Commentary

PETA’s assault

Some days if you are a journalist, you are forced to write a story you don’t want to write but know you must. This is one such story.

I had hoped other Alaska media, which are well aware, would have picked it up by now, but they appear reluctant to do so. It is easy to understand why.

Report a story containing anything negative being said about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in any way and you risk being labeled an enemy of the state. If there are bad things being said about the state’s iconic sporting event, many Alaskans would simply prefer not to know.

Then, too, in normal circumstances, nobody really cares about what the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has to say because, well, it’s PETA.

But in this case, like it or not, PETA appears to have found something about which people do care – the treatment of Iditarod dogs. A PETA video shot surreptitiously in the dog lots of Iditarod champs John Baker from Kotzebue and Mitch Seavey from Sterling was starting to traffic in the tubes today in a way PETA’s pitches seldom do.

PETA’s video of Grammy Award-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix underwater in a pool making faces and blowing bubbles to demonstrate “just how much fish suffer for your food” had been on PETA’s Facebook page for a week, attracting 554 views, 109 comments and 154 shares.

That looks to be a PETA norm. The organization generally appeals to a small group of the faithful, and no one else cares. The Iditarod “exposé,” as PETA labeled its secretly taped Alaska video, however, appears to be breaking out into the social media mainstream.

Views on Twitter were starting to pile up at 1,000 per hour today and quickly passed 25,000. On Facebook, 134,000 people had watched the video, and the number of shared views pushed past 3,000 by midday. 

Once people start sharing on Facebook and reTweeting on Twitter, all hell can break loose in the tubes.

Fighting back

Katherine Keith, Baker’s spouse and a named player in the 5-minute long video, was quick to get on the defensive. Media savvy after years in the limelight as a semi-professional athlete, Keith posted this on Facebook:

“I love it when PETA decides to crash people’s Facebook pages with false and misleading information. They don’t even have the courage to use their real Facebook identity. A handler from earlier this year decided to make a very misleading video and put it on you-tube as if represents reality. To be clear: Our dogs are happy, well loved, well fed, and we to go extreme lengths to care for them. The handler that created the video was fired after one month because he didn’t meet our standards for dog care yet he makes a video about us? Ironic. This is a can of worms that I don’t want to open. However, we have not been the first and won’t be the last musher under their scrutiny and will want to set the record straight.”

She later followed that with an album of photos of dogs in the house and on her bed.

Friends and neighbors jumped in with comments of support. More joined when an unusually foul-mouthed Norwegian, or some internet entity claiming to be a Norwegian woman, lashed out at Keith.

“This is ridiculous,” a neighbor wrote in response. “I’ll be honest and say, most dogs who become ‘unusable’ are dispatched but not Kat’s. Snickers is well taken care of.  Accusations like this piss me off because there are legitimate shitty dog owners and most dog mushers aren’t them.”

How well all of this plays in the tubes in the face of the video and other PETA charges is anyone’s guess. America is today an urban society where the vast majority of dogs are pets, not working animals.

The Iditarod has appealed to people Outside by selling the idea the race is “all about the dogs.” If what is seen on social media is accurate, the race now has a fair number of fans whose main association with the Iditarod is that they are the owners of pampered pups.

How the PETA video and the even worse accusations leveled in a report on the PETA website will be viewed by them or by Iditarod sponsors only time will tell.

Iditarod has as yet said nothing, but a spokeswoman said the organization is aware of the latest assault.

The issue is one not just for Iditarod, but for Alaska as a whole.

Along with being a sporting icon, the Iditarod is the cornerstone of the state’s small winter tourism business which has grown from a reported 237,000 visitors at the start of the decade to 322,000 in the winter of 2017-18, according to a report prepared by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

95 replies »

  1. These sled dogs should be treated with respect and not chained up on a small chain. Dogs have feelings too. I bet if the owners were left outside in the cold with a chain on their neck they would finally realize what dogs really go through. It is not right.

  2. Let’s clarify a couple of things.

    The statement that sled-dogs are exempt under Alaska State Statute is a bit misleading. Read the statute yourself. However, because it is vaguely written it could probably be interpreted as a blanket defense. That would be up to the lawyers, judges and juries to decide. You can read the statute (it’s short) at http://www.touchngo.com/lglcntr/akstats/Statutes/Title11/Chapter61/Section140.htm

    The statement that removing that exemption would lead to the demise of dog mushing in Alaska is pure bunk. The widely accepted MINIMUM standard of sled dog care, which is well publicized and is widely accepted by most mushers and by many animal control agencies in the U.S. and Canada, is the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. Sled Dog Care Guidelines. These are evidence-based recommendations, meaning they are consistent with the best currently available, peer-reviewed scientific information. In the years since the current edition was published, new research has actually reinforced the evidence regarding many of those recommendations and none that I can find rebuts or even calls into the question those recommendations. You can download the PRIDE Sled Dog Care Guidelines by scrolling toward the bottom of the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. home page at http://www.mushwithpride.org.

    Understand that the PRIDE Guidelines were never intended to define best practices – they define a minimum standard of care.

    There is nothing recommended in those guidelines that would be contrary to the full animal cruelty statute in Alaska.

    Organized boroughs in Alaska are free to enact their own, more strict animal cruelty ordinances. I’m not at all familiar with those of the Mat-Su borough, so won’t comment on them. I am very familiar with those of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The FNSB ordinance regarding cruelty to animals is sub-section 28 of chapter 22, and does not include an exemption for sled dogs or other livestock. Nonetheless the borough is home to a vast number of sled dog kennels participating in all the various mushing disciplines, all subject to the same laws as pet owners. It has obviously not resulted in the demise of dog mushing in any way. You can read the FNSB Ordinance at https://www.codepublishing.com/AK/FairbanksNorthStarBorough/#!/FNSBC22/FNSBC2228.html#22.28

    With some of the histrionics out of the way, let’s remember that there are at least 2 sides to every story, and neither side aligns 100% with that elusive thing we all search for – the truth.

