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Fake news?

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Birch, the once crippled but now reportedly healthy sled dog said to have been exploited by PETA/PETA photo

Alaska musher Katherine Keith, the spouse of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion John Baker of Kotzebue, now says a video of a crippled dog dragging itself around with its forelegs in the couple’s kennel is fake news.

 

The dog named Birch was injured, Keith said in a Facebook post today, but has since fully recovered. The dog features in a video produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) blowing up in social media. 

Keith blames a dog handler known to her as Sam Krause for  both the injury to Birch and the secretly recorded video of the poor animal. Krause, if that is his true name, is one of several handlers and at least one dog musher to question dog treatment at the Baker kennel.

Krause could not be reached for comment, but a sworn affidavit from him and a statement was provided by PETA. But first Keith’s verbatim version of what happened to the dog when it was four-months old:

“Sam Krause (if that’s his name) – an ‘undercover’ PETA operator – neglected to properly shut the pen door. Birch then squeezed out and became stuck. Any kennel owner knows that when one dog is hurt they all bark loudly. Sam didn’t pay attention and Birch was left there for hours.

When I came back from work Sam told me what happened, and I wasn’t sure Birch would make it through the night. We live in Kotzebue where there is no veterinary care. I have to take care of all their needs. This was beyond what anyone could do. Birch made it through the night and then became stronger everyday. Sam kept wanting to know what our intentions were and I could only answer that she’s going to get stronger. All we could do is work to retrain her muscles. Indeed she did (get stronger).

“It took a lot of work and time. Birch had problems using the bathroom but (sic) needed to stay inside. This meant frequent mopping. She needed regular massage and Advil to get control of her hind quarters again. I was NOT going to lose another dog.

The internet photo was taken days after her injury. I would let her outside on occasion to let her cool off and use the bathroom. She needed to be house trained.

Slowly we increased her rehabilitation efforts through walks and eventually running. It is about five months after her injury and Birch is fully recuperated. I expect she will do great during fall training but if not she will make a dog owner very happy one day.

Maybe this was the wrong approach or maybe I should have acted differently. Regardless she is better.”

The other version

The story told by the handler-known-as Krause is in a sworn affidavit supplied to the Kotzebue Police Department, according to a PETA spokesman, who released a copy but blacked out the author’s name.

“On November 17, I found Birch trapped underneath the bottom of a door to a pen where she was kept,” the author writes. “Birch’s head and torso were outside of the pen, while her hips and hind legs were still inside it. I immediately opened the door and saw that Birch was unable to use her hind legs.”

What follows is largely a day-by-day progress report on Birch’s condition, the lack of anything being done to treat the dog, and the handler’s effort to get the dog to Anchorage to be treated by a veterinarian. It covers a period of about three weeks after Birch’s injury.

On Nov. 18, the handler found Birch chained out. “She exited the shelter with her front legs straightened, dragging her hind legs behind her,” the affidavit says. “Her tail appeared to be coated with feces. She collapsed to her chest and dragged her torso and hind legs on the ice behind her….When I filled a water bowl for her, I saw that she immediately drank from it almost continuously for approximately two minutes. She then dragged herself into the shelter.”

The next day, the dog was no better. “Keith told me that on Nov. 18, she stopped giving Birch carprofen; Keith told me that she had not provided Birch with any other medication,” the affidavit says.

“On Nov. 22, Keith told me that she was ‘not going to do anything other than just watch [Birch], see how she does.’ I asked Keith if we could bring Birch to a veterinarian. Keith replied, ‘Yeah. I don’t know what they would do though’…(and) ‘anytime we … send a dog out, it’s a minimum of a thousand bucks.'”

“On Nov. 28,” the affidavit says, “Baker told me that Birch ‘needs to be put out of her misery.’… Later that day, I saw that Birch remained chained in a similar condition, hobbling next to the sea.”

“On December 5, I told Keith that I was interested in taking Birch to a veterinarian to have her injury and condition diagnosed and that I would like to provide Birch with rehabilitation,” the affidavit said. “Keith was visibly upset by this request and rejected my offer. When I last saw Birch, on December 7, she continued to hobble. On January 1,
2019, I texted Keith to ask how Birch was doing. Keith did not respond.”

The handler left Kotzebue on Dec. 7. The day before he left, the affidavit says, “Baker introduced me to his sister, who he told me runs Northern Air Cargo….I used this service to fly a dog Keith and Baker gave me from Kotzebue to Anchorage for just $53.07.”

PETA in a statement provided with the affidavit accused Keith of lying about some of the details of what happened to Birch and chastised her for the claim she gave the dog “‘Advil’ (ibuprofen). Ibuprofen is extremely harmful and dangerous for dogs.”

Veterinarians warn ibuprofen has “a narrow margin of safety in dogs, and acute toxicosis is common.” But a peer-reviewed study in Veterinary Medicine suggested it could be used safely in very, very small doses for very short periods of time in an emergency.

Handler issues

Krause is not the first handler to criticize the Baker kennel publicly, and others have done so privately.  Keith in another Facebook post today charged that her family is being victimized by anti-Iditarod activists.

“Two men within a year of themselves felt it appropriate to come stay in our kennel, share meals with us, talk to our daughters, and share in the intimate details of daily kennel life,” she writes. “They lied, stole, committed fraud, and completely ripped away any fabric of trust I had left. Rick Townsend still sends harassing emails and text messages. Last year he launched a campaign to again smear dirt at John. Sam Krause pretended to be John’s friend at the end of Iditarod. These men use(d) the ‘handler’ experience as an invite to simply terrorize us or to advance their personal agendas.”

Townsend said the harassment claim is untrue. The former Minnesota resident today said his only agenda in reporting Baker to authorities in 2018 was a desire to protect Baker’s dogs. Townsend went to work for Baker in 2017 after seeing a Craigslist advertisement in Minnesota. The state is the old home of Keith and former Baker handler and Iditarod veteran Tollef Monson.

Monson has also complained about Baker’s dog care, but never publicly. He last year refused to talk in detail about his experiences at the kennel, but confessed he was angry enough about what happened that he no longer talks to Baker, once a friend.

Monson said Baker has “anger management issues” and suggested, though did not specifically say, that dogs sometimes took a beating because of that.

In the video of Birch secretly recorded by Krause, Baker says,  “for the leaders, if I told them to turn this way, and they didn’t turn, I was heading up there (to the front of the team). And I wasn’t going up there to pet them.

“I was going up there to let them know that, ‘Listen you son of a bitch….If I say turn, you turn.'”

Baker grew up in an Alaska Native community on the edge of the Bering Sea. When he was growing up, it was not unusual for dogs to be treated roughly there or killed if they were not useful, and along a coast where broken sea ice can be encountered, lead dogs following commands could conceivably be the difference between life and death.

Townsend said fellow Minnesotan Keith treated the dogs better than Baker. Townsend described her as “a driven athlete” who sometimes treats “you like you’re stupid or something.” He said his main complaint with Keith was that “she has no issues with (Baker’s) dog abuse.”

“She has her own way of treating the dogs that are not as horrific but still abuse,” he added.

Townsend said he left Kotzebue after Baker shot a dog because it was not performing. His parting came in the days just “before Iditarod (2017) started because I told John I’m telling everyone about his abuse.”

As a result of that, he wrote, he was escorted to the Kotzebue airport at gunpoint and loaded on a plane out of the roadless city. Baker later filed a complaint with Kotzebue police claiming Townsend was a thief.

“He told police I did not have permission to use his credit card and stole the number. This was in March,” Townsend said. “I’d been there since November, and we had the card to use for all we needed, food, supplies, and so on. I signed my own name, as did everyone.”

State court documents show Townsend was charged with theft in Kotzebue in May 2017, two months after leaving the community of 3,300. The documents put the date of the crime at Feb. 28,  just before Townsend flew out. A warrant with bail set at $500 was issued for Townsend’s arrest in June of 2017 and appears to still be active, although Townsend says it was quashed.

Townsend contends the charges were a ruse aimed to shut him up, but by the end of 2017, he was starting to talk and by 2018 his story was out. Townsend early that year provided craigmedred.news the names of four people he said could confirm his story: one still in Kotzebue, one in Minnesota and two in Fairbanks.

