Mush dog

With 150+ Dog Deaths, Time to Get Dogs Out of the Iditarod. Mitch Seavey set a time record of eight days, 3 hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds during race which saw four dogs die.

Mush
Mitch Seave heads towards the finish line under the Burled Arch, winning the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (DIANA HAECKER / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Mitch Seavey became the oldest and fastest musher to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in year marred by an abnormally high number of dog deaths.

After bringing in his dog team off the Bering Sea ice and under the famed burled arch on Front Street in Nome Tuesday, the 57-year-old winner greeted each of his dogs and thanked them with a frozen snack.

He later posed with his two lead dogs, Pilot and Crisp.

“They get frustrated when they go too slow, so I just let them roll, which was scary because I’ve never gone that fast, that far ever, but that’s what they wanted to do,” he said.

The toughest sled dog race you’ve never heard of Seavey set a time record of eight days, 3 hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds, the Iditarod said. That shaved several hours off the record his son set last year: eight days, 11 hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds.

Seavey, who broke his own record for being the oldest musher set four years ago, said the dogs know only one thing — 9 ½ to 10 mph.

“They hit their peak, they hit their speed, and that’s what they do,” Seavey said at the finish line. “They trusted me to stop them when they needed to stop and feed them, and I did that, and they gave me all they could.”

Seavey’s push for Nome was tempered Tuesday with news of the fourth death of a dog associated with the Iditarod among the 2,000 or so that started the race March 6 in Fairbanks.

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While not all deaths were on the trail, the death total does match the entire number of dog deaths for the years 2012-2016 and prompted a call from an animal rights group to permanently end the Iditarod.

“They deserve far better than a lifetime of isolation, cruelty, suffering, and death training for and running in the Iditarod. PETA is calling for a permanent end to this dangerous race,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Vice-President Colleen O’Brien in a statement.

A spokesman for the Iditarod Trail Committee said more than 40 veterinarians volunteer during the race and dogs are evaluated at each checkpoint.

Iditarod Dogs
Five dogs died in less than one week at this year’s Iditarod.

“Any musher found guilty of inhumane treatment would be disqualified and banned from competition in future Iditarods,” according to an Iditarod Trail Committee statement emailed to The Associated Press late Tuesday.

Two dogs died on the trail. Another was hit by a car in Anchorage, and one dropped dog likely died of hyperthermia while being flown back to Anchorage.

The latter prompted race officials to change policies how dogs are transported, including not wearing coats in transport planes and making sure there is proper ventilation. PETA said there have been at least 28 dog deaths since 2004, exacerbated by making them run 100 miles a day in treacherous conditions.

Iditarod Chief Operating Officer Chas St. George could not immediately provide a number of dog deaths since the race first started in 1973. He said there were anecdotal reports of dog deaths from the race’s early history that would have to be verified.

“We have to go back and perform our due diligence, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. The race started March 6 in Fairbanks, with 71 teams. Five mushers scratched.

Five dogs died in less than one week at this year’s Iditarod. One got away from his handler and was hit by a car, another died of hyperthermia on a plane, and three others died on the trail.

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Sled dogs
This is how sled dogs were warehoused for 40+ years in the mountains of Colorado.

More than 150 dogs have been killed in the race’s history, not counting others who have died during the rest of the year, often while chained outdoors.

Dogs in the Iditarod are forced to run nearly 1,000 miles—roughly the distance from Orlando, Florida, to New York City—in under two weeks. On average, they must run 100 miles a day, with only a few brief periods of rest.

They’re subjected to biting winds, blinding snowstorms, and subzero temperatures. Their feet become bruised, bloodied, cut by ice, and worn out because of the vast distances that they cover. Many pull muscles, incur stress fractures, or are afflicted by diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses, and aspiration pneumonia (caused by inhaling their own vomit). On average, about half the dogs don’t finish the race.

Dogs have died in nearly every Iditarod race as the result of a variety of injuries and illnesses, including “sled dog myopathy”—catastrophic muscle breakdown. It’s time to stop forcing animals to run to their deaths.

Please urge the Iditarod Trail Committee and the mayors of Nome and Anchorage to celebrate Alaskan huskies without causing their suffering and death by replacing them with willing human cyclists, cross-country skiers, or snow-mobilers.

They are in need of supporters to take action. Let’s get to 100,000.

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18 thoughts on “150+ Dog Deaths: Record Breaking Iditarod Marred By Dog Deaths

  1. Winning the Iditarod is not even worth 1 dog’s life it is the human being that pushes the animal to save time and the human beings desire to win the dogs could care less about it it is an unnecessary race and it should be stopped

  2. Come on people a lot of those places you raise the dogs and do run them are very good to the dogs and they love them there are those who do care you can’t judge Everybody by one come on get off it

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