    Rod Perry, you and I should meet again somewhere and discuss the current state of the Alaskan Sled Dog as a type and breed. I believe I can present a sound scientific argument that we can not declare them as having been “saved”, but rather we have delayed their demise at least in Alaska. That’s a whole ‘nother topic that will have to wait for another day and another venue.

    • sometimes, Thom, there are more than two. But other than that your observation about “truth” is spot on: ” let’s remember that there are at least 2 sides to every story, and neither side aligns 100% with that elusive thing we all search for – the truth.”

      there are few absolutes in life. the truth invariably exists on one side or the other of a line that itself exists in the gray. ie, “thou shalt not kill,” except in times of war when killing becomes a necessity.

    • Thanks Thom. My look gave this from statewide law you furnished: “This section does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or practices or rodeos or stock contests.”
      I see this as a clear exemption in statewide cruelty laws and you say this is not the case in FNSB? I didn’t see it listed in your link.
      My own knowledge for Juneau Borough was dated as my own kennel was in 80s but several attempts at getting a kennel license was never approved because the City just wasn’t interested in pursuing it and I’m unsure if it’s been settled now.

  3. Hopefully, there will NEVER come a day when West Coasters (CA, OR, WA) take over and gain control over local and state governments. More destructive in all facets than any kennel owner.

    • Hold onto your tricorn hat, Bryan, because the local and state governments of CA, OR and WA have all already fallen into the hands of the people living on the West Coast.

  4. Rather than trade insults, let’s look at what we know. We have a video. Seems pretty damning. Fairness says we need to get Bakers side of this. We have the PETA side.
    Until then, I see more than a few suggestions that dog care needs to be regulated. Okay. Who should regulate dog care? The pet owner who has only a dog or two? The musher who owns 100? I suspect neither would do a good job. Let’s throw a few facts out. And…. these are indeed facts, not just my opinion. A dog kennel is real pretty, esp. one with a nice concrete floor or a raised platform. Pretty for people. A jail cell for a dog. A dog in the dirt doesn’t look good. However, if you are a dog, there is no place you’d rather be than in the dirt with a face-full of mud, digging a hole. A dog on a tether that can reach and play with the 4 others around him/her is a happy critter. I have been dealing with unwanted and i socialized sled dogs for 30 years. The dogs with the most issues came from places where they were penned.
    Let me leave with this quote from the Orange County News; “you think DisneyLand is the happiest place on earth? No. the Santa Anita horse track is the happiest place on the Planet! “. really? 553 horses have died on the Santa Anita race track in the past 10 years. 18 dogs have died on the Iditarod trail. Peta pulled their scheduled protest of the track after a meeting with Track representatives. The reps said they would “work on the problem.”
    Follow the money.
    Dogs are mistreated in some big, competitive kennels. That is a fact. Can we solve that issue. Yes. Is the mushing community willing to take the steps and the responsibility? No. Can we force the issue? Maybe. The public has to step up as does the media.

    • John, yes! Sounds like a timely column in the “big paper.” Kudos to Craig also for keeping this conversation alive !

    • Schandlemeir, well said . I especially agree with your analysis of pens . My dogs cry and howl when penned because somehow they feel separated. I used to have to occasionally care for neighbors penned dogs . They were very hard to interact with . I disagree on one point. I have seen a change in mushing culture and progress over the past 40 years so I do think mushers are very ready to take responsibility steps . Progress has massively sped up over last 10 years . The problem is getting an agreement on a timeline and exactly what that progress should be due to everyones variable circumstances, regional, financial, breed and other differences . Also our very important American notion of freedom demands we shouldn’t recklessly step on each other’s toes . Thank you for your great analysis. You bring great wisdom to any discussion.

      • OK. being done being reporter for the day and having put aside the burden of trying my best to keep my opinions out of shit, i’ll weigh in here.

        1.) i agree with both Ramey and John on the fundamentally stupid debate of how dogs are kept under control. i’ve kept dogs in kennels, on chains and, God forbid, in the house, over the years and i sure can’t tell any behavioral difference as long as they get adequate human contact. the sole exception to that would be with concrete, even wood-decked, kennels. they might make life easier for the person tending dogs, but dogs like to dig in the dirt or roll in it now and then. they’re dogs.

        2.) as someone with a long history in the media, i will also tell you it’s a waste of time expecting the media to step up. it was neutered some time ago, and i think i’m down to part of one nut. in these days of social media, the media (and i include myself here) lives in fear of igniting a social-media firestorm. the MSM are as vulnerable, maybe more so, to attacks on advertisers then Iditarod. and frankly, even for bit players like me it’s no fun finding yourself under siege. there are times i’ve looked at social media and thought rabid Iditafans are more of a threat to the race than the bad behavior of a few aberrant mushers because the former reinforce the latter to do whatever they want to do in an age when there could be a camera anywhere, including cameras you don’t notice. the least surprising thing to me was that PETA put that video together. the most surprising was that it wasn’t worse.

        3.) i hate John’s horse-world comparison. i’ve been in that world. my daughter was a national-class jumper rider. and it’s a drug-infested den of win at all cost. but John is right that it’s good to listen to your critics. you don’t have to like them. hell, hate them if you want. i sometimes do. but you need to listen to them because sometimes they’re right. Gen. George S. Patton: “if everybody is thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.” the toughest and arguably most important task in life is recognizing when you’re the one who “isn’t thinking.” and man, have i been guilty of that a time or too.