The woman he named in Kotzebue said she had never seen any abuse at the Baker kennel. The man he named in Minnesota became irate about being asked to recount his experiences and refused to talk.

Only one of two handlers who’d relocated to Fairbanks could be contacted. That one, a young woman then working for another Iditarod musher, said she and her boyfriend had stapled together injured dogs while working in the Baker-Keith kennel, but insisted all of the injuries stemmed from dog fights.

Two other former Baker handlers reached independently, however, said there had been problems at the kennel. Neither wanted to be identified in a news story or go into detail, but one veteran handler said things were so bad she quickly made up a story about needing to leave Kotzebue to attend a friend’s family event. She flew out,  she said, and never went back.

“What pisses me off is everyone knows I’m telling the truth,” Townsend said when told of the difficulty in confirming his story last year. “They tell me in messenger. They contacted me. But nobody will say a damn thing.”

He later sent some computer screengrabs to back up that statement. A couple were from veteran Iditarod mushers who said they knew there was a problem, but they contained no firsthand information. There were, however, two posts from Monson hinting at the problems he only alluded to in an interview.

The first is below.

baker censored.jpg

There was also a screen grab of Townsend’s last exchange with Scott Engebretson, the handler who returned to his old home in Minnesota. Townsend asked Engebretson to call Alaska reporter Casey Grove and tell him what had happened in Kotzebue.

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Animal rights

Given the involvement of PETA – an activist animal rights group – in the latest criticism of Baker along with three-time Iditarod champ Mitch Seavey from Sterling, many Iditarod fans are convinced this story has to be a setup, and even those less than fully convinced of that idea are wary.

As Thom Swann, a well-respected dog driver from Fairbanks points out, “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.

“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,” he said.

But everyone worries about PETA plants or even disgruntled handlers trying to smear someone’s reputation. Most handlers are abysmally paid and over-worked. They hang on because they love to run dog teams, which are costly to support unless one has a dog-food sponsor, or they are obsessed with the dream of running the Iditarod.

Handlers are often able to put up with a lot if they think that Iditarod dream is in sight as reflected in another Monson post of which Townsend grabbed a screenshot. Monson in that post described Baker’s temper as “out of control” and identified yet another handler, now back in Europe, who had witnessed Baker abusing dogs.

He also asked about a Minnesota musher and Iditarod veteran who’d once sold dogs to Baker.

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The musher was Jamie Nelson, a highly respected dog trainer who four times ran the Iditarod. She runs the Mushing Boot Camp in Togo.

Nelson bred, raised and helped train the dogs with which Baker won the Iditarod in 2011 in the then-record time of 8 days, 18 hours, 46 minutes.

Reached by phone today, she said she has not had any direct contact with Baker since 2008, and “I don’t particularly want to be” in contact. She confessed she and Baker had a falling out over the way he treats dogs, and that she and Monson had tried to get other mushers to do something about it.

“No one wanted to listen to us,” she said.

The Iditarod until 2017 studiously avoided taking any role in the non-racing care of sled dogs. In December of that year, however, it announced it was developing the “framework for a ‘Best Care’ kennel management program.”

Baker’s brother, Andy, was at the time the president of the Iditarod Trail Committee, the organization that runs the Iditarod, and Townsend’s accusations were on the verge of going public. When that finally happened, John dropped out of the 2018 Iditarod. Katherine ran the race and suffered another dog death, the second in two years in her team.

A Best Care Program never materialized, but Iditarod in 2018 required that all mushers entering this year’s “review and certify” that their kennel or the kennel housing their dogs met the standards set by Mush with PRIDE, an organization set up to develop standards for sled-dog care. 

Mush With PRIDE (Providing Responsible Information on a Dog’s Environment) dates back to the 1990s when the Iditarod was under fire from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a less-radical version of PETA. The latter wants to ban trapping, hunting, fishing, meat-eating, fish-eating, drug-testing, rat killing, and more.

PETA is so extreme that the immediate kneejerk reaction to anything it touches in Alaska is negative. In the echo chamber of the Iditarod faithful, the mere fact PETA is involved in the video of the Baker and Seavey kennels, and the claims as to what Krause witnessed there, renders it all untrue.

But even if it were all true, it wouldn’t matter. Dogs are considered livestock in most of Alaska. Iditarod sets no standards for off-season care. And PRIDE has no ability to enforce anything.

PRIDE has guidelines and a voluntary kennel inspection program it hopes will be “applicable to kennels anywhere in the world, or will serve as a model for other certification programs, according to the PRIDE website.

“The PRIDE Board firmly believes that if we mushers conduct ourselves responsibly then we will be less likely to suffer from unknowing governmental regulation. We hope that this program is a demonstration of the fact that we can responsibly take care of our own.”

That’s a mission impossible to carry out without staff, and PRIDE has none. There is no one to investigate the situation in Kotzebue unless local police decide to make a case of it. Baker and Keith could be the victims of a massive setup, or poor Birch could be the victim of a PETA plant trying to frame the mushers.

The other complaints could come from handlers who just don’t like the well-known Baker-Keith duo for whatever reasons, or they could be true or half-true or partially true.

Thus the story ends where it began with everyone free to believe what they want to believe.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the requirement for the relationship between entrants in the 2019 Iditarod and Mush with Pride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

105 replies »

  1. She would let a rehabilitating dog out on occasion for bathroom breaks, but still felt the need to chain her!!! while she crawled around to a lousy wooden shelter that she apparently does not use. Does she really think we are all that stupid. It’s all coming out now, the killings and abuse. CRAZY LAND up there. Birch is fine now- Uhhhh, Video of THAT please. NOW.

  2. Lots of big racers are dog farmers and take crap care of their dogs. Im a musher and have been in Alaska for 16 years. like in anything with dogs, there is a wide range of care practices from excellent to horrific in the sled dogs world, from the big racers to recreational and tour businesses. When anyone ever calls another our for harm everyone jumps on the stupid peta accusations. We need to police ourselves from within, and change laws at all levels. People get away with abuse and neglect because one, most people are in lala land about mushing and racing, think its gods gift to the hobbyist-spectator, and two, dogs are considered livestock legally and its not illegal to breed and cull. Some of the big racers hire out to shitty managers and have no clue what goes on cause they dont pay attention. Then the managers hire even shittier handlers and even worse shit happens. ive seen this over and over at the very top. I know a lot of folks and I do rescue. I also know people at the various shelters. People dump a huge amount of dogs, people withold medical care, people cull puppies, people work injured dogs, people allow indiscriminate breeding, people have multiple locations and only show the “contenders” to the public. All I know is that a great deal of suffering is taking place and its wrong. very wrong, and its going to come and bite all of us in the butt sooner or later one way or the other. The big races are much to blame because all this goes down for their damn races. All this heavy breeding, culling, mismanagement, ego fluffing, suffering and meanwhile dogs are languishing. Dogs are in Dog pits, dogs are wounded and injured and die. Its disgusting and horrific the things that happen in the sled dog world. The images and animals i will never get our of my head. Ever. Stephanie Little Wolf

    • Stephanie, I think things can change. Finally enough people not in the mushing world are starting to see how corrupt it’s become.
      We can make a change.
      You can get my contact info from Craig if you’re interested.

  3. I’ve always thought there was a big picture issue that never seems to be addressed by the Alaskan dog mushing community. And that is: Where are appropriate locations for a dog kennels in regards to the health of the dogs? In this case, there is no veterinarian in Kotzebue. So how can Kotzebue be a humane place to have a large dog kennel? When dogs have serious health issues in such remote places there is no expert care. Same goes for other off-the-road-system Bush locations. The Iditarod and Alaskan media (other than this web site) lauds and cheerleads Bush mushers. But why should Bush mushers be revered when there are no vets around to help care for their dogs? Irresponsible. Dog kennels in the Bush are often not in the best interest of the dogs, and their health.

    • i don’t know, Tim. i’ve known a few mushers, Butcher among them, who were skilled enough at veterinary medicine that they might have been able to get licensed a veterinarians if, of course, any state still licensed people who learned through doing rather than through an accredited institution.

      • If I remember correctly she was a vet tech before her mushing career. I might be wrong on that . Someone more familiar could state the fact .

