Is the Iditarod dog sled race cruel to dogs?

by Leanne Thompson on March 22, 2009

The Iditarod dog sled race through Alaska has finished for another year, but the events of this year’s dog sled race have sparked debate over whether the race is cruel to dogs, as several dogs died during the race.

The race covers a track through treacherous conditions over 1,770 kilometres long. One of the races this year was rookie sled racer Lou Packer, who ran into a blizzard while racing his dog sled.

Lou gave an interview about his ordeal in the race where he admitted that he feared for his dogs during the race.

It’s really hard not to start crying.

I really loved those dogs and I felt like I let them down.

Packer ran into awful conditions just a day after setting off, and became split from the rest of the racers. Search parties were sent out to find him, but they reached him after two of his dogs had died.

One of Packer’s dogs, a Husky named Grasshopper, fell ill and died. Packer wrapped the sick dog in a blanket and place it on the sled, as he explains:

He got worse and worse and worse. I just watched him die. It was awful. There was nothing I could do. It was horrible. It was just horrible to watch.

I can’t believe it happened. Dog deaths are something you hear about and you go, ‘Well, that’s not ever going to happen to me.’ And then I had two.

According to Animal Rights Activists, 146 dogs have died during the 36 year history of the gruelling dog sled race, with a dozen dogs dying in one blizzard in 1985.

In this, the 2009 Iditarod, 5 dogs lost their lives.

Desiree Acholla, part of ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ stated:

Racing dogs to their death is indefensible, yet the death toll rises year after year and the race continues with business as usual.

What do you think of the Iditarod dog sled race?

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"Is the Iditarod dog sled race cruel to dogs?" was written by Leanne Thompson
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2 Comments »

  1. I feel the pain of fellow mushers who have lost sled dogs. Having been a musher for 5 years i know the pain of a fallen dog. But it is time common sense prevails. There are few mushers I know that would race a dog to his or her death. Time, training and friendship is uncompeling. I for on am sick and tired of people shooting of there mouth about how we mistreat our dogs. Those people have no clue what goes in the world of dogsledding if they did they would not say what they say. To lose a dogs is liking losing a member of the family. The time and money spent on training these dogs is beyond believe and the rewards come in sharing the time spent out in the woods with them. Don’t critize the mushers feel there pain and grief and sorrow as a member of the family has passed away. Who was loved and will be deeply missed.
    PETA people get a life and leave us along as you have no clue what you are talking about.

    Comment by Bob — March 24, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

  2. Sledding as a hobby and sport – over reasonable courses is a reasonable thing. The Iditarod is more than an extreme sport, it is crazy. The whole point is to risk human and canine lives and therefore it should not be a surprise when they are lost – although it always seems to be the dogs. Shorter races, even the original real “serum run” are fine. This is deliberate cruelty.

    Comment by Gwen Lebec — March 25, 2009 @ 12:18 am

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