        4.) how about we start with something simple here that would fix some things? anyone entering the the Iditarod or the Quest, or planning to enter either race must by Oct. 15 file a list of the 30 (although i’d happily settle for 25) dogs with which they’ll run the race complete with microchip codes and a profile of each dog with weight, height at shoulder and photo. this would do a couple things. it would get Iditarod off the puppy mill track it seems to be on again, and even up the competition. let’s face it, it’s hard for anyone with a small kennel to compete with kennels with 100 or 200 dogs and a bunch of handlers to train them all. the latter encourages what one might call the Kenyan/Soviet Bloc approach:
        get a mob of athletes; run the shit out of them; see who can survive the training; put them on a nice taper; and when that’s done go race.

        5.) fix the sorry-ass Iditarod doping program. if there’s someone out there reading this who isn’t doping and wants to win, hit me on email and for a decent fee i can advise you on a few drugs that the Iditarod won’t notice and should give your team a big boost. costs aren’t that bad either. yeah, yeah, i’m kidding. as much as i could use the income, i’m not going to advise anyone on how to cheat. but, as one member of the old doping team told me: “Icarus.” if you haven’t seen the movie, go watch. if, as i’m told, Mark Nordman got up in front of the musher’s meeting after this year’s race and told everyone Iditarod’s doping program is “world class,” he’s either naive or lying out both ends.

    • 553 out of how many horses (starts)? Not to try to dismiss such a number but that is the standard mushing response to deaths is it not; ‘out of how many dogs?’ And, at long last, Santa Anita management has put in place some pretty substantial reforms – unprecedented in the US. Will they stick to their guns long term – we’ll see, it would be a first. P*TA’s response is curious – they have lots of money, hard to see that as the sole issue, harder to see them becoming pragmatic – unlike sled dogs, apparently, there is not a sofa for every race horse.

  5. Sled dogs in Alaska are currently exempted from all criminal statutes pertaining to animal cruelty. Thus there is no avenue for the troopers to conduct an “official” investigation into the conditions at Baker’s and Seavey’s kennels. Why is this?

    Bill Yankee, former Iditarod musher:

    “I don’t believe sled dogs need be lumped in with toy poodles, relative to how they are cared for. They are just as different as livestock are different from pets and need to be treated differently. The solution you speak of [extending animal cruelty protections to sled dogs] would probably be the end of sled dog kennels”

    That pretty much sums up the problem…Iditarod mushers feel the laws which apply to all other “animal” owners shouldn’t apply to “sled dog” owners. Incidentally Bill, your response is a cop out. Despite being defined as livestock, sled dogs are equally protected in the Mat-Su Borough under existing animal cruelty ordinances (where violations are subject to civil, not criminal penalties) and this has not by any stretch of the imagination resulted in the end of sled dog kennels.

    • Laura, my comment was that if sled dogs were to be treated the same as toy poodles that would result in the end of sled dog kennels. I firmly believe this and oppose any attempts at treating them like toy poodles. No matter your good intentions, they are in no way similar to toy poodles IMO.
      I recall another attempt to change humane laws regarding horses this time over 20 years ago. This involved some outfitter horses that had been left to fend for themselves over the winter between Tok and Glennallen. The changes were supported by a right-wing talk show host from Fairbanks (KFAR) who was loved by those listeners for her right of center ideology. She started talking up this change to our humane laws relative to livestock and during one of her shows a regular caller phoned in and explained that if her proposed bill became law he wouldn’t be able to castrate his hogs. She then wanted to know a bit about his procedure and he explained to her what was involved and she said: “They are anesthetized aren’t they?” to which the gentleman replied “no mam.”
      There was a bit of dead air and the woman never returned to the program. KFAR is still to this day to the right of Attila The Hun, but they loved this woman and she was expendable in this case.
      Livestock are treated differently than pets and yet they have clear humane treatments required by law. I know that because of working for the RR years ago-they (livestock) are required to be let out of rail cars regularly and fed and watered, and there are people that make sure that such laws are followed. What this is about is that just because sled dogs are not to be considered similar to toy poodles does not mean that they are exempt from their own humane treatment laws.
      I certainly don’t oppose your working to better their conditions where it’s needed. And Iditarod mushers do not believe that sled dog owners should be treated differently than all other “animal” owners, just different than pet owners.

  6. I think it’s safe to guess not one writing in here was there to see the state of the working sled dog when we set out to bring them back. It’s probable the most you can say of those days is, “I heard about it from somebody” or “I read about it somewhere.” That’s not meant as a put-down, because none can do anything about where he was born or when. It’s just to say I was there and part of the pioneering that resulted in thousands of healthy, exuberant sled dogs today (and yes, some ill-treated ones out there) where there were few when we started, and that gives me a personal knowledge-based perspective.

    So we saved them. Now where to go from here? Some think they can save the sled dog by doing away with what saved them. No, you get to work to remedy the ills. Folks like Swanny, Steve O, Raymy, Jason, Bill and their like are the ones I’d trust the plan to. Steve and Laura, you guys have such an obvious passion for the dog’s well being, that if you put it to work constructively, (and had a whale of a lot more experience on the runners putting in say, a couple thousand miles a year to give you a base) you could link arms with the aforementioned and do something positive.

    It’s been observed, “There has never been a statue erected for a critic.”

    • With all due respect for your deep knowledge and many books, Rod Perry, I think Laura and Steve Steine have been constructively toiling for years to improve the lives of sled dogs. And they’ve had some successes so far. It’s no longer legal to have unattended dog lots in the borough. They have raised awareness locally, so more and more people know that sled dogs have been removed from animal protection laws and are now classified as livestock. Meat products in other words. They are constructively working (with no help from mushers I might add. Actually obstruction from the mushers you listed above) to get the laws changed back so sled dogs can regain legal protection from abuse.
      For some reason they don’t want this, most likely because treating dogs right is expensive, and owners of more than a few dogs couldn’t afford to keep them.
      Sometimes it takes people who aren’t deeply invested to force change. You don’t have to spend one to two thousand miles on the runners per year before you are qualified to speak up.
      Like Bob Dylan said: It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
      In addition the sled dog of today bears very little resemblance to the stocky thick coated freight dogs I remember. There’s a few genes in there that have been saved, sure.

