …

        In the midst of our cheers, we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips, with Phillips beating his drum. They forced their way into the center of our group. We initially thought this was a cultural display since he was beating along to our cheers and so we clapped to the beat. … However, after multiple minutes of Mr. Phililps beating his drum directly in the face of my friend (mere centimeters from his nose), we became confused and started wondering what was happening. It was not until later that we discovered they would incriminate us as a publicity stunt. … To reiterate, we did not partake in any physical or verbal abuse … After that initial occurrence, we were then verbally assaulted by four or five African-American men who called us “faggots” and berated one of our African-American students for being friends with us. The truth needs to come out. I pray that you read this …”

      • Say Bryan, did your “one student” bother to identify himself??
        Or did you write that?

      • The deliberate destruction of the US institutional system predates Reagan by almost 30 years. The Community Mental Health Act of ’63 arguably was the largest contributor to our current plague of the demonstrably incompetent mentally ill self-medicating and dying homeless on our streets.

        The Sixties were a perfect storm of soft hearts and softer heads. The usual morons took books like “The Snake Pit” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” as documentaries, demonizing institutions in general and enabling a minority of bad apples to cause the whole bunch to be dismissed as inherently evil. The ACLU didn’t help by ignoring the well-being of the incompetent mentally ill and arguing that their “autonomy” to not seek treatment outweighed the fact that, untreated, their autonomy was denied them by that lack of treatment.

        The CMHA took money that could have been used to treat those poor souls in controlled/supervised environments and gave it to, primarily talk-therapy trained, psychologists in neighborhood clinics who were utterly unprepared to deal with the previously institutionalized seriously mentally ill requiring supervised drug treatments for their neurochemically-based illnesses. The whittling away of promised funding began almost at the start and continued across Congresses and Administrations.

        Reagan’s defunding was simply the nail in the coffin of an already dead system. We need beds and supervised care, and the willingness and mercy to care for those of our community who cannot care for themselves and whose families are unable or unwilling to do so.

  4. Gambling on animals, that have no choice in the matter, is morally corrupt, though human beings have been addicted to it for, oh so many years.
    Our generation cannot let go of this behavior!
    It actually, does not matter in the long run, since our time on this planet earth is drawing to a close. All we have done is destroy the: Fresh water, pure air, soil, atmosphere and our oceans. What a legacy, the baby boomers have left! Good job!
    Corporate capitalism, does not work! It ruins everything in it’s path.

    Drill Baby Drill!
    How is that working for you now! Have they moved yet?
    Her daughter and hers FB accounts are all ultra conservative BS, that spew hate and has some white supremist that is running their accounts. That works! What a load of shit! Give me a break!
    Good luck in your future endeavors! Really! What a bunch of losers!
    I am very sorry I voted for her. Celebrity status has impacted her life in the negative!
    Time to move on! Dump Trump!

    • Bristol has become a reality tv star. Good for her. She had no choice, with parental guidance like that. I am headed to Texas, as soon as I file my tax return.

      • So you are leaving for Texas, the original home of drilling and conservative thinking? really?

      • God Bless Texas Bonnie! Hopefully, the libs will stay in California and not ruin Texas.

      • I love that we are all pointing fingers at each other to blame the demise of the world on the libs or conservatives. Own our problems kids. You can’t change what trump is doing right now, but you can pick up the garbage on your own property…

      • Jack, what exactly is Trump doing right now? MAGA? I think you mean what the media, Democrats, to some degree the GOP, and Hollyweird are doing to our elected President?

    • You mean the drilling/fracking that has reduced both our dependence on foreign energy sources (with their concomitant wasting of energy and increased pollution in transport) and led to us decreasing our “Greenhouse Gas” emissions at rates far faster than, say, almost all of the Paris signatories? Seems like drilling has done pretty well.

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