Iditarod dog kennel horrors

Extreme neglect and dog abuse

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Dead Iditarod dog tethered to a pole in a musher's kennel.

Dead Iditarod sled dog tethered to a pole in a musher’s kennel. Because the tether is extremely short, the dog could not even get inside his pathetic shelter. Most Iditarod dogs die alone. Their deaths are kept secret.

Secret Iditarod dog deaths

Most Iditarod dogs die alone. Their deaths are never divulged.

Lots of bad stuff going on in dog mushing.

“There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in dog mushing”:

“‘I want to say something . . . about this humane thing,’ [Susan] Butcher said. ‘There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in dog mushing. We wouldn’t, as a group, pass anybody’s idea of humane treatment of animals. As a group, we don’t pass my standards of humane treatment of animals.'”

– David Hulen, Los Angeles Times, February 17, 1992

Statement on Iditarod from founder of Alaska SPCA

“The race should not be a race! The original serum run was done in relays. It is what happens “BEHIND THE SCENES” during the rest of the year that needs to be told…. The breeding, culling [killing] and poor treatment needs to be exposed.”

– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, March 4, 2002
– Ethel D. Christensen, is the founder of the Alaska SPCA. She recently retired as its Executive Director.

Alaska SPCA director says Iditarod magnifies cruelties:

Shelter with frozen dog pee on it. Iditarod sled dogs tethered on very short chains.

Shelter with frozen dog pee on it. Iditarod sled dogs tethered on very short chains.

Margery Glickman: “The dogs who can’t meet the standard are killed.”

Rob Moore: “They’re just killed or possibly abandoned.”

Margery Glickman: “From what I understand, normally the dogs are simply killed with a shot to the head or they’re bludgeoned or even drowned. I’ve heard that the puppies, especially, are easy to drown. The mushers will tie a rope to their neck and a rock and throw them in the river. But they bred large numbers of dogs just to get a handful of good one. There was a TV documentary where a famous Iditarod musher said that she bred 300 dogs to get five good racers, and this is typical.”

Rob Moore: “300 to get five racers.”

Margery Glickman: “Yes.”

Rob Moore: “Ethel, you work with the SPCA and I want you to comment on this and this incredible surplus of dogs and what happens to these dogs and the kinds of calls that you get.”

Ethel Christensen: “Well, first of all Rob, let me say that I found the Alaska SPCA in 1966. At that time, I was an aviation pilot weather forecaster briefer, international airport, and I traveled around Alaska a lot.

And what Margery is saying is correct. And, unfortunately it’s been magnified. The Iditarod has done nothing but magnify that and we get all sort of calls.”

– Ethel Christensen is the founder of the Alaska SPCA. She recently retired as its Executive Director.
– Rob Moore hosts Animal Voices, a radio show in Toronto, Canada.
– Margery Glickman is the director of the Sled Dog Action Coalition
– This interview was done on February 28, 2006

This dog is suffering from a condition or disease that causes hair loss. The photo is courtesy of SledDogma.org

This sled dog is suffering from a condition or disease that causes hair loss.
The photo is courtesy of SledDogma.org

Animal abuse charges against Iditarod mushers

Dan MacEachen sentenced for animal cruelty:
(Iditarod musher Dan MacEachen owned Krabloonik.)

“MacEachen was sentenced Monday to 30 months of unsupervised probation; a $5,000 fine, the maximum associated with the charge; and 120 hours of public service. And he won’t be allowed to own a dog or an interest in any business that does during his probation.”

– Jill Beathard, The Aspen Times, April 13, 2015

Dan MacEachen is indicted for animal abuse:

“The owner of an Aspen-area dog-sledding business that has long faced allegations of abuse was indicted Wednesday on eight counts of animal cruelty.

Six counts filed against Dan MacEachen, who owns Krabloonik dog-sledding, are related to food and shelter of dogs and two counts are related to veterinary care, said Sherry Caloia, district attorney for the 9th Judicial District.”

– Christopher N. Osher, Denver Post, December 18, 2013

Sick Krabloonik has diarrhea. Photo courtesy of Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs

Sick Krabloonik sled dog has diarrhea. Krabloonik is owned by Iditarod musher Dan MacEachen. Photo taken at Krabloonik in Snowmass Village, CO. Photo courtesy of Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs

— Mushers will go to police over dog abuse at Krabloonik:

“After months of urging from public officials and animal welfare advocates, former mushers at the Krabloonik dog sledding operation and restaurant in Snowmass Village are planning to go to the police with reports of animal abuse.

Guy Courtney, Krabloonik’s former general manager, said he plans to file a formal report of abuse today with Snowmass Village police.”

“He told the Snowmass Village Town Council Monday night that he saw a Krabloonik dog die of exposure in January because of inadequate shelter, and he claimed that he narrowly saved another dog from a similar fate by nursing him back to health over several days.

“Fernando was a dog that had died, and was brought to my attention, and the dog next door to him, Cleveland, was clearly in distress, and I brought him inside and he survived,” Courtney said after Monday’s meeting.”

“He told the Snowmass Village Town Council Monday night that he saw a Krabloonik dog die of exposure in January because of inadequate shelter, and he claimed that he narrowly saved another dog from a similar fate by nursing him back to health over several days.

“Fernando was a dog that had died, and was brought to my attention, and the dog next door to him, Cleveland, was clearly in distress, and I brought him inside and he survived,” Courtney said after Monday’s meeting.

“A group of eight mushers who worked at the kennel last winter have pledged that they will not return this season if MacEachen retains ownership of Krabloonik, because they allege that he is a habitual animal abuser. MacEachen has owned Krabloonik for nearly four decades.”

“MacEachen has been accused of beating dogs, as well as depriving them of needed nourishment, shelter and medical care.”

Nelson Harvey, Aspen Daily News, November 19, 2013

Doug Bartko starves dogs to death:

“PALMER, Alaska — Mat-Su Animal Control officials say they have uncovered one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they have ever seen.

Officials found 25 dogs, many of them nearly starved to death and some chained to a short wire, left in a remote location with no food or water. Investigators seized the animals over the last two days.”

“Animal Care Chief Dave Allison says all were emaciated, dehydrated and clearly neglected.

‘If you put your hands on them you can feel pretty much every bone in their body,’ he said.

Allison says the dogs’ teeth are broken from trying to eat rocks too.

Doug Bartko owns the dogs. He says it’s been a rough spring.

‘My system broke down and I was just in the process of getting it back up again,’ he said.

That system is clearly flawed, even for Bartko. His food supply has been rotted salmon heads.

It appears Bartko let things go too far and it’s not the first time. Court records show he was cited for animal cruelty back in 2006.”

” Bartko was cited for five counts of interference with an investigation, ten counts of failure to provide humane animal care and his kennel license has been revoked.”

– Megan Maldino, KTUU-TV, May 7, 2008, website article

— Doug Bartko found guilty of 39 counts of animal cruelty

“Musher Doug Bartko was found guilty of 39 counts of animal cruelty, failure to provide care for his dogs and interfering with an investigation in a Palmer court Tuesday.”

– Lori Tipton, KTUU-TV, July 30, 2008, website article

John T. Hessert plead guilty to animal cruelty:

“BOZEMAN, Mont.—A West Yellowstone man accused of abandoning 33 sled dogs without food, water or shelter pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty as part of a plea agreement.