      • Maxine, your well-thought-out, nicely constructed posts are a joy to read. Regarding Steve & Laura’s efforts, it is obvious they have the good of the dogs at heart. My diff wtih them is that I know what “saved” (and I only used “saved” as a catch-all to keep it simple; “brought back” might be better) the working sled dog from its trajectory toward demise, as I took part in the rescue—-and IMO doing away with what restored them is not going to be effective in the continuance of their health and well-being. I’d like them to climb on board with some of us who would like to “fix what saved the dogs,” instead of doing away with what saved them.

        Regarding the “Old Breed” vs the new, lady, I am in a bunch of agreement with you. When after finishing my motion picture Sourdough, and finally having enough money and focus to devote to creating a line of dogs I thought would be competitive I began with Puppy, a Holicachuk (sp?) old breed from your country, and Black, a female I leased for the breeding out of a long line of Teller dogs. Lo and behold, out of Alaska’s thousands of sled dogs, Puppy won the Golden Harness the next year, and the year after that, Black won the award. And out of that pairing I got Dean Osmar’s Golden Harness winner, Red. All out of old stock. Craig and I often talk together about how we miss those huskies of yore. Something us traditionalists might find interesting is that in some quarters, there looks to be a bit of a lean back to somewhat bigger, more well-coated dogs. Check out some of Jeff King’s. I’ll ask Jeff sometime if they are of Solomon background. He weighed 84 pounds when Jake B. weighed him in as part of a study he was involved in. At that size he could run lead on Jake’s superb teams. That’s like a 6’6″ 220-pound man leading the Boston Marathon.

        Thinking about how much is left of the old genes, and whether today’s racing dogs have much to do with what we “saved,” here’s my take: Sled dogs have always been evolving as their work and the environment changes. Some archaeologists postulate that ancient huskies mostly packed and helped hunt, and that pulling might only be a few hundred years old. If so, that new trade probably brought some physical change. When the Iditarod was created, sled dogs had all but disappeared in the bush. (On the first Iditarod, I didn’t go poking around every part of every village, but I saw only one local team.) The snowmachine had replaced them and villagers would never go back to sled dogs once they had that great labor-saving, more efficient means of transport. If the dogs were going to be brought back, it would take creating something with an irresistibly magnetic drawing power that would captivate the world, and it had to be something that only a sled dog could do. Voila! the Iditarod!

        A few like Knud Rasmussen had traveled by dog team over a thousand miles. But no one had ever RACED a thousand. Now in 45 years it should be expected that the dogs would have evolved to excel at their new work. And excel in warmer winters. So yea, the dogs we saved are not still the same, but we brought back the working sled dog that yet provides a big part of our current stock’s roots.

      • Rod Perry, thank you for your kind words. Your story of Puppy winning Golden Harness makes me proud of my people’s ability to nurture fine dogs. And I appreciate your efforts to save the working sled dog from oblivion.
        What makes me sad is evidence of Murphy’s law in the sled dog world: no good deed shall go unpunished. Whenever big egos and big money collude, corruption ensues and dogs become tools. If we could interview the dogs, and in a sense I think we can, if we could ask them how we can make them happy and fulfilled as dogs, I think we could regain an ancient appreciation and respect for them and once again become partners with them on this adventurous journey of life.
        We could do scientific studies on what keeps the stress hormone, cortisol low; what is the optimum number of kennel mates they prefer; what is their preferred housing arrangement; how many miles a day do they prefer running; how much sleep do they prefer every day; what is the healthiest food for them? In a sense we should humble ourselves and feel honored to help make their lives good.
        I think they would reward us in many ways beyond “winning a stupid race.”
        And even if the race slowed down, everybody could wholeheartedly get behind the new partnership. Maybe the Iditarod would go away in favor of shorter races. That would be Ok, especially if no more dogs died of overwork.
        What do you think of these ideas? In a way they are more reflective of the old native way of looking at the world and our place in it.

    • Rod,
      I would say, If you really cared about those : … “thousands of healthy, exuberant sled dogs today (and yes, some ill-treated ones out there)” that your Irod culture has “pumped out” through out the state, you would be on “our side” and help sled dogs get included in animal welfare laws in Alaska?
      Why do you feel these dogs should have less protection than the “junkyard dog” on a chain in Anchorage.
      My experience with old sled dogs (adopted) is that they are no different from Huskies I adopted from Suburban homes in the Valley…
      Unfortunately by the Irod mushers refusing to support reform, this has only distanced two Alaskan groups that both like dogs.
      I may not step on the runners, but I love ski joring 10 or 12 miles at a clip with my huskies and even more I love to see them run free in the hills as I am trying to “bag a peak”.
      Sorry Rod, but this is not a “mushers knows best” situation by anymeans…there are many dog experts out there from vets to trainers to handlers and “free dog” owners as well.

  7. Turn the volume off and watch the video. To please Susan Roghoff, Obama visited the Bakers’ kennel. It’s time for Susan, who, by the way, is a trophy hunter, to step up with some wads of cash to provide vet care and indoor chain free housing for all these dogs.

  8. Close down Alaska including dog mushing, oil production, commercial fishing, mining et al: and move all the people to Seattle giving each a 800 sf condo; then designate the place one big National Park for the world elite to visit.

    • So you think getting legal protections for sled dogs would shut down Alaska? Boy you slid right down that slippery slope!

  9. You go, girls! Refreshing to have some women show up and rattle the Dull Men’s Club, breaking the circle-jerk chain of command….

    As far as I’m concerned, they can put a fork in the race.

      • Well Bill. that may be so. But Anyone with a functioning brain would say the same for you, the endless yapper that seems to not have a life beyond here. Do you really not have anything more engaging than posting endless nonsense?

  10. Steve, when I read “militant” I think of PeTA’s well documented and close association with ALF (animal liberation front) and DxE (direct action everywhere).

