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Iditarod contest is blatantly cruel

Iditarod contest is blatantly cruel

Dogs being beaten and struggling to stay alive. Spectators betting on and cheering the carnage. "Losers" mercilessly killed. This isn't a recounting of the Michael Vick dogfighting case. This is the Iditarod.
Most of us rightfully condemn Michael Vick's heinous actions. Yet, those who abuse dogs in the Iditarod are hailed as Alaskan heroes. Sure, dogs love to run, but even the most energetic dog wouldn't choose to run more than 100 miles a day for 10 to 12 days straight. Dogs in the Iditarod pull heavy sleds through biting winds, blinding snowstorms, sub-zero temperatures and icy swamps. Their feet become bruised, bloodied, cut by ice and just plain worn out. Many dogs pull muscles, incur stress fractures or become sick with diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers. Dogs have died from inhaling their own vomit.
Michael Vick is spending nearly two years behind bars for his crimes. Musher Ramy Brooks, who was caught beating his dogs last year, barely received a slap on the wrist. Even though one of his dogs later died, rather than banning this bully for life, the Iditarod committee will allow Brooks to race again in 2009.
Dogs die every year in the Iditarod. No records were kept in the early days, but before the start of the 1997 race, the Anchorage Daily News reported that "as many as 34 dogs died in the first two races" and that "at least 107 (dogs) have died" since the Iditarod's inception. In the 10 years since that report, at least 17 more dogs have died that we know of. We can only watch and wait for the dogs to start dropping in the next few weeks.
Bludgeoning or drowning
Besides this obvious cruelty, dogs "behind the scenes" also pay a terrible price. Not every puppy is born a fast runner, and those who do not make the grade are usually killed - by bludgeoning or drowning - for not possessing monumental stamina and speed. Manuals and articles written by top mushers blatantly recommend killing dogs who do not measure up. One musher equated it to weeding a garden. Just last month, Montana authorities seized 33 emaciated dogs who had allegedly been abandoned by an Iditarod musher.
Almost invariably, those who do manage to survive live their entire lives in cramped kennels that often are not inspected by any regulatory agency. Many kennel operators keep their dogs tethered on short ropes or chains or crammed into tiny confined spaces.
Many Alaskans chafe at downlanders getting involved with Iditarod business. But the irony is, the vast majority of those participating in the Iditarod are non-Alaskans. The Iditarod isn't about honoring Alaskan culture or tradition. It's a quest to win money and a truck and bragging rights. But how can anyone brag about an event that causes so much suffering?
Jennifer O'Connor is a writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Animals in Entertainment Campaign.


Updated : 2021-04-22 02:33 GMT+08:00