      • Susan Butcher famously said that you had to get “Go through 300 to find 5 good racers” She had no problem culling dogs so no vet required right? The former head of the Alaska SPCA confirmed this.

    • Tim–one of the cool things about being an American citizen is that we have the freedom to live wherever we want, and pursue our dreams and prosperity in that area of our choosing. If we wanted some agency or higher authority to tell us where and how to live we would move to Europe, or perhaps Russia. Hope that clears up your basic misconception on this topic.

      • The claim that sled dogs are super athletes that can handle
        the stress of endurance racing is not supported by facts.
        Why would a full 50 per cent of them not even be able to
        finish the race?
        Why would 61 per cent of them get bleeding stomach ulcers? Why would 81 per cent of them get pathological changes in their lungs? Why would their hormones be suppressed and their immune system ruined?
        If they were elite athletes that can handle the stress why would their internal organs fail and their musculoskeletal system fail and orthopaedic injuries by the number one cause for them having to be taken out of the race?
        There;s one thing I didn’t mention earlier which is that when the 50 per cent fail to finish the race they cannot be substituted or replaced. So that means that the burden falls on the rest of the dogs to carry the sled over a thousand miles to the finish line.
        I don’t know how many research studies we need proving how much harm we;re causing our dogs before that heritage and financial gain are not good enough to put our dogs in such grave risk.
        It;s morally indefensible for an industry to profit off the misery of dogs. 
        I don’t know when were going to feel like we have enough studies to tell us that were harming and damaging dogs, that were going to say that tradition and financial gain and bragging rights justify putting our dogs in harms way.
        Dr Kislak –
        :
        “Our philosophy and goal at the Alaska SPCA is prevention, not destruction. And, what they’re doing is breeding and breeding and then they cull and cull and cull. And culling to the musher doesn’t bother them one bit. And they use to take them into animal control here and then also up in the valley, but they got such criticism so now they’re doing their own killing. And it’s not humane. Believe me it’s not humane.”
        – Ethel Christensen made these remarks on a interview on radio show Animal Voices in Toronto, to host Rob Moore February 28, 2006
        – Ethel Christensen was the Executive Director of the Alaska SPCA

    • Tim, (and any other concerned parties and individuals), I think it’s past time for some serious soul-searching. Something has gone wrong with how we think of sled dogs in Alaska. In the past perhaps people didn’t have the luxury to think beyond human survival needs. Now we do. (Who knows how long that will last.)
      I think we should take advantage of this luxury, and try to make the partnership between sled dogs and humans a shining thing.
      To do that mushers and non-mushers who care for dogs should get together and try to focus on creating something that dogs – if they could talk – could get behind totally, from the ways they are cared for to the ways they are raced. There’s a body of scientific research on dog physiology and behavior, nutritional needs and social needs. It really needs to become “about the dogs” not about human egos.
      Dog’s, more than any other domestic animal, have been since the stone age, man’s best friend. I think we should try to be “Dog’s Best Friend.”
      We should start by brainstorming alone in our homes, meditating and listing everything we can think of to make life wonderful for sled dogs. Then arrange meetings and conferences to work out plans creatively imagining how we can practically achieve the dream. And try a few things, test the theories. And find supporters who can donate money to help finance kennels. Generate ideas!
      Of course to ensure dogs are not abused? we need good legal protections for them also.
      We need to start.

      • It’s not that I don’t agree with some of the points you’re making about ideal dog care in our new age of luxury and affluence, Maxine, but in the context of this particular reply thread the larger picture is that Native Alaskan’s shouldn’t be allowed to own dogs (not just sled dogs) in the villages according to Tim.

      • Jason, Tim’s question: does it make sense to locate large dog breeding/racing kennels in villages far from veterinary hospitals is one that has occurred to me also. Everyone has their own particular ideas on what’s wrong and maybe some thoughts on how to make things better. By keeping the focus on the dogs and their needs, and ideas on how village pets can get the care they need, we can all feel better about ourselves. I’ve lived in places where there was no “animal doctor” and it was very depressing to see animals that could have been helped, killed to “put them out of their misery.”
        Now is the time to put the creative forces to work and come up with ideas. No matter how impractical just throw them out there, and winnow them down later to what is workable.
        Of course a first step would be to once again include sled dogs under Alaska’s animal welfare laws. All dogs should have the same legal protections. Beyond that, Maybe even sled dog “canine labor laws” similar to human labor laws, because they are working animals subject to overwork and exploitation by their human bosses?🤔
        Anyway just brainstorming here. Throwing out ideas. That’s where we start. We can hash them out in some series of conferences and come up with some evidence based, canine based standard of ideal care with some legal teeth behind it. For village dogs, dog care could be taught in schools or in after school clubs – vet’s could come out to give seminars for the communities to supplement online courses, for example. So many ideas and th ings to try. As an aside I’ve discovered that focusing on the needs of others is the best antidote to depression and despair, an all to common danger to kids and teens, native and white alike.

  4. From my reading of all these posts by mushers, it’s become crystal clear they do not want their dogs protected by law from abuse and neglect. In light of that glaring reality, all their claims to “Love their dogs” ring hollow.
    All the more reason for the general dog loving public to fight this through. They ask us to be sweet and patient, and catch flies with honey. They wanted to be exempt and they got what they wanted. Now the general public is catching on. I live for the day they will no longer be free to neglect, abuse, And kill their dogs at will.
    You guys should be ashamed of youselves! In the real world many of you would be banned from owning dogs or any vulnerable animal.

    • This is reminiscent of the “when was the last time you beat your wife” line of questioning. It shows just how far some will go to prove their point and slander any who disagree.

      I’m not a musher. I own two dogs. The most dogs I’ve ever owned at one time is two. None of my dogs has ever pulled a sled, or even pulled me on skis. I do not beat my dogs. I do not kill my dogs at will, although I could under the law. I do not walk my dogs on a daily basis, should I be shamed for neglect, should my dogs be taken away? No, my dogs are not working dogs. They do no not have the drive to pull. Well the one pulls when I walk her, she is on a leash at all times because that’s what I think responsible dog owners should do. I also pick up my dogs shit, something lots of dog owners do not do.

      Some of us understand there are different dogs and there are different people and there are different people who own different dogs. I think people who do not walk their dogs on leashes and who do not pick up their dogs shit should be banned from owning dogs.

      When was the last time time you beat your husband\wife?

      • What we are reasonably asking is that sled dogs be covered by that same animal welfare laws that apply to you and me as pet owners. Say I own a husky I bought off a dog lot. Before I bought her her owner could beat or shoot her or neglect to feed her. But since sled dogs on lots are exempt from the law, there’s nothing law enforcement can do.
        Once I buy her however, and take possession of Her, if I neglect to give her veterinary care when she’s clearly suffering, or tie her up with no access to shelter, food or water, or beat her and hurt her, then the troopers can come after me and charge me with any number of crimes. Same dog. There, did I spell it out?

      • Maxine,

        I get it, you and a few others are the one on here arguing incessantly about how we (everybody else) needs to agree with you. Steve Stine called me a hypocrite, just because I don’t agree with him. You agree with him so you’re not a hypocrite apparently. I just don’t agree with him and it makes me a hypocrite somehow, I think it’s mostly because he doesn’t understand what the word hypocrite means.

        If, instead of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, maybe you presented your case as you just did to me you might find more people amenable to reasonable suggestions? Instead of asking “when was the last time you beat your wife” you should be talking to the people you want to convert, stop preaching and start listening, stop preaching and start counseling, stop preaching and start talking.

        I see many mushers on here who are trying to talk with you, you just need to start talking with them.

      • Maxine,
        You are spot on with your observations (especially of those who lack Empathy on this site)…
        No matter how you spell it out, the mushers (and their anonymous supporters) still feel it is OK to exclude sled dogs from animal abuse laws in AK.
        We adopted a dog just like your scenario…same dog different home.
        He was very traumatized on the dog lot and had huge cuts on his legs and required stitches before Laura brought him home…
        Your intelligence and understanding is much appreciated and needed in this debate/ push 4 reform.
        Don’t be distracted by “curve balls” thrown from the right.
        These thousands of sled dogs throughout this state need our Empathy now more than ever…
        And many comments by Irod mushers confirm this conclusion.