John T. Hessert, 24, wore a vest embroidered with an Iditarod logo as he made his plea before District Judge Holly Brown.”

“Hessert initially pleaded not guilty to one felony count of aggravated animal cruelty and 33 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. The felony charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

According to court records, a man called animal control Jan. 30 to report that the dogs were being kept in an unsafe environment outside West Yellowstone near Targhee Pass.

A veterinarian examined the dogs and determined that they were all “well below normal health and had not been being fed enough food,” according to court records. One of the dogs had a collar embedded in its neck and other dogs had frostbite.”

– Associated Press, The Boston Globe, July 22, 2008

John Hessert worked for Martin Buser and was instructed by him:

“Hessert, who ran the race with a group of young dogs out of Martin Buser’s kennel, wound up in 50th place. Sixty-three mushers finished the race, while another 16 scratched along the fabled Iditarod Trail.”

– John Holyoke, Bangor Daily News, March 24, 2005

“He [John Hessert] is living in Big Lake, Alaska where he is learning more about training dogs under the tutelage of four-time Iditarod winner Martin Buser.”

– North Yarmouth Academy, Alumni News Archive for 2005

David Straub was not feeding his dogs:

“Animal control officers removed 28 dogs from the property of a Willow musher Saturday and cited him with 17 counts of animal cruelty after authorities said they found the huskies with rib, hip and tail bones protruding through their thick fur.

David Straub, a three-time Iditarod racer, was not feeding his dogs, said a Mat-Su Borough animal control officer.

Ten of the dogs were found to be emaciated, animal control officials said.”

– Megan Holland, Anchorage Daily News, Oct. 20, 2004

— Straub’s dogs running in circles, foaming at the mouth, and one died:

“The complainant, Daniel Blythe, stated in writing that when he saw the dogs Oct. 10 they were starving, dazed, running in tight circles and foaming at the mouth.

Straub, who moved to Alaska from Missouri in 1996 to pursue dog-sledding, admitted one of his dogs died that day. He said it wasn’t from starvation, but from the flu.”

– John Davidson, Frontiersman, Oct. 22, 2004

— David Straub found guilty of animal cruelty:

“A Palmer magistrate on Wednesday found Willow musher David Straub guilty of animal cruelty for failing to provide his dog team with enough food, water or veterinary care last fall.”

– Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, April 7, 2005

— David Straub receives 25 citations for violations in 2009

“The Mat-Su Borough on Tuesday cited former Iditarod musher David Straub of Willow for 25 violations stemming from running a dog kennel without a license.

Chief Mat-Su Animal Care Officer Bob Haskell said 21 citations are for dogs not registered with the borough, three are for dogs without immunization records and one is for operating a kennel without a license.”

Anchorage Daily News, June, 2009

Charlotte Fitzhugh charged with reckless neglect:

“Bush musher Clay Farnham had heard all the horror stories about his neighbor’s dog yard before he went over to investigate two years ago. Word was that more than 100 animals were going days without food and water at Charlotte Fitzhugh’s place in Chistochina. A misguided sled dog breeder with a history of dog neglect, her animals were reportedly left to fend for themselves at temperatures beyond 50 below while she worked as a taxi driver in Fairbanks, more than 250 miles away.

Even with the warning, Farnham was unprepared for what he saw. “All the dogs were skinny and wild-eyed, he said. Some were chained to clapboard boxes offering little shelter; others were chained to trees.

A half dozen dogs lay dead across the snow, Farnham said. Hunks of flesh were missing from their emaciated bodies. ‘It wasn’t very hard to figure out what had happened,’ he said. ‘The live dogs were starving, and they were eating the dead ones.'”

“Eventually, the state filed 17 charges of reckless neglect against her [Charlotte Fitzhugh].”

“‘We have 60 plus below here and they don’t all have houses,” said Terry Endres, who owns the Chistochina Lodge. ‘Some nights, when it was still, you could hear those dogs crying all night long.'”

“‘You’ve seen pictures of people starving to death in Somalia? That’s what they looked like,’ [Will] Forsberg said. ‘I saw some dogs there so skinny I wondered if they could even get up.'”

“On Christmas Eve 1993, Alaska State Trooper Don Pierce searched Fitzhugh’s yard after several of her neighbors reported she hadn’t been seen for days. They were worried a cold snap would take a toll on the dogs.

‘As I walked onto the property, I started seeing dead dogs,’ Pierce said. ‘They were dead on the ends of chains. … It was real grim.’

Pierce said he found five bodies that day. Necropsies later showed the dogs had less than 1 percent body fat. ‘The dogs were essentially feeding on their own tissue and organs,’ he said.'”

– Peter S. Goodman, Anchorage Daily News, April 7, 1995

Norman Mac-Alpine charged with animal cruelty:

“An Anvik man who competed in the 1983 Iditarod and often runs the Yukon 200 has been charged with animal cruelty after four of his dogs died while he was out of town. Alaska State Troopers said Norman Mac-Alpine, 29, left his dogs without food or water for almost five days while he was in Grayling, a nearby village.”

– S.J. Komarnitsky, Anchorage Daily News, October 2, 1993

Frank Winkler charged with animal cruelty:

“Iditarod musher Frank Winkler was charged Friday with animal cruelty for bludgeoning 14 sled-dog puppies with an ax handle, although he said in an interview earlier this month that he reluctantly shot them. After a neighbor reported hearing puppies whimpering in the night, an animal-control officer visited Winkler’s trailer Sept. 7 and found the battered puppies piled in a crate in the back of his pickup. Two were barely alive and the rest were dead.

One of the live pups ‘was crying and was cold, clammy, wet, bloody and showed clinical signs of shock,’ Assistant District Attorney Mindy McQueen wrote in a charging document. The other was half-buried in the pile of dead pups. Both live dogs had crushed skulls and were later killed by animal-control officers.”

– Marilee Enge, Anchorage Daily News, September 21, 1991

Matthew Calore received 17 citations for “MSB24.05.080: 1st Offense Failure to Provide Humane Animal Care”

– 3PA-08-11766MO Matanuska-Susitna Borough vs. Calore, Matthew C
– Alaska Trial Court Cases website, State of Alaska, Case 3PA-08-11766MO, filed 9/24/2008

– Matanuska-Susitna Borough Code:

24.05.080 HUMANE ANIMAL CARE. (A)Humane animal care includes, but is not limited to, providing: (1)sufficient wholesome and nutritious food daily which will keep the animal in healthy physical condition; (2)sufficient daily quantities of fresh water which meet the hydration requirements for the animal; (3)adequate shelter and freedom of movement which provides adequate air, ventilation, and space which prevents the animal from being exposed to inclement or adverse weather conditions, overheating from sunlight, unsanitary conditions, and dirty, wet, and uncomfortable conditions which may endanger the health or welfare of the animal; and (4)veterinary care when needed to treat the animal for sickness, disease, injury, or to prevent suffering of the animal. (B)No owner shall fail to provide humane animal care or place an animal in a situation where the animal’s life, safety or health is endangered. (1)A rebuttable presumption of a violation shall exist where the animal is separated from basic needs such as food, water, shelter, or necessary medical attention or is placed in a situation where the animal’s life, safety and health is endangered and the regulation office receives no response in 24 hours after providing notice to the owner of the situation or posting notice at the property where the animal is located. (C)Failure to provide humane care to animals is an infraction. (Ord. 08-013(AM), § 2, 2008: Ord. 05-165, § 2, 2005: Ord. 03-065(AM), § 1, 2003; Ord. 92-013(sub1), § 3 (part), 1992)

Hidden hell

“‘The musher I worked for had numerous kennel locations,’ she [Ashley Keith] said. ‘One of them had about 40 dogs (and that’s) where he took (visitors) for tours. His home (kennel) had over 200 dogs. They had no straw, no water and they were fed a soup mixture. It was absolutely horrible. People didn’t go there – they went to his quote-unquote ‘public’ kennel.”