  11. it occurs to me this morning that in spite of my constant best efforts, someone with ill-intent could easily create an equally damning video of my own kennel.

    My 17 years old retiree who is given free run of the dog yard could easily be depicted in a manner similar to the crippled dog. Some of the time he moves petty darned slow, like many very old sled dogs he’s low in the rear, he struggles to get into an elevated dog house even though he has free access to a house with a ground-level door he doesn’t have to climb up to access. Sometimes I have to put him onto a post or into a pen so I can safely run the tractor to fill in holes in the yard or do other work. Such a video certainly wouldn’t show the times he plays run-amok with other dogs, or happily hangs out with his girlfriends or plays with the puppy or complains about having to be inside the house when the temperature falls below zero (he HATES being inside the house).

    Could someone photograph or video footage of a doghouse knocked over on it’s side in my yard? Heck, I’ve got several dogs who consider recreational house-tipping the highlight of any given afternoon. It’s as though they think dumping the house is a game, and the musher serves as a willing servant resetting the game piece (over and over and over again).

    Like most, my dog yard gets sloppy muddy during the rainy season and dusty dirty during the dry. I have dogs who can destroy a dog house faster than I can build one.

    The most pristine kennel in the world could easily be depicted as ugly as those in PeTA’s video and it wouldn’t take very long for someone to do so. So could the most pristine animal rescue shelter, or ANY environment in which animals are kept. How many pet owners scoop poop twice a day, every day, regardless of weather?

    There is absolutely no doubt that some sled dog kennels, including some operated by “big name” mushers, have serious issues relating to their dog-care practices. While disgruntled former handlers can’t be trusted to present the full picture, neither can their allegations be completely dismissed.

    However, PeTA / SDAC (Sled Dog Action Coalition) / Humane Mushing and other similar activist organizations have such a long track-record of hysterical histrionics and outright deceit that their credibility has been damaged beyond any hope for repair.

  12. People from the outside have an unrealistic picture of the way life is in the villages of the far north. Setting aside the fact that the video was a series of clips cut, pasted and modified to create maximum damage, clearly life in the bush villages is really freaking hard. Certainly not just for dogs. It’s not an Iditarod/professional mushing issue, but rather a fact of life that few people enjoying the benefits of a cushy, all too forgiving western democracy lifestyle can understand, much less relate to.

    • What a load of shit, Jason. I was at Fred Meyer recently and someone was walking the cutest young dog, when I commented, she told me the dog was confiscated because the dog was outside at -40 for days with nothing, no shelter and the dog was taken away by animal control, or something to this effect. The guys at work would tell me for years about dog(s) being tied to stakes in the remote communities with absolutely nothing, no shelter, no food, crying, and they moved into a garage, how happy and nice the dog was, and when came back next time, the dog was gone, stories like this, and the stuff they have seen in the villages. Have some fing accounability. These are living, feeling lives, who cannot speak up or help themselves. And, they are not “it’s”. People are not putting up with this shit anymore!!!

      • I’m struggling to decode your point here. Are you agreeing with me? Because it sounds like your nailing both of my points: life in the villages is not only tougher, it’s also incomprehensible to people who’s only experience with the outside world is a combination of hearsay ( some person walking a cute dog at Fred Meyer says such and such) and speculation fueled by Facebook, Youtube and their feelings.

    • Thanks Jason and here is an example from my own living in the bush.
      Interior had a huge high pressure system (late 80s I think) where temperatures didn’t get above 40 below for two weeks straight. When I finally got to the village (and my truck with supplies) a Native I knew slightly approached me saying he had used some of my bale of straw for his labrador-I had no problem with this use as few labs are outside at these temperatures in cities.
      I was trapping at that time and was running low on dogfood and I’ll say those dogs wolfed down every carcass I had until I could get to my truck. 67 below was the coldest we recorded and that’s pretty cold for man and animal.

      • Jason, I’ve retired from that to Juneau full-time except for about three weeks at that cabin during moose season. I trapped a bit until about 5 years ago from there but I’m 75 years young now and dealing with 30 below on a snow machine is not as much fun anymore. Got out of mushing years ago as Juneau is just not good weather for it.
        My years living in the bush involved leaving Juneau after Thanksgiving, and traveling initially with dogs and adding an Elan snow machine after a few years, and returning to Juneau about Easter. My wife had a seasonal job that gave her winters off and I commercial fished in Summers which made it perfect for us. Cabin is on a remote parcel between Minto and Manley Hot Springs that we converted to a homestead. Our kids started school year in Juneau and finished in their same classes which meant we had to coordinate home-school with their public school. Anyway, my wife eventually got promoted to year-round job so I ended up spending less time up there than before.
        Our kids got the benefits of public school and study habits that we instilled in them during that cabin life and they both have gone on to college and successful careers. Bush life is a wonderful way to spend winters but is not for most as it’s difficult to make a living out there. Commercial fishing can work when fishing is good but makes it pretty skinny in poor years. I sure wouldn’t trade those years for anything else.

    • Jason, you make it sound like village people are a bunch of brutal animal abusers. I’m sure some are. But just because life is hard, it doesn’t automatically follow that people are, too.
      My mother grew up in Shageluk during the ’20s and ’30s. She said that people kept 2 or 3 freight dogs, who pulled heavy sleds. They couldn’t afford to feed more. She taught us to be kind to animals by telling us how good our Uncle Edward was to his dogs, that he treated them very kindly and the loved him and would do anything for him. Not every one treated their dogs well, but she insisted that our family was known for kind treatment of animals.
      There’s a lot of dysfunction now which has led to despair and lashing out at weaker creatures, but animal abuse was not traditionally a feature of village life, and those who were cruel to their dogs were traditionally looked down on and feared.
      It’s time to reassert kindness to animals as a Native value.
      I’ve advocated for animals since I was a small girl. I think it’s important for natives to do so.