      • Steve-O, we really do want mushers to agree that sled dogs should have legal protection from abuse and neglect.
        For mushers who do take excellent or even adequate care of their dogs, I would think they would be pushing for this, too, if only as a means to keep from being tarred with the same brush as the abusers.
        It’s only with necessary laws that the bad abusers can be shut down. Right now law enforcers hands are tied. All they can do is try to put the awful things they see out if their minds. It must be pretty depressing for them.
        I am trying my darndest to keep my comments civil and courteous, although I am afraid I have slipped occasionally. For that I apologize. I think sled dogs are not being adequately protected by laws, and think they should be.

      • Steve,

        What does this have to do with distractions from those on the “right”? Bill Yankee is on the left and he’s a musher, I’m center right and not a musher. You’re fond of pretending you aren’t far left, but none of that has anything to do with the conversation at hand.

        You don’t want a conversation you just want to be able to silence those you disagree with and reign in any who would dare have a conversation with those you disagree with. There are mushers in this comment section who are trying to have a thoughtful conversation and there are people on here demonizing them for it. For shame.

  5. If you are a Christian, our Lord Jesus Christ is your Lord and Salvation.
    In the Bible, Man shall have dominion over all animals. They were placed on this earth, for the betterment of mankind. Give it a break!
    Like Cain & Able, good & evil people everywhere:
    Some kennel owners are a**holes, others are good people.
    PETA is a corrupt idealistic organization.
    Kill them all and let God sort it all out!

    • James, us heathens don’t buy that argument though. I’ve run across it in trapping magazines and it always struck me as BS from a 2000 year old fable. It’s not the killing that’s really the issue but the inhumaneness IMO.

      • Living in rural AK bush is not a walk in the park. Human beings are on a higher level than animals. The kennel owners do what they need to do to survive. Lance M. was having a cold one to help self medicate to the next checkpoint. It is all about the advertising dollars and what mushers must do, to make it all work. Total BS about dog treatment, sorry they are work animals/livestock, not pets. Their mission on earth is to pull a sled, period. Get over it!
        Why not be more concerned about the thousands of undocumented migrants, trying to start a new life in America.
        Alaskans are so spoiled, without the oil money, since late ‘70s, we would be nothing.
        Go back to the subsistence lifestyle, pre 1980, see how that works for you. Grow up, we are all abused, all of you who voted for Trump, have not seen anything yet! It will not get easier, it will only get worse.
        Why not concern yourselves with new state revenue, instead of a few dogs lives. Talk about hypocrisy, when AK runs out of money, our credit rating goes to Sh**, will you concern yourself with survival if some dog kennel. Give me a break! What a load of BS!
        AK needs new revenue now! Open up the Artic & ANWR to oil exploration and permit the Pebble mine to move forward! Do you think the Feds are going to bail us out. We are a state of natural resources, take advantage of what we have, and quit the whining! It is getting very old. I love dogs, though they are not as important as a human life!

      • Bill, I did not realize you were a heathen. I do respect your religious non-affiliation. You have that right, and I will leave it at that.

      • James, we are really quite similar. Let’s say for argument sake that there 500 different religions and you don’t believe in 499 of them-I don’t believe in all 500.

      • I am more than okay, I value human life more than lesser animals, that is what the Bible has taught me!

    • James, do you think that “dominion” is a sanction to use animals as we please? Somewhat equivalent to “domination?”
      What about the proverb “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast?” Which I take to mean an injunction urging benevolent custody. Asking us to be good stewards of creation, treating all animals with kindness, empathy and a merciful spirit. Since we have them at our mercy, doesn’t that mean we should treat them mercifully?
      Do you really think God is ok with us treating his creation, his sensitive feeling animals, with anything but concern for their wellbeing?
      A good book on this subject is Matthew Scully’s book, Dominion, The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.

      • I thought “10,000 Miles with a Dogsled” was a good book, Maxine:
        “All day as I trudged or trotted now on snow-shoes and now off, as the trail varied in badness, that dog was in my mind and his loss upon my heart, the feel of his tongue upon my cheek. It takes the close companionship between a man and his dogs in this country, travelling all the winter long, winter after winter, through the bitter cold and the storm and darkness, through the long, pleasant days of the warm sunshine of approaching spring, sharing labour and sharing ease, sharing privation and sharing plenty; it takes this close companionship to make a man appreciate a dog.”
        I remember when Iditarod had a lot mushers who knew that sort of appreciation.

  6. Ramey I read the handler’s entire affidavit and I do not believe Katherine’s Facebook posts provide a more accurate account of how these dogs were cared for. If this handler was in any way responsible for Birch’s injury (which sounds more like the result of a poorly designed/unsafe enclosure) he clearly offered to pay for any veterinary expenses as well as offering to adopt the dog. And if he was in fact incompetent, why then did Baker/Keith allow him to take another dog instead?

    Here is the handler’s sworn testimony regarding Birch:

    5. While working at the kennel, I documented evidence that Baker and Keith failed to provide veterinary examination and adequate care to Birch, their severely-injured and debilitated puppy—whom Baker admitted needed to be “put out of her misery”—despite my offer to provide the dog with veterinary care at no expense to Baker and Keith. Instead Keith gave her approximately one pain relief pill and she and Baker chained Birch beside the sea, as follows.

    a. On November 17, I found Birch trapped underneath the bottom of a door to a pen where she was kept. Birch’s head and torso were outside of the pen, while her hips and hind legs were still inside it. I immediately opened the door and saw that Birch was unable to use her hind legs. I called Baker. Baker told me to bring Birch inside and said that he would be by the kennel shortly. When I lifted Birch, I heard her whimper. I carried Birch into the kennel office and offered her food and water. Birch attempted to walk, but was unable to do so; her hind limbs dragged behind her as she crawled with her forelimbs. I cleaned out a dog carrier, lined it with straw and placed Birch inside. When Baker arrived, I told him how I had found Birch and that she had whimpered when I moved her. Baker said, “That’s a good sign.” Baker said that if Birch’s back was broken, she would not feel any pain; I understood that Baker believed Birch was in pain. Baker told me, “Let’s leave her like this. I hate to do anything more and … put her out of her misery … and then, the old lady [could say], ‘Oh you bastard.’” Baker indicated that he wanted Keith to see Birch. Baker told me that Birch’s condition was “so, so sad.” (See Videos 2018-11-17_V5 to … V8, at Ex. 1 and Photographs 2018-11-17_IMG1 to … IMG6, at Ex. 2.) When Keith returned to the kennel, she removed Birch from the carrier. I heard Birch whimper as Keith scruffed and pulled her out. When Keith lifted Birch again, I heard the puppy whimper. Keith lifted Birch upwards by grabbing her underneath her front legs so that the hind legs were dangling to the floor. Keith lifted her and lowered her to the floor several times before putting Birch back into the carrier. I heard Keith and Baker speculate about the nature of Birch’s injury; they indicated that they had never seen a dog in this condition before. I heard Baker ask if Birch was “in pain”; I heard Keith reply, “Yeah.” I saw Keith give Birch half of a pill, which she identified as “carprofen” for pain relief and for “inflammation.” Keith said it was “shitty” that a veterinarian was not in town, which I took to mean that she believed Birch required veterinary care. I asked Keith when a veterinarian visited town. Keith said, “Never.” Baker said, “We would have to send the dog to them” (See Video 2018-11-17_V9, at Ex. 1.) Keith told me that she see if Birch’s condition improved by the morning. The half-pill Keith provided to Birch this evening was the only form of care I saw her and Baker provide to the puppy for this injury and her resultant condition.

    b. On November 18, I saw Birch lifting her head and chest high into the air with straightened front legs and dragging her abdomen and hind legs, which were splayed out behind her. Later that day, Keith told me that she had chained Birch where Snickers had been chained, next to the sea. I found Birch inside the shelter that I had built for Snickers. (See Video 2018-11-18_V3, at Ex. 1, and Photograph 2018-11-18_IMG2, at Ex. 2.) Later that day, when I approached Birch, she exited the shelter with her front legs straightened, dragging her hind legs behind her. Her tail appeared to be coated with feces. She collapsed to her chest and dragged her torso and hind legs on the ice behind her. She attempted to stand, but was unable to. She again dragged herself along the snow. When I filled a water bowl for her, I saw that she immediately drank from it almost continuously for approximately two minutes. She then dragged herself into the shelter. (See Videos 2018-11-18_V4 and 2018-11-18_V5, at Ex. 1.) When Keith returned that evening to the kennel, I saw that Birch’s chain had wrapped around the concrete block it was attached to. I suggested to Keith that the chain be attached to a pole so that Birch did not get entangled. Keith indicated that the current setup was sufficient because, “it’s not like she’smoving much right now.” (See Video 2018-11-18_V6, at Ex. 1.)