– Jon Saraceno, Thrivesports.com, March 11, 2014
– Ashley Keith is a former Iditarod dog handler.

Dogs live in triangular structures

Dogs live in triangular structures

Burned to death

Fire kills Jan Steves’ sled dog:

“Tragedy struck for [Jan] Steves over the past weekend, as a new rash of fires swept through the Willow area destroying the home she shares with fellow musher Bob Chlupach, their dog kennels, and taking the life of one of her lead sled dogs.”

– Larry Vogel, My Edmonds News, June 18, 2015

Dog's feet 'candled' with propane torch

Dallas Seavey uses propane torch to singe the hairs on his dogs’ paws:

“Once you cut the hair it actually is going to make a flattened end of hollow hair and snow can collect on those. So we’re going to want to singe those hairs before we send him back out there in the snow. And to do that we’re going to use the propane torch.”

– Dallas Seavey, Youtube video, Beetle [the dog] gets a Mani/Pedi, February 28, 2013

Mitch Seavey says to use propane torch on a dogs’ paws: 

Musher's sons use a propane torch to "candle" dog's feet or singe the ends of the hair that grow between the pads. It's likely many dogs were burned with propane torches.

Iditarod musher’s sons use a propane torch to singe the hairs that grow between a dog”s pads. It’s likely many sled dogs were burned with propane torches.

“You also need to trim the hair on the bottom of the dogs’ feet to prevent ice balls from forming and clinging to the hair. You can use a scissors or an electric clipper to trim it even with the pads. Don’t take it out from between the toes though, because dogs without any hair between their pads can form big ice balls in there when running barefoot in the snow.

After you’ve trimmed the hair you need to ‘candle’ their feet, or singe the ends of the hair that you trimmed. This make snow even less likely to collect in the foot hair.

Notice the term is ‘candle’ the feet. My boys are always looking for faster ways to do their chores. I suppose that is why they started using a propane torch to ‘candle’ dogs’ feet. That in turn explains why, upon entering the shop one winter’s day, I observed the back half of my best leader apparently going up in flames. This gives a whole new meaning to the term, ‘Put the dog out, son!”

Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008.

Parvovirus kills and infects Iditarod dogs

“A parvovirus outbreak in private sled dog kennels prompted warnings to mushers and vaccination efforts in rural villages before the Iditarod race in March.

Dr. Stuart L. Nelson, chief veterinarian for the Iditarod Trail Committee, said that [one Iditarod] team had a devastating outbreak that killed puppies and adult dogs alike, whereas a few other sled teams participating in the race had smaller numbers of infected dogs.” 

“Dr. Molly Murphy, an associate professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said the outbreak involved about 20 dogs with confirmed infections in three kennels—as well as anecdotal reports about other infected dogs—from early through late February.”

– Greg Cima, Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, website news, June 15, 2015

Adequate dog care is too costly for mushers

This dog was extremely emaciated before it died. Mat-Su Animal Control found the dog on Doug Bartko's property. Photo is courtesy of SledDogma.org

This sled dog was extremely emaciated before it died. Mat-Su Animal Control found the dog on Doug Bartko’s property. Photo is courtesy of SledDogma.org

Many mushers have large kennels. Think about how much it costs to take care of just one dog. A healthy dog needs veterinary checkups every year and other items like food, enteric worm medication, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, vaccinations and professional teeth cleaning. Think about how much more it costs to care for a sick dog.

Dogs don’t get routine veterinary care:

“Consider how expensive it is to get annual check-ups, routine vaccinations and year-round heartworm, flea and tick preventative for just one dog. Could you imagine doing all this for a kennel of 50, 75, 100, 150, 200? It’s not practical, and it doesn’t happen. The dogs get the bare minimum of vaccines to be able to legally cross borders and compete in sled dog races.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 28, 2007

Dogs don’t always get vet care when they are sick:

“The dogs don’t always get vet care when they are sick or injured. And it is cheaper to just let the dog die. God forbid parvo or something like that ever hit one of these places – it would be a mess. With some dogs, mushers have a ‘wait and see’ policy. It’s horrid to see the dogs sitting there in obvious discomfort, let me tell you. The more valuable dogs get better vet care.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 28, 2007

“Veterinary treatments are expensive, and I was told the dogs receive little or any veterinary treatment as they ‘are so hardy’ they never get sick. I found this hard to believe, and did witness some dogs with eye infections that were not treated.”

– Jane Stevens, email sent to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on March 28, 2011
– Jane Stevens was a dog handler for a top 10 Iditarod musher.

“I’ve seen firsthand dogs left on chains for months on end with basically no attention other than being given food and water, some with inadequate shelter from the elements, others with unattended illnesses or injuries.”

The cost of a dental cleaning alone is between $300 and $500. Pets.webmd.com says, "Generally most dogs will need oral exams, cleanings, and dental X-rays about once a year, starting at about 6 months of age." Many musher have more than 40 dogs. Do you think they pay for even routine dental care for their sled dogs? Photo attributed to the US Department of Defense, US Army Africa

The cost of a dental cleaning alone is between $300 and $500. Pets.webmd.com says, “Generally most dogs will need oral exams, cleanings, and dental X-rays about once a year, starting at about 6 months of age.” Many Iditarod mushers have more than 40 dogs. Do you think they pay for even routine dental care for their sled dogs? Photo attributed to the US Department of Defense, US Army Africa of flickr

– Rebecca Knight, Anchorage Daily News, May 30, 2007
– Rebecca Knight lives in the Mat-Su Borough with her husband and nine huskies. She also volunteers for an animal rescue organization.

“Professional treatment is expensive and not always successful, and many mushers won’t try to throw good money after a sick pup (or they simply can’t afford to).”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000.

Mushers own MANY dogs

Some mushers have more than 100 dogs:

“The sprawling Matanuska-Susitna Borough is Alaska sled dog country, a hub for professional and recreational mushers lured by a vast network of trails and the freedom to keep kennels that can number as many as 100 dogs or more.”

– Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, May 2, 2005

Lance Mackey has 120 dogs:

“There’s plenty of work to be done, but Tonya and Lance own everything: the house and the hilltop land that gives them a view of the lights of Fairbanks to the south, the Dodge Charger and three Dodge trucks that came with the four Iditarod wins, and the 120 huskies in the yard, each of which is worth thousands of dollars and is well fed thanks to a sponsorship from Redpaw dog food.”