      • If you don’t think the average native Alaskan who mushes dogs and lives in the bush doesn’t have a far FAR different take on animal husbandry then the average “Marly and Me” American Facebooker who has a pet or two who they like to think of as a person, then you don’t really have a clue what you’re talking about, Maxine, despite the fact that you claim Native Alaskan heritage. If all you have is “stories your mum told you” then you know nothing, practically speaking. I personally don’t consider it “barbaric,” but the average soft bellied, American who loves nothing more than to sit on the sidelines insulated from the real world by the hard work and risk taking of others while gripped by the constant specter of white male guilt (or female equivalent)? Yeah, you better believe they would.

      • Jason, it may be that some Alaska Natives have a far different take than the average American on dog care. Obviously some white mushers do too. Keep in mind that in the old days villagers did not maintain large dog lots. They couldn’t afford to fish or hunt for large numbers. Maybe the better off could afford 4. I’m referring to my mother’s and father’s people of the lower Yukon. The dogs were heavy coated heavy bodied freight dogs. They were tied up to control breeding and to keep them close.
        I have seen abuse of dogs in my life. We lived a pretty sheltered live along the railroad, and I didn’t witness animal mistreatment until we moved to town. I’ve lived several places in Alaska and have visited local dog lots. Some are well managed; some are horrific. I’ve seen the situation with my own eyes.
        My mother’s stories were told as a contrast to disturbing things I saw. I personally never saw a Native hit or kick a dog, although I’m sure it happened. The dog abusers I saw were all white men. My mom told me that it was wrong, and that our family didn’t abuse animals. So they weren’t just random stories my mom told me. They were lessons on how to behave. You could learn a few lessons on how to behave in civil discourse.

    • Jason you are right . I will elaborate if I get time . I would like to see the nay sayers navigate rotten wind shifted ice with leads during a horrific ground storm while trying to return to their families. It would put them in touch with reality of survival that is in that culture. A gps won’t even save your ass under those conditions. Only good team work between dog and man . A snowmobile would perish . Only peers have ability to judge accurately imo . Backed by how our court system works. Basically a jury of peers . Separately John could have afforded a barn like old time coastal professional mushers had . john was the elite sponsored musher beyond the norm . Leaonard seppala and his peers used barns at least during the worst weather. I think some of the sprint racers in the region use them . Perhaps John had access to use one during bad weather. It’s highly likely. Often I used sheds for dogs shelter when I race in coastal areas. Houses only work during mild wind . Spin drift fills them unless practically air tight then they become useless. Somehow an open front on a dog box often allows wind and snow to accumulate less . I fought many battles with wind and spindrift in coastal regions. Only solution I found were tight sheds or garages.

  13. No dog deserves to live 24/7 on the end of a chain. It’s a desolate existence for loving, social animals who need mental stimulation, exercise, proper shelter, and care. It’s no surprise dogs are treated this way when they are viewed as a means to an end.

    • re: Katharine Keith’s comment, “ The handler that created the video was fired after one month ”, wow handler saw all that in ONE MONTH, what the hell goes on there in a year?

    • That’s right. It’s hard for Alaskans to understand because all they think is what the media has always portrayed, lunging dogs at the start, raring to go. You can start by signing all of the petitions and sharing, and understand that animal welfare laws do not cover sled dogs, when you can clearly see the suffering. And Katharine Keith could have used the opportunity to come clean for once in her life.

      • OK there freeze dried. I don’t have a dog in this hunt (!), but why don’t you help people like me think that you’re actually someone who we should listen to. It’s real easy to be a keyboard warrior with an online handle and say anything you want. Why don’t you human up and put your actual name down behind your bold stance? Hmmmm?

  14. “…Alaska is dealing with a win at all cost conglomerate of liars.”
    This comment by “Opinion” cannot ring more true to the liars protecting the Iditarod.
    How many handlers need to come forward to prove that animal abuse is happening?
    When these videos and “first hand” accounts are discredited by journalists I always think of a comment my father told me years ago…
    “You cannot trust the press, the press lies”.

  15. I don’t believe any PETA video, as they have a record of distributing false information and out right propaganda. I wouldn’t put it passed the to have staged this. The black dog in the video needs veterinary care up to and including being put down. If a PETA representative filmed this and did nothing, this animals suffering is as much on them as it is on the owner.

    • I don’t know Steve-O. That dog was supposedly injured as a puppy and is partially paralyzed. It’s not been said but I suspect the dog has been diagnosed as permanently this way. For whatever reason these owners are not in the mood to put the dog down and that’s their right IMO.
      I’ve never seen this in a dog so just can’t imagine how I’d handle it. Obviously the dog is not going to be run and is just a pet, now. The dog looked to me like it could, with difficulty, take care of its needs so there just wouldn’t be any animal welfare issue IMO. I also suspect the dog provides enjoyment for the owners and they are providing for it as they are able (dog is well-fed and housed with straw). That seems to be a classic case of needing to walk in someone’s shoes to be able to understand the issue.

      • I hear you Bill, I just find it hard to believe PETA due to their long, long, long history of being full of shit. Supposedly this dog was injured as a puppy, how do we know it wasn’t born this way or just recently suffered an accident? The internets is filled with people and their animals in all states of handicap abilities, like you said on another comment some people strap wheels on their lame animals. I would never let the animal I am responsible for suffer like what is portrayed in the video. I also would never buy wheels to strap to an animal just to keep it alive for my enjoyment.

      • To be clear here Steve-O, I didn’t view the dog as suffering from that video. Were the dog suffering it would be put down IMO. The Bakers should be given the chance to explain their position on this dog to clear up any misconceptions.

      • Opinion/Bill,

        Apparently you’very both missed this from the article above the comments…”Katherine Keith, Baker’s spouse and a named player in the 5-minute long video, was quick to get on the defensive.”