    c. In the evening of November 19, I saw Birch hobbling. Keith saw this hunched movement and said “I should change her name to Gollum”—which I understood as a reference to a fictional character whose posture Birch’s resembled—and then laughed. Keith told me that on November 18, she stopped giving Birch carprofen; Keith told me that she had not provided Birch with any other medication.

    d. On November 20, I saw that Birch still hobbled. (See Video 2018-11-20_V1, at Ex. 1.) On November 21, I saw that Birch remained in a similar condition and hobbled. (See Video 2018-11-21_V1, at Ex. 1.)

    e. On November 22, Keith told me that she was “not going to do anything other than just watch [Birch], see how she does.” I asked Keith if we could bring Birch to a veterinarian. Keith replied, “Yeah. I don’t know what they would do though.” Keith confirmed that her preferred veterinarian was in Anchorage and claimed that “anytime we … send a dog out, it’s a minimum of a thousand bucks” (which I suspect was vastly overstated; see below at paragraph 6). Keith added, “so really the only times we can send dogs out is like if they have … something that is very life threatening. Muscular injuries like that one … I don’t even know what they would do with her.” Keith speculated further about the nature of Birch’s injury, stating that her condition suggested “the muscles got tore … it’s like a torn … ligament or something.” I told Keith that when I touched Birch that morning, she whimpered and appeared to remain sore. I told Keith that I was interested in adopting Birch when I left her employment. Keith did not grant my request and told me that Birch could take a “very long time to heal.” (See Video 2018-11-22_V1, at Ex. 1.)

    f. On November 23, I saw that Birch remained in a similar condition and was hunched and hobbling. (See Video 2018-11-23_V1, at Ex. 1.) On November 24, November 26 and November 27 I saw that Birch remained in a similar condition and hobbled; I recorded her on November 24 and November 27. (See Videos 2018-11-24_V2 and 2018-11-27_V2, respectively, at Ex. 1.) On November 25, as I was preparing to tend to his and Keith’s dogs, Baker instructed me work at one of his offices, which I did until about 1 a.m. on November 26; I did not have an opportunity to see Birch that day.

    g. On November 28, Baker told me that Birch “needs to be put out of her misery.” He added, “I’m reluctant to do it … but I … called the animal control officer, but he wasn’t in.” I understood this to mean that Baker had called an animal control officer with the intent of asking the officer to shoot Birch. (See Video 2018-11-28_V08, at Ex. 1.) Later that day, I saw that Birch remained chained in a similar condition, hobbling next to the sea. (See Video 2018-11-28_V11, at Ex. 1.)

    h. On November 29, Baker instructed me to work at one of his offices from approximately 8:30 a.m. until about 9 p.m.; I did not have an opportunity to see Birch. On November 30 and December 1, I saw and recorded Birch in a similar condition. (See Videos 2018-11-30_V4 and 2018-12-01_V2, respectively, at Ex. 1.) On December 2, Baker instructed me to run his and Keith’s dogs, which I did virtually all day; I did not have an opportunity to see Birch.

    i. On December 3, I saw that Birch remained in a similar condition. (See Video 2018-12-03_V1, at Ex. 1.) Later that day, I asked Keith and Baker if I could adopt Snickers. Baker replied, “I don’t feel good about that … Because ah, I think it looks like we’re being real hard on ’em.” Baker said “I don’t feel good about Birch in the sense that … she’s not healthy, you know … With all due respect, I just … don’t feel good about her.” (See Video 2018-12-03_V9, at Ex. 1.) On December 4, I spent most of the day doing chores around the house for Baker and Keith; I did not have an opportunity to see Birch.

    j. On December 5, I told Keith that I was interested in taking Birch to a veterinarian to have her injury and condition diagnosed and that I would like to provide Birch with rehabilitation. Keith was visibly upset by this request and rejected my offer. When I last saw Birch, on December 7, she continued to hobble. (See Video 2018-12-07_V04, at Ex. 1.) On January 1, 2019, I texted Keith to ask how Birch was doing. Keith did not respond.

    6. While working at the kennel, I documented evidence that Baker and Keith had ample resources and opportunities to transport and provide veterinary examination and adequate care to Snickers and Birch, as follows. Baker and Keith told me that they are licensed pilots. Baker showed me an airplane that he said was his. Baker and Keith flew to Anchorage on November 13 and returned on November 16 and November 17, respectively, during which time they could have transported Snickers for veterinary examination, care and/or euthanasia. Keith flew to Anchorage on November 24 and returned on November 26, during which time she could have transported Birch and Snickers for veterinary examination, care and/or euthanasia. Further, on December 6, Baker introduced me to his sister, who he told me runs Northern Air Cargo. On December 7, I used this service to fly a dog Keith and Baker gave me from Kotzebue to Anchorage for just $53.07; a roundtrip at that rate would amount to just 11% of the $1,000 Keith purported on November 22 it cost her and Baker, at a minimum, to send a dog to Anchorage for veterinary care.

    • “(which sounds more like the result of a poorly designed/unsafe enclosure)” What do you attribute this to Laura?
      Here is Keith’s statement: “Sam Krause (if that’s his name) – an ‘undercover’ PETA operator – neglected to properly shut the pen door.” Now from this it appears there’s a proper way to close the door and an improper way. Sam chose the improper way, according to Keith, and you are wanting to whitewash the problem here with “poorly designed/unsafe enclosure.”
      Why is that?

      • Bill,
        The big “Why” neither you, Ramey or Rod seem able to answer is “Why” do mushers feel sled dogs should remain exempt from Animal welfare laws in Alaska?
        As for the “whos and hows” regarding Baker and Keith…(from the affidavit) it is clear the “Issue” is the Denial of Veterinary Care for the injured dog…which was obviously Injured and in Pain.
        Remember that the handler documents many attempts at trying to direct Baker and Keith that the dog needed to see a Vet…”he clearly offered to pay for any veterinary expenses as well as offering to adopt the dog.”
        We both know dogs can get injured, it is not worth placing blame on whos fault it was, but more about the lack of concern for getting the dog any help…
        This was the same thing Abbie documented at Dallas’s kennel only his puppies were sick (and documented in her videos) then when animal control went to check a few days later there were no puppies to be found…sadly the “pits” are large at old Irod lots.

      • Steve, I specifically mentioned this because Laura felt it necessary to “whitewash” the issue. She evidently felt it was important enough to include her own take on that pen door.
        As far as the issue of veterinary care, I think Rayme explained it quite well from the point of view of someone who understood the situation in Kotz and in Baker kennel-read it. He was fairly insistent that the handler was “out to lunch” on many of his accounts and, of course, I don’t expect you to buy that because it’s against your ideology here. Tough noogies!
        None of this has a single thing to do with whether/not mushers believe Animal welfare laws are adequate or not.

      • Like I said…neither you, Ramey or Rod have a single reason to share the readers on Why sled dogs should remain exempt from animal welfare laws in Alaska…
        Situations like the Baker Keith team unwilling to deliver adequate care to an injured dog is the “why” sled dogs remain out of the boundary for enforcement cause the state laws clearly state that denying of Veterinary care to sick and injured dogs is abuse…
        This situation shows us the very foundation for mushers pushing in 2010 to get sled dogs exempt from laws…
        Instead you will try to focus on one sentence Laura wrote…not the bigger picture.
        Classic “Yank Me” entertainment on Medred.

      • Steve, I just didn’t realize how much of a nerve I struck with my post to Laura. Her post was extremely long with what I believe to be mostly BS from this handler, especially after reading Rayme’s post about it, but I picked out that bit about the blame for shutting that door because she insisted on whitewashing it. It was her decision to make something of it, not mine-I only asked for a bit of her reasoning. I can see why she doesn’t want to comment on it.
        Then, because you don’t have a reasonable argument here you take to badmouthing me because of your shortcomings here. My opinion here is that you are feeling you are getting your ass handed to you, relative to these issues and choose to strike out at whomever is in your sights. Tough noogies are in order here. Heheh!