– David Epstein, Sports Illustrated, March 7, 2011

Lynda Plettner has over 300 dogs:

“We have over 300 dogs at our kennel…”

– Plettner Kennels website, 2005

Joe Redington, Sr. had 527 dogs:

“By 1990 we had five hundred and twenty-seven dogs.”

– Joe Redington, Sr., May, 1999, preface to Lew Freedman’s book Father of the Iditarod

Rachael Scdoris has from 90 to 100 dogs or more:

Helen Fields: “How many dogs do you have?”

Rachael Scdoris: “About 90.”

– Helen Fields, U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 24, 2006

“I have an enormous kennel and about 100 dogs….”

– Rachael Scdoris talking about her dog lot
– Gillian Gifford, The Star, July 24, 2006

Doug Swingley owns from 150 to 200 dogs:

“Swingley, a four-time Iditarod champion, owns a stable of about 150 dogs…”

– Paul Strelow, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, March 3, 2006

“‘(Swingley) has usually got between 160 and 200 dogs in his kennels,’ [Matt] Anderson, who bought his first dogs from Swingley, said.”

– Bren T. Boyce, The Nonpareil, August 20, 2006

Mitch Seavey owns 200 dogs:

“[Fawn Wilson] She also spent last summer in Seavey’s camp, with its 200 dogs.”

-Phillip B. Wilson, Indianapolis Star, March 14, 2008

Susan Butcher and husband had 200 dogs:

“Back in the 1980’s when I worked for ABC Sports and ABC covered the Iditarod every winter, I was their race announcer. Those were the days when Susan Butcher was Queen of the huskies. Our film crew traveled up to the Arctic Circle line one year to do a background story on Susan and her husband Dave training before the big race. Susan had some 200 dogs at that point, all living outside, shackled with 5- to 10-foot chains to small wooden houses.”

– Diana Nyad, KCRW, The Score, March 26, 2009

Dick Mackey had 150 dogs:

“For the first time in almost thirty-five years I didn’t have any racing dogs. At one time we had 150.”

– Mackey, Dick. One Second to Glory, Alaska: Epicenter Press, 2001.

Duane “Dewey” Halverson has 140 dogs:

“[Duane ‘Dewey’] Halverson has been training sled dogs for a number of years. At one point he had 140 dogs.”

– Ann Gill, The Free Press Newspapers, March 2, 2010

Hank DeBruin owns over 140 Siberian Huskies:

“We have over 140 registered purebred Siberian Huskies…”

– Hank DeBruin, article on DeBruin’s website, 2010

“He [Hank DeBruin] left Wolfe Island 20 years ago, but he and Tanya and the children get back to the island to visit their families a couple of times a year.

‘It’s hard to do when you have 160 dogs,’ he said.”

– Mike Norris, The Whig-Standard, March 22, 2012

Martin Buser has about 100 dogs:

“’If you’re aggressive, you’re never going to have sex,’ said Buser, who still breeds huskies and owns a kennel with about 100 dogs.”

– Don Norcross, The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 26, 2011

Ed Stielstra has 150 dogs:

“The Michigan musher’s kennel of roughly 150 dogs have to eat, after all.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2011
– Mr. Hopkins is talking about Ed Stielstra’s kennel in Michigan.

Peter Kaiser’s kennel with 58 dogs is considered small:

“Pete Kaiser’s kennel is the largest dog yard in Bethel but at 58 dogs it’s considered small for competitive Iditarod standards.”

– Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK, Alaska Public Radio, website, March 1, 2012

Tom Thurston owns 50 dogs:

“I was envisioning, like, cows and horses and stuff,” said Tami Thurston. “Now we have 50 dogs.”

– Tami Thurston is the wife of musher Tom Thurston.
– Anne Herbst, Denver Post, February 26, 2012

Jason Mackey owns 50 to 60 dogs:

“When my parents divorced my mom got a ten-acre piece of property on Pitman Road.” “She gave me two and a half acres, but people don’t like it that I have fifty or sixty dogs there. I’m about three or four miles from Iditarod Trail headquarters.”

– Jason Mackey, Chapter 6, Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail, Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2015

Lolly Medley owned 300 dogs:

“She [Lolly Medley] keeps adding to her dog lot. Now numbering between 60 and 70, it has been as high as 300 in the past.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Terry Adkins had over 100 dogs:

“In 1999, [Karen] Land took a job caring for over 100 Alaskan Huskies at the Montana kennel of veterinarian Terry Adkins, a 21-time Iditarod musher.”

– Allison C. Gallagher, Troy Daily News, June 2, 2015

Diana Dronenburg owns 70 or so dogs:

“While she would like to continue her college education, Diana Dronenburg seems to have found her niche at present amidst the 70 or so dogs at the D&D Kennels and the beautiful Alaskan countryside.”

– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986

Don Bowers has nearly 100 dogs:

“Even our half-mile driveway from the road to the dog lot has turned interesting. A young cow moose has come to regard it as her own and is often grazing there when I drive through in my minivan. Usually she will turn and run up the driveway until she nears the dog lot and hears nearly 100 dogs barking at her.”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000.

DeeDee Jonrowe owns nearly 100 dogs:

“In all, I have nearly a hundred dogs in my kennel.”

– Deedee Jonrowe is talking about her kennel.
– Freedman, Lew and Jonrowe, Deedee. Iditarod Dreams, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1995

Mike Santos owns 80 dogs:

“[Mike] Santos has been racing dogs off and on for 20 years and has a kennel of 80 dogs.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 2, 2012

Dallas Seavey owns 100 dogs:

“Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey and his wife Jen are looking for a responsible, hard working person to care for their kennel of 100 Alaskan Huskies for the summer. In addition to kennel chores, there are extensive property maintenance and construction projects planned for the homestead.”

– Dallas and Jen Seavey job posting on CoolWorks.com, March 22, 2013

Jeff King owns close to 80 dogs:

“They [Jeff and Donna King] had three daughters and close to eighty dogs.”

– Frederic, Lisa. Running with Champions, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 2006

Brent Sass owns almost 60 dogs:

“But with almost 60 dogs and a burgeoning racing career, [Brent] Sass acknowledges that a few creature comforts are necessary.”

– Suzanna Caldwell, Alaska Dispatch News, March 1, 2015

Paul Gebhardt has 80 dogs:

“It worked out great for me and I still have eighty sled dogs.”

– Paul Gebhardt, Chapter 23, Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail, Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2015

Spencer Thew had 60 dogs:

“‘In 1985 I just started with a couple (Siberian Huskies),’ he [Spencer Thew] said, describing his initial pastime commitment. ‘Then that became five and five became 10, and you know how the rest goes.’

In the early ’90s that number grew to nearly 60 pure bred Siberian Huskies.”

– Alisha Rexford, The Journal, April 2, 2015

Raymie Redington owns over 100 dogs:

“I have over one hundred dogs now.”

– Raymie Redington, Iditarod musher
– Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics: Tales of the Trail Told by the Men & Women Who Race Across Alaska, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Travis Beals has 50 sled dogs:

“Visit kennel of 50 Iditarod Sled Dogs.”

– Travis Beals, turningheadskennel.com, 2015

Bill Arpino had about 75 dogs:

“Bill Arpino: Everybody in this part of the country had a dog they thought could run the Iditarod, so we ended up with about 75 dogs in our lot.”