        They have presented their side, just read the article above…it’s half the article, not sure how you both missed that part.

      • Steve-O, I read her facebook post but it’s just a generalization of her feelings on the video and doesn’t even mention this crippled dog. I’m specifically referring to this particular dog and whether/not it is “suffering” as you suggested.
        If you are referring to other dogs on that video you weren’t clear on that IMO. I did view a few dogs limping around on the vid. but that’s what dogs do that have injured a wrist or foot-they can be helped with drugs (used to be 400mg ibuprofen) but those drugs may be hard to come by in the village. In other words, I can’t say I viewed suffering and I’m not one to get emotional over a PETA video that’s designed to do just that. You do remember that drumming Indian and the MAGA hat boy video-how did that go again?

      • Bill,

        I was only talking about the black dog, that’s why in my first post I said “The black dog in the video” and all of my follow up comments were about this same dog.

      • OK Steve-O, did you want to expound on the suffering you noticed on this black dog in the video? And I also missed Keith’s side of the black dog story. Want to be crystal clear here.

      • Bill,

        To me a lame dog dragging its hind quarters is needless suffering, I don’t care if it’s in the city or in the village, by a musher or by a yuppy who puts their lame dog in a harness with wheels.

      • Steve-O, you are entitled to your opinion but it’s not based on anything but that opinion. I guess by your argument we should think people with paralyzing injuries are needlessly suffering? Even if they have wheelchairs, etc.
        Take your time here. Heheh!

      • Bill,

        That’s not exactly how my opinions are formed, typically I don’t form opinions based on my own opinions, kind of a chicken and egg situation there. I formed my opinion on this subject through my lifetimes experience. But thank you for so graciously allowing me to be entitled to my own opinion.

        If you think people in wheelchairs are the same as lame dogs dragging their hindquarters, well that’s your opinion. Conflating the two is absurd on so many levels it would take far too much time to explain the difference to a person who thinks such nonsense.

      • I didn’t expect you to take enough time, Steve-O. Heheh!
        My comparison with folks in wheelchairs was with your speaking of dogs with wheels attached to their back ends. You conveniently left that part out in your last comment.
        As far as your needing too much time to explain yourself is your problem. Tough noogies!

      • We all by now know of what misconceptions can occur from videos such as the drumming Indian and maga hat boy. Well, we all don’t believe our “lyin eyes” anymore without something more and when that something is from PETA then most of us are just more skeptical.

  16. I’m disgusted with Alaska’s major media outlets for not picking up this story and others like it. That’s pretty cowardly and self serving, since they make a lot of money off sled dog racing.

    • Maxine,
      Unfortunately this has been going on for years…
      I once called in to “talk of Alaska” and Steve Heimel proceeded to yell at me “on air” to make a good diversion from the substance of my call.
      It was after all the Iditarod show and the special guest was Zach Steer…
      I had adopted an old Irod dog that was sold to Gary Paulson by Zach Steer.
      I tried to tell Zach and Alaskans how Gary Paulson just left AK with 50 dogs on chains and “gave” hem to his handler to care for as he left…I even used the dog’s name Topaz and Zach said he remembered him….well, that is when “Heimel lost his shit”.
      Steve said I was being “aggressive” with my comments…obviously as he cut me off and raised his voice it upset me.
      Just in this story alone, Craig was sure to say peta 15 TIMES….just to discredit the Handler’s story…
      Remember that these videos were shot by a handler working for the dog lots at the time…peta is just the platform to get the message out and they are one of the only organizations supporting the handlers who have come forward and for that they should get some support.
      Sadly now over a half dozen handlers have come forward with similar stories and yet no one thinks it is real?
      Belonging to peta is no different than belonging to any advocacy group just like one would support the NRA with donations, yet journalists like Craig choose to direct Alaskans to the fact peta “assaulted” the Iditarod and sadly the headline should read “More Proof Top Mushers Treat Their Sled Dogs Like Shit”.

      • Steve,

        I think your attacking Craig goes beyond good taste, you are attacking him for bringing this subject to light. Seriously, get over yourself man.

        PETA isn’t like any other advocacy groups, PETA is filled with militant insane people who bend (or outright shred) the truth and spread disinformation to further their means, perhaps you are familiar with this way of spreading propaganda.

      • Steve O…
        Obviously you were not very good in grammar…
        There is no attack.
        It is a mere fact that Craig chose to write peta 15 TIMES in the story as a distraction and when you use the word “militant” I think of right wing nut jobs like the NRA, definitely not some non violent “vegan” personality who cares for animals…
        Sadly, guys like you are part of the bigger problem in Alaska….”Denialism”.
        Instead of shooting your sharp tongue arrows at the messenger, “man up” and accept that sled dogs need help in AK and the media has been lying for mushers for years!

      • Steve,

        Take a step back and read the article again. You are rambling incoherently and against people who are supporting your cause, albeit not to the same militant extent.

        Feel free to attack my grammar, there’s nothing like a grammar nazi in the comment section unless it’s a spelling nazi, or a guy who counts how many times a word is used in an article. I just wish your comments would show some sign of self-awareness, you are commenting on my grammar…too funny.

      • Well Steve O…
        Instead of digging deeper into your “quiver” of insults, maybe you should re read your own comments…
        “I would never let the animal I am responsible for suffer like what is portrayed in the video.”
        Although your choice of “portrayed” is a distraction (like the 15 times peta was written in Craig’s story)…
        You get the point….
        This video caught a dog suffering on a short tether at an Iditarod Dog Lot….
        This is why Sled Dogs need to be covered under Alaskan Animal Welfare Laws…
        I am ready to support change and I feel most pet owners in AK feel the same way…
        Time to take this issue to Juneau.
        If you do not agree, then you are a hypocrite plan and simple.

      • If I don’t agree with you I am a hypocrite, got it.

        Your total lack of self-awareness is truly alarming. Have you ever heard the saying you catch more bees with honey?