      • Bill I said it “sounds more like the result of a poorly designed/unsafe enclosure.” That is not “whitewashing” anything, if by that you mean “an attempt to stop people finding out the true facts about a situation.” The handler stated the dog was trapped under the gate, and Katherine claims he didn’t close it properly. I have a hard time believing a well constructed pen would be this difficult to operate. And given what the rest of the dogs in the video had in terms of shelter (none in the case of Snickers) it doesn’t appear the facilities were very well maintained. I wish we knew more “facts” about the situation (like exactly what the gate looked like) but its minutiae in the bigger picture. You seem to think its all good to treat an injured dog this way, I disagree. You seem to think the handler, along with multiple witnesses who have made similar claims, is less credible than the accused abuser. That hardly constitutes handing me my ass.

      • Laura, it was poorly designed/ unsafe and now it’s not well constructed because it’s so difficult to operate. This just gets better with age, it seems.
        My position here is that you will say almost anything in order to sway folks to your position-similar to your showing that video of a dog pooping on the trail and attempting to portray is as a Baker dog limping in harness.
        Where I believe you and Steve are getting your ass handed to you is in your position that Iditarod race needs to be outlawed. You may be successful with a bunch of PETA folks but you are striking out on here IMO.

    • Good info Laura but for accuracy sake keep in mind Neither one probably represents the facts 100% accurately. It’s Likely somewhere in between but I would not know . I wasn’t present. couple items I can say for sure are not accurate . I happen to know Phil Meyer a long time respected vet is very close with a John Baker . Phil has often gone to kotz to help with bakers dogs when needed and if John thought the dog could be helped or veterinarians could help he would have called Phil . Or one of his trusted vets . Top mushers keep a direct line to several trusted veterinarians . We usually develop a close working relationship with them . He would not have hesitated to utilize that when needed . A new handler is never in the loop . John would have never said a vet doesn’t go to kotz. Something was mis understood. Dr Phil has been there many many times . Kotz is part of his occasional rotation. Also there are other vets who go there . The handler mis understood many things said by bakers . The 1,000$ reference was probably the expected vet bill when not much could be done to improve the dog except time . Not a reference to shipping. Money is not an issue to John . He is well heeled . Unlike most mushers. I’m just sharing this for accuracy. John and I were distinct rivals . I have no need to stand up for him . Anyone remember who he beat on his championship run ? 40 + minutes ring a bell 🙃

      • That was an amazing race, man. Harm and I were pulling so hard for you. We didn’t get any sleep the whole time you were on the coast, constantly refreshing your GPS on the Iditarod Insider. That showdown between you and John is legendary.

      • Not level playing field . But for reasons you didn’t mention. He had advisors at most checkpoints against the rules and other items i won’t mention. So you see I’m only trying to make conversation accurate . Bit of harsh rivalry.

    • Oh, poor Birch! Had she been my dog, I would have flown her to a veterinarian immediately. Her condition was a medical emergency. To just wait and see if she would get better is clearly neglect. Unfortunately she was born a sled dog on a dog lot. Past time to include sled dogs in animal welfare laws, and make this situation criminal neglect.
      Unless we get proof that Birch has made a miraculous recovery, and is alive and well, I fear for her wellbeing. She may have been shot by now, I’m guessing.

      • How many people do you think can really afford the medical bills associated with spinal treatment for their dog? And I don’t mean dog mushers, but rather the average pet owner? Maybe upper middle class pet owners, big maybe, but the average Joe? I think that’s a bit unrealistic.

      • We’re talking about Baker here and poor little Birch. If Baker can’t afford medical care for his dogs, should he have bred or accumulated so many? Especially in a remote place with no local veterinary hospital? That’s just asking for disasters like this to happen.
        I think he could afford to fly Birch out right away to at least have her properly examined to determine what was wrong, and get some idea what her treatment would involve and the cost. Then he could have made an informed decision decision on how to proceed. That’s what most of us average Joes and Janes like myself would do.
        Baker is WAY better off than me financially.

      • You were the one who brought up “if Birch were your dog,” Maxine. And all it takes is one dog to sustain an injury, so my question remains valid: if one of your pet dogs suffered a freak spinal injury, would you have or be willing to spend the money required to fix it, even if “fixing” it was simply not possible, even after spending thousands and thousands of dollars? Don’t have figures in front of me, but I’d be willing to bet that would be 10,000+ easily.

      • Jason: $10,000 is about right, and the answer is no.

        been there. never did figure out what happened to old Magic’s back. but he could barely move. constant pain. had to be helped out of his bed to relieve himself. vet wanted to send him to Seattle for that $10,000 surgery.

        we talked it over in the house and decided no. over the course of several days, i pumped him full of almost enough prednisone to kill him. i don’t know what had happened or what happened, but the drugs clearly knocked the inflammation down to where he started moving again, and in a matter of days he was on the go and getting back to normal.

        got a lot of good years out of that dog after that, although he proved to be sterile. i always wondered if it was all the prednisone. he lived to 16.

        that said, i also didn’t put him out when he was in that condition. he was kept warm and under pretty close watch.

      • Over a period of five years, I spent over $13,000 to treat a chronic medical problem one of my animals had. I was glad I was able to take care of her. And she demonstrated her gratitude every day. I know animals cost a lot of money to care for properly, so I keep very few.
        Baker should have gotten her diagnosed right away. He and Keith let her suffer needlessly.

      • Craig, when Magic was hurt and in pain, you took him to the vet, got and considered medical advice, made a sensible decision based on a realistic assessment of costs. Then tried to make his last days comfortable by keeping him safe in the house and giving him prednisone. Then surprisingly he recovered. You and he must have been so happy.
        You took him to the vet and didn’t just let him suffer and “wait to see if he got better.” In contrast to Baker and Keith…

  7. So it looks like the way PETA portrayed the black dog was incorrect. Nobody could have guessed that…

    Sorry it was a “distraction” for some to want to wait until the truth comes out before making a judgment, instead of believing a proven unreliable source like PETA. #smollettedagain #falseportrayal #truthisadistractionforpeta

    • What was incorrect about it? Do you think denying the dog veterinary care was the right thing to do?

      According to the story two respected Iditarod mushers previously reported that Baker was abusive toward his dogs nearly ten years ago. “She and Monson had tried to get other mushers to do something about it…’No one wanted to listen to us,’ she said.”

      Instead their peers put his brother Andy on the Iditarod board of directors and elevated John to “champion” status. Obviously more than a few Iditarod mushers are responsible for perpetuating the abuse, as opposed to acknowledging and correcting it. This has nothing to do with PETA, short of no one else giving a shit about ending the abuse.