– Hegener, Helen. The First Iditarod – Mushers’ Tales From the 1973 Race. Wasilla: Northern Light Media, 2015

Jim Lanier has about 50 dogs:

“I have about fifty dogs.”

– Jim Lanier, Chapter 27, Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail, Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2015

Dogs are inbred

“The first Scotty x Freckles breeding produced Grover, Blue, Coolie, Swift, Mutt, Trader and Rex. Everyone of these pups made George [Attla’s] team.” “He also bred Trader back to Scotty.”

– Welch, Jim. The Speed Mushing Manual, Eagle River: Sirius Publishing, 1990

“I got an in-bred bitch from Joe Redington named ‘Nugget,’ out of the Roamer line.”

– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

“I have done quite a bit of in-breeding recently trying to establish some characteristics that will breed true. Whenever you do in-breeding you have to realize that you are probably going to get a below average percentage of acceptable quality dogs.”

– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

Inbred dogs often have more health problems and physical defects:

“Inbreeding is breeding between close relatives, such as brother and sister.”

“Inbreed animals often have more health problems and physical defects. Genetic problems are more common; there is increased infant mortality, slower growth rate, smaller adult size, loss of immune function and other possible problems.”

– Dr. Jon Rappaport, Petplace.com, 2012

“Dogs that are inbred often have a much lower immune system function than other dogs. This means that they’ll be much more likely to suffer from illnesses and harmful conditions of all types, from minor infections and colds to serious conditions. The inbred dog has a weaker immune system that is less able to fight off these infections than dogs that have a wider range of genetic diversity.”

– Vetinfo.com, 2012

— Rick Swenson killed dogs for being slow, not wanting to run, throwing their legs out funny, not keeping lines tight:

“If a pup is slow, I am not going to mess with them. It is not worth messing with a pup if it hasn’t got any speed and doesn’t want to go- yes, I am talking about draggers.

That is the first culling – they just plain don’t want to go. Then I look at their gaits or if they throw their legs out funny or obviously are too slow, if their lines are slack all the time. There is no sense wasting good dog food and your time on a dog that isn’t fast enough to keep up.”

“If you want to have trotters, you can save yourself a lot of dog food, keeping the faster ones and eliminating the others.”

– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

— How many “unacceptable” dogs has Rick Swenson killed?

“But on the average, a fellow like myself, who raises a minimum of 50 pups every year, using almost all proven breeding stock, still doesn’t get more than two pups out of a litter that wind up making the race team when they are three years old.”

– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

Big kennels big suffering

[When mushers have large kennels, dog injuries and illnesses can very often go unnoticed.]

Some medical conditions affecting sled dogs:

– “Hot Spots”

“Any breed of dog can be affected by “hot spots,” but they are most common in dogs that have a thicker hair coat with a lot of undercoat, such as retrievers and sled dogs. A hot spot is created by anything that causes inflammation and breaks down the natural barrier in the skin that protects against infection.” “Allergies, insect bites and minor trauma to the skin are the most common underlying problem. Regular grooming, either at home or professionally will decrease the chance of your pet getting this ugly, painful infection. Hot spots can spread rapidly and often require prescription medications to control them.”

– Nancy, Wilber, DVM, DogsAreOK Magazine, July-August, 2010

Iditarod dogs live on rocks. The rocks injure their paws. Eating rocks can lead to choking, blockages in the throat and intestines, vomiting, diarrhea, broken teeth and damaged soft tissue in the mouth. Photo attributed to Ins1122 on flickr, August 25, 2012

Iditarod dogs live on rocks. The rocks injure their paws. Eating rocks can lead to choking, blockages in the throat and intestines, vomiting, diarrhea, broken teeth and damaged soft tissue in the mouth. Photo attributed to Ins1122 on flickr, August 25, 2012

– Eating rocks (pica):

“Sled dogs eating rocks is a common problem in many kennels and unfortunately, it often leads to death.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Website lakotasong.com, 2010

— Swallowing sharp rocks can cause serious internal damage in dogs:

“If the foreign body has managed to move to the colon, it will probably successfully pass. But, defecating a sharp object may prove painful and may even need veterinary assistance. Never pull protruding objects from your pet’s rectum. If it is still lodged inside, you can cause serious damage to the internal tissues.”

– Ingrid Pyka, DVM, VPI Pet Health Zone article, 2013

Rocks obstructing dog’s gastrointestinal tract cause necrosis, pain, holes in the intestine and death.

Rocks obstructing dog’s gastrointestinal tract cause necrosis, pain, holes in the intestine and death.

— Rocks obstructing dog’s gastrointestinal tract cause necrosis, pain, holes in the intestine and death:

“If an intestinal obstruction has occurred, the dog or cat’s condition will decline. Repeated vomiting causes dehydration and electrolyte loss. This can severely weaken the patient.

The effect of the object on the gastrointestinal tract itself will also prove devastating to the body. The pressure of the foreign body against the intestinal wall together with the continued stretching or bunching of the intestines result in poor blood circulation to the tissues. This ultimately causes necrosis (dying off) of those tissues. In addition to being extremely painful, toxic enzymes release into the blood stream, initiating shock.

Eventually, the intestinal wall may break down and perforate (develop a hole). Once this occurs, the acidic and bacterial-contaminated intestinal contents leak into the abdomen. This results in peritonitis (infection of the abdominal space) and sepsis (infection of the bloodstream).

At this point, the patient is very critical. Without intensive intervention, this animal will die. With treatment, such patients can recover. Even the best of efforts, however, some may not survive.”

– Ingrid Pyka, DVM, VPI Pet Health Zone article, 2013

Fractured carnassial tooth. Iditarod dogs who chew or eat rocks can fracture their carnassial teeth. When these teeth are broken and the underlying pulp is exposed, a severe and painful infection can develop. Photo attributed to School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, UK.

Fractured carnassial tooth. Iditarod dogs who chew or eat rocks can fracture their carnassial teeth. When these teeth are broken and the underlying pulp is exposed, a severe and painful infection can develop. Photo attributed to School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, UK of flicker.

— Dogs can break teeth chewing on rocks:

“Dogs can break their teeth by chewing on inappropriate items such as rocks, bones, treats (antlers, hooves, etc) and ice cubes that are too hard.”

– Shelter Island Veterinary Hospital, San Diego, CA, website article, 2013

– Hypothermia and frostbite:

“All dogs reach their cold-tolerance limit at some temperature, the Cornell husky-trainer said. ‘If it’s so cold that you can’t go out without extreme cold-weather gear, your dog shouldn’t be outside at that temperature either.’ ‘Bring the dogs inside then’ he advised.”

– Arleigh Reynolds, D.V.M., Ph.D. was an assistant professor at Cornell – Cornell University Science News press release, Dec. 9, 1996, on its website

“The other problem is frostbite of the flanks and frostbite of the penis.”

– Runyan, Joe. Winning Strategies for Distance Mushers. Sacramento: Griffin Printing, 1997

“Frostbite can occur on a dog’s paw but do not usually occur in this area. Frostbite is more commonly seen in area where the hair covering is sparse and the circulation is poor, such as the ear tips, tail tips, and scrotum.”