  17. Even if PETA doctors things up a bit, there’s still enough in their video to cause concern. Enough to conclude that sled dogs need the protection of animal welfare laws in this state.

    • Go ahead and point out that “enough” in their video Maxine! And be specific. Pay special attention to things that are “not” doctored up, too.
      Thanks.

      • So Bill, do you have a problem with including sled dogs and sled dog kennels under the protection of animal welfare laws?
        That’s really the solution here, don’t you think?

      • Maxine, was there some reason you didn’t respond to my post?
        As an aside I don’t believe sled dogs need be lumped in with toy poodles, relative to how they are cared for. They are just as different as livestock are different from pets and need to be treated differently. The solution you speak of would probably be the end of sled dog kennels but that may just be your agenda.
        Just my opinion.

      • Maxine,
        All old mushers like Bill, Jason and “Opinion” care about is preserving the race to Nome….they do not give a shit about the dogs, or any other animals with “fur” on their backs for that matter.
        Trap, shoot, run to death, it does not make a difference since their “belief” tells them man was put on this earth with “dominance” over animals….that crutch allows for all types of abuse throughout Alaska.

      • Drop the bullshit Steve! You have no reasonable argument so begin attacking your opponents.

      • Bill, you must be a very hardened person to watch the video, and the other videos and read the reports of concerned handlers and not see that something is very wrong with all that currently goes into dog racing. When I wrote “enough” I was also referring to the preponderance of the evidence of what I’ve seen so far. I think any reasonably normal person would think conditions on dog lots are anything but fine.
        I’m afraid Steve Steine is right: you old guys care nothing for the welfare of sled dogs. Otherwise you would have done all you could to make their lives better, a first step being reinstating animal welfare laws that at one time did include sled dogs.
        Most Americans would vehemently disagree that sled dogs are somehow inherently different from their poodles, and deserve to be treated as meat products, as livestock. You guys don’t want them pride yes under the law. That’s very clear!

      • Maxine, cut the crap. Here is your statement about “enough:” Even if PETA doctors things up a bit, there’s still enough in their video to cause concern.
        You can choose to move the goalposts but I’m not playing along. I have no idea of what you’ve seen in your evidence of dog welfare so that’s off the table.
        I simply asked what’s that “enough in their video” and you suddenly have a loss of memory and think we will give you a “president Reagan?” Then have the gall to accuse me of not having dog welfare in mind. You have an agenda here and are full of chit, to boot. This is an Alaskan situation so nobody really cares about what “most Americans” think about sled dogs.

      • Bill, I may be reading you incorrectly, despite what you write in your posts. Maybe you do really care about sled dogs. Instead of trying to obfuscate the issue, you could instead advocate for their better treatment. Quit trying to cover for or excuse the bad players and try to do something positive for the dogs.

      • Maxine, I’m not surprised that you would want to change the subject, here. The fact that I’m not of the opinion that sled dogs need to be treated like toy poodles means that I’m somehow trying to obfuscate here? Give me a break.

    • On the flip side peta does add fiction into their video. The facts are bad enough without stretching the truth. IMO . Again I say Craig was to kind and probably could have filled us in even more.

      • I’ve always loved the PETA folks because they made trappers seem mainstream.

  18. Craig, what’s the story of the crippled dog supposedly from Baker’s kennel? It doesn’t belong there without the story IMO.

    • https://investigations.peta.org/iditarod-kennel-neglect/

      Paralyzed Puppy Left to Drag Herself Through the Snow

      Birch was just a puppy when she sustained a crippling, extremely painful spinal cord injury, which left her unable to move around comfortably and struggling just to get in and out of the shelter she had access to—the same box that PETA’s eyewitness had built for Snickers.

      Baker and Keith wouldn’t take Birch to a veterinarian. They just chained her up outside and left her there.
      Baker admitted that Birch should be “put out of her misery” and that she was “not healthy” but refused the eyewitness’s repeated offers to adopt her or provide her with veterinary care, evidently because anyone who saw her would probably conclude that “we’re being real hard on ’em.”

      • Laura, so this is one side of the dog story right? Does anyone have the Baker side-this just makes no sense, to me. The dog evidently means something special to these folks to be kept under these circumstances. IMO there’s just not a kennel in a hundred that would not put this dog down.
        Like I said, this dog is something special to them. I know of people who have wheels attached to pets with back-end problems but I’ve never seen one of these in a musher kennel.

      • 10 years ago I might have read an article by peta, those days are gone. Bad choices, got caught, too much negative publicity.

      • Bill you might be on to something. I was looking at the video and a couple items did appear like they may have been overly edited or doctored such as snickers dog house . Made me wonder if all the spoken words were 100% accurate ? There were to many inaccuracies in the video such as saying no bedding when straw was fully visable in the box . Peta has a history of dishonesty. Hopefully it’s not what I’ve been reading about. A process called deep fakes . Look it up it’s interesting. Also you have a point in questioning the circumstances around that black pup . Where and what . All around though not good .

      • I’m not arguing with you Laura but can you clue us in on how that dog should be cared for ? Peta seamed to be suggestive it needed put down. What is your suggestion? Pretty tough situation? The pup had obviously just come from inside a house I suspect as he seemed hot and was licking snow . Let’s assume that dog was a pet . How would a pet owner treat it ? Or how should a musher treat it ? Didn’t look starved? I’m really not sure what I would do with my pet in that situation. I really appreciate medreds investigative analytical journalism. It truly helps us understand what’s going on .

      • Laura, I’m unsure of what you mean by how that crippled dog is mistreated? I personally don’t have a problem with dogs being tethered so that’s not an issue IMO. I couldn’t see how the dog was treated-looked well fed and did have straw in its house.
        I suspect there is much more to the story as few would keep such a pet. The Bakers know the story and it’s probably known to some, perhaps Craig knows it.

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