      • Laura you seem to feel the expert on all this . Please tell us what you think should have been done for the pup ? Also please elaborate on your training and credentials to judge the situation. It was a really bad situation that apparently the handler helped create . So the pup was living in a house during recovery. Peta did not mention that . Peta did not mention the pup was on a recovery program. Peta did not mention the pup has mostly recovered. A miracle thanks to Kat staying the course .( Now I recognize Kat has an Iditarod record that stinks but she is aware of that . What needs done is a study to determine why fatalities occurred for her and not others . An in depth study would help dogs worldwide) Kat is a professional athlete and has training as physical training coach or something similar. A base of knowledge that helps create a program or plan for physical recovery from injury . Many vets have minimal training in this aspect. Her and John also have a lot of years dealing with dogs . Combined 40? enough to know that many vets would give them the unpalatable advice to put the pup down as recovery would be uncommon. Who wants to hear that advice ? Now the handler was there aprx a month . Not long enough to support his claim the bakers never provided vet care for the pup . In effect miss representation. He doesn’t know squat about what the bakers really did . He wasn’t there 24/7 . Now you may have noticed the pup had an open faced dog house . This was nessasary as in his injured state he could not crawl over a lip easily and could desire shelter even if he was only outside to defacate . Open faced allows for easy access. So in effect Peta misrepresent the situation. You also are misrepresenting the situation of Iditarod mushers . We are all very very different. Painting with same brush misrepresentation. Also you misrepresent how andy baker got onto board and wether mushers were happy . If you had adequate knowledge you would know the mushers basically forced baker off the board. Also we had minimal input on getting him onto board ( he resigned on his own terms ) you also said johns peers elevated John to champion status. You totally stepped away from mainstream reality there . John beat all of us in a race . That’s not elevation . We had no choice in the matter . So my question is why do you persist so hard trying to reach and fabricate inaccuracies into a story line when you have absolutely no knowledge of what really occurs beyond your neighbors yard ? You use made up concepts and hearsay as a base . You are not all knowing nor have professional training. You truly have very little access to facts . I do know you are very kind , good hearted, well meaning and most likely a truly wonderful person with our fellow canines best interests in mind . It would be wise to recognize there are many aspects to reality. You are very wrong when you perpetuate the concept mushers don’t care . That’s a frank accidental lie . There really is rarely money in this sport beyond helping to offset dog food . 99% of mushers are in this sport because they love dogs. They do make mistakes just like all people. So you are often barking up the wrong tree . Every single one of us supports good dog care . The problem is we are all individuals and rarely agree on anything specific just like all other people. So getting an agreement nailed down amongst us is like pulling teeth . You would be far more productive if you approached these issues from a positive angle. Research- science fact based items that directly support dogs worldwide. Now as to baker . He is retired so why would we jump on his back . He is phasing out of sled dogs apparently. He may have done things that are not agreeable but that is past and has very little to do with petas video. More to do with what Craig brought up viable issues . Do your cause a favor and see if there is a positive angle you can approach from . You will receive more support. We all care about dogs a lot , more than you can realize. Also know that I know you are a truly good person and are genuine in trying to do the right thing . Often the right thing takes a bit of gentle patience.

      • You apparently haven’t watched the PETA video if you can’t figure out what is incorrect in it. Watch it and get back to me.

        I’ve already said if this were an animal under my care I would have got veterinary care up to and including putting it down.

    • First they go after your dogs, then they go after hunting, then they go after your guns, then your wood stove, and then that cancer eats at every aspect on one’s life. Said it before, they are insane.

    • Even if they didnt want to spend the money on Birch. or the $50 airfair to see a vet, there is absolutely no excuse to let her suffer OUTSIDE, CHAINED. What the F is wrong with you that you can’t see that? How you can even begin to try to justify it is mind blowing. By the way anyone with dogs knows ADVIL is not for dogs- but I;m guessing THEY thought we wouldnt know that or didnt know it themselves!

  8. “But even if it were all true, it wouldn’t matter. Dogs are considered livestock in most of Alaska.” Yes…but ironically most livestock is covered by Alaska’s animal cruelty statutes and sled dogs are not.

    Alaska Statute 11.81.900 (3) defines an “animal” as “a vertebrate living creature not a human being, but does not include fish.” Alaska’s current “cruelty to animals” statutes can be viewed here: https://www.animallaw.info/statute/ak-cruelty-consolidated-cruelty-statutes

    The statutes cover pretty basic care for all animals, from poodles to pigs: food, water, shelter, veterinary care, neglect, infliction of pain and suffering, bestiality, etc…yet…”this section does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or practices or rodeos or stock contests.”

    What is going on with these races and with “generally accepted dog mushing” that warrants the exclusion of sled dogs from the state’s current animal cruelty laws? Mushers actually fought for this when the laws were rewritten in 2010…WHY?

      • That dogs are made to pull a truck to begin with is totally f-ed up, particularly in this day and age.

        And why are they pulling a truck anyway, for whose benefit, not for the dogs’ benefit, but to get another truck, to get money, to get fame, to fulfill imagined athleticism that comes at cost to the animals who suffer unheard, unseen.

        Who gives a f about your athleticism and extremism, it means nothing in the long run and does nothing for this world, completely self-centered, completely worthless in the grand scheme of things, does absolutely nothing for this world, just your own ego. Now another living, feeling being suffering because of it, suffering because of you, and completely unable to do anything about it, now that is something truly of importance and must be stopped. That is what good people do, right the wrongs, stand up for the weak, those with no voice.

      • do you really think the dogs care what they’re towing? do you think they’re looking back over their shoulders thinking they’d rather be pulling a sled or four-wheeler or Toyota or a speed skater?

      • In the finish line video John’s dogs stopped short and got a little tangled so he had to go up and pull them for 10 feet to get them across the finish line. He didn’t do anything bad in that video.

      • They aren’t pulling the truck in that video. The truck is running. It is much safer to train a big team in front of a truck or four wheeler on slick trail like that because you can use the truck hold the team back to a safe speed and stop them safely for breaks. And if a dog needs a break it can be put in the nice warm truck. You’re criticising the guy for doing the safe thing by using the truck to train.

      • here’s the problem. you don’t know what Iditarod does to dogs. no one does because Iditarod doesn’t track the dogs. Andy lived to 20; ran a whole bunch of Iditarods and the Yukon Quest and then trained puppies for years. not many dogs live that long.

        running might make Iditarod dogs live longer, as it does humans. or it might wear them out.

        they might live longer than the 12 to 15 years of the average husky. they might live less. it would be interesting to know. why don’t you do something constructive and encourage Iditarod to start keeping the data.

      • sadly, that line would seem a perfect summation of how little you know about athletics, physiology, and human/canine health. for your own health, i would suggest that at least once a week you turn off your computer, get up from your chair and go for a walk.

        you should probably start with a loop around the house so you don’t overdo it, and try to maybe work up to a waddle around the block.

      • That wheeldog was clearly attempting to relieve itself, Laura. I believe that it’s these kind of misconceptions you have that are part of your problem.
        Jerry Riley would stop his team when a dog needed to poop-all the others I’ve observed learned to do it on the fly.

    • It is not correct that sled dogs are exempted from Alaska’s cruelty to animal laws. The clause reads, “This section does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or PRACTICES”. The generally accepted practices of dog mushing are not cruel so they do not fall under the law. But practices which are not “generally accepted” dog mushing practices would fall under the law. I can’t think of any “generally accepted dog mushing practices” which Alaskans would consider cruel.

    • Seeing as how Craig’s dog related articles consistently gather 100-300% more comments and conversations then his other non-doggy stories, it would seem that you are in a minority, Chris.

  9. It’s appalling that Baker and Keith have many dogs and live in a place where there’s no veterinary care. Keith says she has to take care of the dogs herself. However, she has NO training in dog care. According to Keith’s biography on the Iditarod website, she’s a nutrition health coach, an EMT (for humans) and has an interdisciplinary degree in Renewable Energy Engineering.

    Krause gave a sworn affidavit to the Kotzebue Police Department. Did they investigate? If not, why not?

    Now, regarding PETA: They have a history of lying, exaggerating, twisting the truth and using hyperbole.

    Are Baker and Keith going to sue PETA? If not, why not?

  10. Katherine Keith says the dog, Birch, is completely recovered. Does she have any proof of that? Video and statements from reliable people to back up her statements? Birch looked pretty sad in the video and I’m concerned how she is faring.

    • I have written to ARVO, Alaska Rural Veterinary Outreach, Inc. and asked them to help the dogs in the video (and ask everyone to give generously of the PFD to lend support to Alaska’s animal rescue groups and sanctuaries helping animals, many times working full time too to pay expenses)

  11. Thanks Craig for investigating a bit…
    Where do we all go now?
    John’s Schandelmeir’s “best care” failed to protect the dogs…
    Mush with Pride has failed the dogs and the State of Alaska is failing to help the dogs…
    This is why handlers and activists are turning to peta for help…
    This fight for animal reform is no way near over and peta has a few million in the bank.
    Irod lots have been exposed for the trash pits that they are and anyone who lauds on about how 50 to 100 dogs spinning on short chains is OK is a fool.
    “Two other former Baker handlers reached independently, however, said there had been problems at the kennel.
    Neither wanted to be identified in a news story or go into detail, but one veteran handler said things were so bad she quickly made up a story about needing to leave Kotzebue to attend a friend’s family event. She flew out,  she said, and never went back.”
    I feel for Baker’s dogs and I also feel for Katherine living with him…obviously anyone who abuses defenseless small animals would also be abusive to others…(like we saw with another Irod musher Travis Beals)
    AK needs outside help to clean up this mess and the rest of our country is starting to hear our plea.
    I thank ALL the handlers who have come forward to this day…they have called out Mitch and Dallas Seavey, Rick Swenson and John Baker….how many more “first hand” accounts and videos does society need to know this is true?
    I guess it goes back to if you tell a lie enough times, people believe it is true?