– Dr. Vern Otte, DVM, DABVP, Critter Connection website, January, 2003

“‘There’s a particular thing that happens with these sled dogs in certain snow conditions where the hair is lost off the back of their wrists, exposing the flexor tendons to potential frostbite. It was a lot of work for me to take care of my dogs,’ said his dad, Mitch Seavey.”

– Kevin Wells, KTUU-TV, KTUU.COM, March 17, 2010

“‘I asked [Frank] Rich how he thought those dogs had died. Rich stated that they either starved or froze to death,’ [Trooper Shayne] Calt wrote.”

– Andrew Wellner, Matsu Valley Frontiersman, January 14, 2011

“Severe frostbite causes blisters, tissue death, open wounds and gangrene: “In more severe cases of frostbite, blisters may form. In even more serious cases however, the deeper tissues become involved, and patches of skin may shrivel and die, sloughing off to leave raw, open wounds. In the most severe cases this may result in gangrene. It is often difficult to distinguish mild and severe cases of frostbite for the first few days…”

– Dr. Linda Aronson, DVM. VetSpeak Section of the Shaggy Sentinel, November, 1997

When mushers have large kennels, gum disease can often go unnoticed. The disease can devastate a dog’s mouth, causing chronic pain, eroded gums, missing teeth, and bone loss.

Iditarod mushers have many sled dogs, so gum disease often goes unnoticed. The disease can devastate a dog’s mouth, causing chronic pain, eroded gums, missing teeth, and bone loss.

– Periodontal disease or gum disease:

“Gum disease is usually silent. When it starts there are no outward signs and symptoms. Yet once it advances, gum disease can devastate your dog’s mouth, causing chronic pain, eroded gums, missing teeth, and bone loss — a fate hardly fair to man’s best friend.”

– Wendy C. Fries, pets.webmd.com, website article, 2013

“In the mouth, periodontal disease causes damage to gum tissue and bone around the teeth, leading to loss of these tissues. In addition, periodontal disease can also cause the following problems to occur in the mouth:

Development of a hole (fistula) from the oral cavity into the nasal passages causing nasal discharge

Weakening of the jaw bone that can lead to fractures

Bone infection

However, it is important to understand that periodontal disease can lead to other major health problems throughout the body, including the following:

Heart Disease

Kidney Disease

Liver Disease

Diabetes

Various infections”

– Jenna Stregowski, RVT, about.com, website article, 2013
– Jenna Stregowski, RVT is a veterinary technician.

Eye of a dog who has uveodermatologic syndrome

Eye of a dog who has uveodermatologic syndrome

– Pain and blindness from Uveodermatologic syndrome:

“An autoimmune disorder is a condition in which the immune system cannot tell the difference between harmful antigens and its own healthy body tissues, leading it to destroy the healthy body tissues. Uveodermatologic syndrome is one such autoimmune disorder known to affect dogs.

Some breeds are at an increased risk of developing this disorder, including Akitas, Samoyeds, and Siberian huskies.”

– PetMD,com, article, 2013

“Affected dogs usually experience eye problems, including uveitis (inflammation of a layer of the eye), vitiligo (skin depigmentation), and a premature whitening of the hair (poliosis). It’s important to understand that the worst-case scenario for the skin is merely cosmetic, while that for the eyes is much worse: blindness.”

Painful, red eyes are common, and dogs may be sensitive to bright light. Vision changes are often noted when dogs begin to bump into things. Constricted pupils and clouding of the eyes are typical as well.

Many affected dogs will have vitiligo (depigmentation of the skin) — most evident on the nose, lips, eyelids, footpads, and scrotum, vulva, and anus.”

– Vetstreet.com, article, 2013

– Serious diseases from dog ticks:

Dogs are at risk for serious diseases that can be transmitted by ticks: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis or tick fever, canine babesiosis, anaplasmosis, tick paralysis, and other diseases.

American dog tick. Dogs are at risk for serious diseases that can be transmitted by ticks, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis or tick fever, canine babesiosis, anaplasmosis and tick paralysis. Photo attributed to Armed Forces Pest Management of flickr.

American dog tick. Dogs are at risk for serious diseases that can be transmitted by ticks, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis or tick fever, canine babesiosis, anaplasmosis and tick paralysis. Photo attributed to Armed Forces Pest Management of flickr.

“She’s (Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen) found evidence that two exotic species are established and reproducing in Alaska.”

“The brown dog tick seems to be the most prevalent so far….”

“The American dog tick has been found in 10 cases involving dogs and humans from North Pole, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, Sitka, Valdez, Willow and Denali National Park. This is the other species that seems to be established in Alaska and reproducing in the wild. Other species found in Alaska include the Rocky Mountain wood tick, with two cases involving dogs in Sitka and Anchorage, and the lone star tick, with two cases involving dogs from Fairbanks and Eagle River. Beckmen is not yet convinced that these two ticks are established in state.”

“Beckmen worries that a suite of serious diseases that can be transmitted by ticks are looming on the horizon. These include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis, canine babesiosis, anaplasmosis, tick paralysis, and tick fever.”

– Rick Sinnott, Alaska Dispatch, January 25, 2014
– Rick Sinnott is a former Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist.
– Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen is a veterinarian with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Mushers can't bond with all their dogs

Rob Moore: “Now the mushers do say their dogs are treated very well. And, I read that they have these romantic statements about the strong bond between musher and dog. But can there be a strong bond? And, can there be proper treatment in these kennels or between them and these dogs that they’re breeding to race in this one race? Ethel, I’ll direct that to you.”

Ethel Christensen: “It’s all media hype. I mean, you can’t have anything negative in the media about the Iditarod. And it’s all hype. I’m sorry but it’s just not true. But, don’t get me wrong. I love mushing. I love the recreational mushing and there’s of good people that are mushers out there, but the race is not humane. It’s inhumane and I don’t see how they could possibly bond with all their dogs.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Iditarod mushers routinely have kennels of 90 to 200 dogs.]

– Ethel Christensen is the founder and former Executive Director of the Alaska SPCA
– Rob Moore hosts Animal Voices, a radio show in Toronto, Canada.
– This interview was done on February 28, 2006

Many dogs have no names

“The mushers don’t have much interaction with the dogs, it’s mostly the handlers that are responsible for their upkeep. In the large kennels, the mushers don’t know one dog from another unless the dog is on the main team. The dogs who are not on the main team don’t have names.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 28, 2007

Dogs in remote areas don't get veterinary care

Dr. Paula Kislak: “Most of these mushers live really out in very remote areas, so there is no way that these dogs are getting any veterinary care at all, except what’s being administered by the musher him or herself. And, of course the euthanasia, they would never bring an animal in by airplane or lengthy drives to be euthanized. So, they’re going to use whatever they find the most expedient. And of course a gunshot, well that uses a bullet and it’s cheaper even just to drown them, because every penny that they spend, literally every penny that they spend going into animal care or animal destruction is out of their profit or bottom line. And they look at it that way.”

Janice Blue: “It’s really disgusting.”

– Janice Blue is the host of the radio program Go Vegan Texas, KPFT
– Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, is president of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
– The interview was done on February 27, 2006

Sick and injured dogs often get no veterinary care

No veterinary care for sick and injured dogs:

“Professional treatment is expensive and not always successful, and many mushers won’t try to throw good money after a sick pup (or they simply can’t afford to).”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000.