    • “Irod lots have been exposed for the trash pits that they are.” So all professional mushing kennels deserve to be tarred with the same brush as Baker’s? Do you ever wonder why it’s only fellow Peta ideologues who ever agree with you?

      • Jason, if the “Good guys” didn’t persist in circling the wagons around the bad guys, you wouldn’t all be lumped together.
        You’ve had plenty of opportunity to clean yourselves up.

      • Jason, I’ve been rereading all the posts from recent Medred articles relating to dog racing, and other than two posts from Rod Perry and John Schandelmeier, who both acknowledge that reform is needed, the bulk of them are from mushers do not own up to problems and downright corruption in the dog sledding world, but instead attempt to vilify the messengers, most of whom are not connected to PETA in any way. That approach is not going to help the dogs, which by the way are looking more and more like poor disposable tools.

      • Jason,
        This is what you said yesterday:
        “People from the outside have an unrealistic picture of the way life is in the villages of the far north.”
        That is “circling the wagon” around the abuse issue in my opinion.
        As we have said, children who grow up witnessing abuse grow into abusers themselves…this is why animal welfare reform needs to happen around dog lots.
        As you know mushing is the state sport and I feel Irod culture has taking the sport in the wrong direction.
        I never see anyone up in Hatcher’s pass going over “sled dod pass” with dogs?
        Think about the real spirit of Alaska…working together, homesteading and exploration through the vast terrain.
        At this time many handlers have come forward and all have sad tales to bring forward.
        Townsend tried to sound the alarm on Baker in 2017 but was attacked by media and mushers a like.
        River Mike went on video before Fern’s film crew and was in tears at what he witnessed at Rick Swenson’s kennel years ago…
        Ashley and Jane both had testimony against Mitch Seavey’s kennel yet no one seems to care?
        Abbie was left at Dallas’s with several dying puppies with no medical care and she was also “discredited” as a peta type…although she did not belong to peta at all?
        I am not a “card carrying” peta guy, but I admire their strength…
        I welcome peta to this discussion and hope they can bring the National spotlight it deserves.
        Alaskans like myself are tired of lies and the poor kennels that I have witnessed did not help…neither has the lack of coverage by MSM.
        Maybe Orwell was right and we are living in a “Dystopian World”?

      • Steve, if you read my comment yesterday about life in the villages as somehow circling the wagon around Baker, then you need to go give it a re-read my friend.

  12. One slight correction: Iditarod does not require PRIDE membership for Iditarod mushers. Currently, very few Iditarod racers are members. Iditarod did adopt the Mush with PRIDE kennel standards, but PRIDE has no role in ensuring Iditarod kennels follow these standards. Only members of PRIDE can participate in the voluntary kennel inspection program.

  13. Said it several times before -PETA is full of mentally unstable people. A large portion of these lefty loons are clinically insane. Just watch the way they act.

  14. Who else is creeped out by Peta “undercover operatives” entering the home of Keith and Baker and even posing as friends sitting at the nightly dinner table? Downright disturbing. I would be suspicious of anything they had to say, or video evidence they presented.

    • Jason: until the individual involved here is identified and some history materializes, i’m uncomfortable concluding it was a PETA undercover operative. it could just be some handler from the city mortified by what he saw in in Alaska who decided to film some of it and take it to PETA.

      the video itself describes the guy as “a PETA eyewitness.” i saw nothing in that video that looks like it was shot with a body cam, which would be the sort of camera a planted investigator would use.

      most of the video shot at the Seavey kennel is pretty benign stuff that even a tourist might shoot, and the stuff that isn’t looks like it was shot with a cell phone poorly used. none of the comments claimed to have been heard at the Seavey kennel are in the video or on tape. when Baker makes the comment about going forward to teach his lead dogs a lesson, the guy doesn’t ask, “so what’s the best way to make them know what you mean, grab them by the scruff of the neck, pop them…?”

      a plant would have been prepared to ask that question. same with all the claims in the affidavit as to things Baker and Keith said about Birch. even a half-competent undercover investigator would have gotten some of that, probably with Baker or Keith and Burt all in the frame of the video.

      and certainly the would have shot video of whatever kind of door or gate it was came down on Birch. i’m still kind of baffled as to what sort of setup that was and why any musher would have an arrangement where by a gate or door could come down on puppies given puppies are puppies. you put them in a pen with a swinging gate and a raised entry to keep them contained when the gate is opened.

      so i wouldn’t jump to conclusions here. we heard the same undercover cooperative claim about the young woman who reported to MatSu animal control what she saw at Dallas Seavey’s. she was not a PETA plant. she had no connection to PETA – in fact, the opposite – until some Alaskans told her she might need “protection” if she turned the Seaveys in and directed her toward PETA as a protector.

      she got played into PETA hands. hard not to feel sorry for her, both for the manipulation into the PETA fold and for her coming to believe that she needed “protection.” some Alaska mushers are a little rough around the edges, but i’ve never thought of them as people from whom anyone needed protection, though i guess maybe others did.

      i was in Rohn for Iditarod one year when a rookie musher from Outside came with eyes the size of saucers freaked out that Jan Masek – may he rest his piece – pulled his handgun and threatened to shoot the guy for blocking the trial with a stalled team in the Dalzell Gorge. Jan was a little wild, but he was never going to shoot anybody.

      of course, in those less civilized days of the early Iditarod, i did have a vision of the movie “Patton” and Jan rolling a sled and a bunch of dogs out of the trail to make room for the his team to get past as some Outside musher bawled his eyes out. but it was just a passing vision. Jan wasn’t going to do that either.

      he was just blustery. but unless you knew him, you wouldn’t necessarily know that.

      • Craig, how I read the door issue from Keith was that the “handler” failed to close the door properly allowing Birch to wriggle part way out under it where she got stuck for several hours. If this were true said “handler” would probably not include a picture of the door he blundered with. But you wrote the story and think he would want a video of that door? What for unless it was some contraption meant as an accident waiting to happen?
        Keith may want to show that door and how it malfunctioned IMO.

      • Interesting story about Jan Masek and it didn’t seem in character of Jan, as I remember him. Under the circumstances I’d say Jan is lucky he didn’t get himself shot since your feelings that he wouldn’t shoot anybody wouldn’t carry any weight with the guy looking down that barrel.
        He (Jan) did have some good stories.

      • I’m going between a combination of Katherine’s statement and deductive reasoning about such things as the obviously secret recording. I don’t blame you from wanting to stake that claim since you’re the journalist, and I totally respect that.

        On another note, I remember Jan quite well from my late teens/early twenties as I used to work in several restaurants that he managed for a number of years. He always treated me very well, and such a flamboyant character.

      • Jan was a wild man, a creative and crazy wildman. i remember one year in Skwentna talking about how to make ultimate dog food cooker and stripping off all the protective covering. he was of the opinion an extremely lightweight unit could be built that wouldn’t require much power.

        he was convinced it was possible to build one that could one off 12v. everyone laughed and today: http://www.gadgetking.com/2012/09/04/power-hunt-wavebox-portable-12-volt-660-watt-microwave/

        strip all the shielding off that puppy and think how little it would weigh.

  15. We all know Baker is a piece of work, ive talked to all kinds of people who have stories like this and no its not fake news. We dont need peta to tells us this crap, its true just like its true about many race mushers. Gives the rest of us a bad rap and causes sogs to suffer so much. Makes me crazy.

      • Why Bill,
        So you can “tear into them” and discredit their observations?
        I think Craig made it pretty clear what is going on around “Shake & Bake”…
        Or would you rather listen to what the “champ” has to say…
        “I was going up there to let them know that, ‘Listen you son of a bitch….If I say turn, you turn.’”
        Sounds like a real scum to me.

      • Boy Steve, you must be having a slow day today thinking I might want to “tear into them” for their observations if they added their name. My guess is they are not proud of what they are saying but I don’t have any reason for “tearing into them.”

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