“Because there are so many dogs in the larger kennels, handlers just clean up the poop and give the dogs food, so the socialization aspect is definitely lacking along with personal care for toenails, grooming, etc. In these kennels, handlers don’t know the individual dogs well and often don’t recognize when the dogs are sick. Also, most handlers don’t stay long and don’t get to know the dogs. The dogs that get the most attention are those who run the fastest.

The dogs don’t always get vet care when they are sick or injured. And it is cheaper to just let the dog die. God forbid parvo or something like that ever hit one of these places – it would be a mess. With some dogs, mushers have a ‘wait and see’ policy. It’s horrid to see the dogs sitting there in obvious discomfort, let me tell you. The more valuable dogs get better vet care.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 28, 2007

“I’ve seen firsthand dogs left on chains for months on end with basically no attention other than being given food and water, some with inadequate shelter from the elements, others with unattended illnesses or injuries.”

– Rebecca Knight, Anchorage Daily News, May 30, 2007
– Rebecca Knight lives in the Mat-Su Borough with her husband and nine huskies. She also volunteers for an animal rescue organization.

“Veterinary treatments are expensive, and I was told the dogs receive little or any veterinary treatment as they ‘are so hardy’ they never get sick. I found this hard to believe, and did witness some dogs with eye infections that were not treated.”

– Jane Stevens, email sent to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on March 28, 2011
– Jane Stevens was a dog handler for a top 10 Iditarod musher.

Amputation of canine teeth in sled dogs

American Veterinary Dental College opposes crown amputation:

“The American Veterinary Dental College expresses concern regarding the amputation (‘cutting’) of canine teeth in sled dogs. It is felt that there are methods available that are more modern, less painful and associated with fewer complications. AVDC encourages practitioners to use currently accepted dental techniques.”

– Adopted by the American Veterinary Dental College Board of Directors, April 21 1996, website article, 2009

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association describes an amputation:

“The actual procedure involves manual restraint, the use of a mouth gag, and breaking off the four canine teeth near the gum line using metal snippers (large bolt or wire cutters). Typically, no anesthetic nor analgesic is used during the cutting, and no care is provided to the dog following this extremely painful procedure. Infection and chronic pain are the major complications arising from this procedure. The procedure conducted in this manner is inappropriate and inhumane.”

– Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, revised 2003, website article, 2009

Dogs don't get fresh water every day

“I know of very few kennels that provide fresh water every day. Most don’t give any water in the winter except with meals (a soup mixture) because it’s near impossible to keep hundreds of water buckets from freezing without hours of extra work every day.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 28, 2007

Horrific conditions in Iditarod champion's kennel

“When I traveled to work for a champion Iditarod and touring kennel in Alaska, I found that over two hundred dogs lived in dilapidated wooden dog houses and plastic barrels, without straw. Even though the temperatures were below zero at night, the few elderly dogs that were present received no bedding or extra care. They slowly crawled out of their dog houses each morning, arthritic and constantly growing thinner from the cold. Poorly constructed and maintained houses are bad because they provide little to no warmth for the dog. Temperatures are bad enough in Alaska, but wind chill factors make it even worse.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 28, 2007

Few sled dogs are adopted

“She [Marcie Moriarty] added the SPCA has always maintained it is difficult to find adoptive homes for sled dogs because of the way they are raised and kept on tethers.”

– Marcie Moriarty is the SPCA’s head animal cruelty investigator in British Columbia.
– Sam Cooper, The Province, February 2, 2011

“So far this spring, the shelter [the North Star Borough Animal Shelter] has reached its maximum at 25 huskies. In one week, three were put to death. Five were adopted, which is encouraging but it’s very rare to have that many find homes in one week,” said Sandy Klimaschesky, the lead animal tender at the shelter. 

”Sometimes because the shelter is so full, some dogs go right from the front door to be euthanized,” she said.

But the facts are that each year, more than 1,000 sled dogs wind up at the shelter and of those, only about a third are adopted.

– Associated Press, Anchorage Daily News, May 7, 2007

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: The Fairbanks North Star Borough is one of 32 geographic areas listed by the United States Census Bureau.]

Iditarod kennels compared to recreational musher kennels

“Few recreational mushers cull or sell dogs, choosing instead to keep them for the duration of their lives. Doing so inevitably produces a retirement-home-type situation.

‘My yard is really big because I have a lot of old dogs,’ [Helyn] Lefgren said. “I don’t get rid of them when they get old or can’t run fast enough. 

All the recreational mushers I know have the same commitment to the dogs,” she said.

– Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 20, 2008

Dogs suffer in frigid weather

Dogs suffer when it’s very cold and should be brought inside:

“All dogs reach their cold-tolerance limit at some temperature, the Cornell husky-trainer said. ‘If it’s so cold that you can’t go out without extreme cold-weather gear, your dog shouldn’t be outside at that temperature either.’ ‘Bring the dogs inside then’ he advised.”

– Arleigh Reynolds, D.V.M., Ph.D. was an assistant professor at Cornell
– Cornell University Science News press release, Dec. 9, 1996, on its website

Sled dogs often face subzero temperatures in their kennels. They've gotten painful frostbite of the penis, scrotum, vulva, nipples and tail.

Sled dogs often face subzero temperatures in their kennels. They’ve gotten painful frostbite of the penis, scrotum, vulva, nipples and tail.

Very painful frostbite of the scrotum, nipples, vulva, ear tips, tails and paws:
“Frostbite occurs when body parts actually freeze, and ice crystals form in the tissue, causing it to die. 

Most frostbite lesions in dogs and cats are in areas that are more exposed and have less hair, such as ear tips, tails, scrotum, nipples, and vulva.”

– Dr. Marvin Ordway, DVM, Friends and Neighbors Magazine, December 15, 2011

“In extreme cold weather, your dog can get frostbite on their paw-pads.”

– Rockledge Veterinary Hospital, website article 2014

“Dogs left in the cold for long periods of time are also at risk for frostbite on paws (and other extremities – ears, tail, etc.) and hypothermia. It is not advised that dogs spend hours in the cold.”

– Pulaski Veterinary Clinic, website article, 2014

Dog suffer very painful cracks in their paws when temperatures are 25 degrees below or colder:

“Feet — Anytime temperatures are 25 degrees below zero or colder, there is a danger of frosting the feet; cracks develop between the large pad and the small pads and around the nails. These are very painful, and do not heal rapidly because as the dog walks and runs, there is constant flexion of the soles.”

– Dr. Charles Belford, veterinarian and writer
– Vaudrin, Bill, compiler of articles. Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1976

In strong winds, does the wooden top blow off , leaving the dog totally exposed to freezing cold? Photo attributed to Gozandgoz on flickr.

In strong winds, does the wood top blow off, leaving this Iditarod sled dog totally exposed to freezing cold? Photo attributed to Gozandgoz on flickr.

Dogs forced to whelp outside in frigid temperatures:

“Due to my heavy involvement in this ‘sport,’ I’ve been able to witness atrocities that many will never hear of or see – nor would they want to. These include: “Pregnant dogs forced to whelp outside, in the middle of a frigid winter, in uninsulated wooden huts.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 30, 2008

Dogs can’t get warm:


“And the dogs were thoroughly miserable to boot, shivering in their houses and under their trees in the bone-chilling drizzle.”

– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000.

“I defy anyone to walk through a dog yard at 40 below and see the dogs in their houses (if they have a house) trying to stay warm in their frozen urine soaked straw.”

– Mike Cranford, dog handler, Two Rivers, Alaska, letter sent to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on February 28, 2000.

Frigid temperatures:

“‘You can work indoors today,’ said Jeff [King] one morning. I smiled wryly. Good idea. The temperature was -40 degrees F.”

Frederic, Lisa. Running with Champions, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 2006

“In Coldfoot in the winter months, forty-five below zero was a normal day.”

– Jason Mackey, Chapter 6, Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail, Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2015

“In Tok I live in a cold environment. It gets to be minus fifty.”

– Hugh Neff, Chapter 22, Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail
– Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Adventures: Tales from Mushers Along the Trail, Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 2015

Sled dogs fed unsanitary, expired and rotting food

Iditarod mushers give their sled dogs rotten meat to eat.

Iditarod mushers give their sled dogs rotting meat to eat.

“Due to my heavy involvement in this ‘sport,’ I’ve been able to witness atrocities that many will never hear of or see – nor would they want to. These include: Dogs being fed expired dog food and rotting meat.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, April 30, 2008

Dogs’ meat left sitting around all day to thaw:

“Add enough hot water to cover the stuff in the bucket and let it thaw all day.”

“Some people get pretty finicky about dirty buckets and bowls, and bacteria counts in food, etc., so I probably should defend myself and my unsanitary practice of leaving meat sit around thawing all day.

But I won’t.”

– Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008

Sled dogs have no shelters

Without shelters, Iditarod sled dogs have no protection from the frigid cold, snow or wind. Dogs can easily get painful frostbite of the penis, scrotum, nipples, flanks, ears and tail. Photo attributed to LexnGer on flickr

Without shelters, Iditarod sled dogs have no protection from the frigid cold, snow or wind. Dogs can easily get painful frostbite of the penis, scrotum, nipples, vulva, flanks, ears and tail. Photo attributed to LexnGer on flickr

“The dogs had slept on snow all winter on the trapline, had very thick coats, and did not adapt well to the warm weather.”

– Joe Runyan is talking about the dogs he raced in his first Iditarod in 1983.
– Joe Runyan, Alaska Dispatch, March 8, 2011

“The dogs were spread out in the woods, trap-line style, tethered by their chains to logs and black spruce.”

– Lance Mackey. The Lance Mackey Story, Fairbanks: Zorro Books, LLC, 2010

“Out the door and down to the dogs. They are tethered along a narrow band of alders on the shore of a small frozen backwater of the Churchill.”

– Olesen, Dave. Cold Nights Fast Trails, Minocqua: NorthWord Press, Inc., 1989

“The job came with the prospect of working for a shorter period of time and potentially making good money, but I could also bring my dogs along and camp out with them for the summer. All the crew lived in wooden shacks on the beach, and I staked my team out right there with me.”

– Martin Buser was hired to be part of a commercial salmon setnet fishing crew in Kasilof.
– Buser, Martin. Dog Man, Durango: Raven’s Eye Press, 2015

From age 9-weeks, puppies fed once a day

“Feed the pups twice a day for about two weeks after weaning or until about nine weeks of age. Then, being the mean so-and-so that I am, I go to feeding only once a day for pups. Ignore the bag. Ignore the vet. Just feed them as much as they will ‘wolf down’ (interesting term there) in about thirty seconds, once a day.”

Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008.

Sled dogs starved

Big Iditarod dog gets very little to eat.

Big Iditarod dog is given very little to eat.

“I have witnessed the following with my own eyes and have on more than one occasion stepped in and stopped the beatings, killing and abuse: 1. Dogs fed only a watery soup in order to control their weight.”

– Mike Cranford, dog handler, Two Rivers, Alaska, letter dated January 26, 2001

“He (Colonel Tom Classen) confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their optimum racing weight.”

– Jon Saraceno, USA Today, March 3, 2000
– Tom Classen is a retired Air Force colonel who has lived in Alaska over 20 years.

Iditarod sled dogs hoard their own poop to eat. Photo attributed to garycycles5 on flickr

Iditarod sled dogs hoard their own poop to eat. Photo attributed to garycycles5 on flickr

Dogs hoard their own feces to eat:

“I defy anyone of compassion to walk through a dog lot at – 40 and not realize the sad situation of these dogs. Hoarding their own feces to eat and laying on a frozen block of urine.”

– Mike Cranford, dog handler, letter to the Sled Dog Action Coalition

Iditarod musher had emaciated dogs:

“Troopers have provided the missing link, identifying [Dario] Martinez as the owner of the 13 emaciated dogs that troopers and Anchorage Animal Care and Control retrieved last week. One of those dogs “was already dead due to lack of food, water and care,” according to an online AST dispatch posted Nov. 12.

Trooper Tim Lewis said all the animals were found outside on Martinez’s Girdwood property. Several younger dogs were in a cage and none of the animals had food or water.”

–  KTVA CBS, November 18, 2014

“[Iditarod] race records show he placed 40th out of 47 finishers. Martinez was the sole proprietor of Chugach Express Sled Dog Tours, according to a 2014 business license.” 

– Chris Klint, KTUU TV, November 18, 2014

Dogs punished when they don't eat

“If the dog doesn’t eat everything in about 30 seconds, do not just leave food laying around thinking he may eat more at a later time. Take the food away. Give the dog only clear water the next day and half rations the following day. Resume regular feeding the fourth day.”

Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008

“I have also skipped the evening meal on a few dogs that decide they don’t want their morning broth.”

– Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008

Thirsty dogs can't reach into water buckets to get a drink. The dogs have plastic shelters which can get too hot or too cold. Photo attributed to minkey8885 on flickr

Thirsty sled dogs can’t reach into water buckets to get a drink. The dogs have plastic shelters which can get too hot or too cold. Photo attributed to minkey8885 on flickr

Sled dog trucks can be dangerous for dogs

“Many mushers transport sled dogs in trucks that have several rows of compartments or crates without doors stacked on top of each other and open to the inside of the vehicle. The dogs are chained into the compartments. A dog being transported in this manner is at risk of suffering strangulation, asphyxiation or a crushed larynx (windpipe) by their chains and collars if they fall or jump out of their open crates, especially from the upper levels, when the vehicle turns sharply, or in excitement, or from compulsive circling from the boredom of lengthy transport. In addition, the wooden compartments cannot be adequately sanitized and are subject to fecal and urine contamination which can result in inflammatory and infectious diseases of the ocular, respiratory and digestive systems. Dogs chained into the same crate are likely to fight and get injured.”

– Paula Kislak, DVM, Director, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, May 18, 2011, email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition

Dogs are at risk of suffering strangulation, asphyxiation or a crushed larynx (windpipe) by their chains and collars if they fall or jump out of their open compartments, especially at the upper levels, photo attributed to TravisS on flickr

Dogs are at risk of suffering strangulation, asphyxiation or a crushed larynx (windpipe) by their chains and collars if they fall or jump out of their open compartments, especially at the upper levels, photo attributed to TravisS on flickr

Dog injured bolting out of box on dog truck:

“It was finally time to get the dogs out, put their booties on and harness them up. Then… a major bummer blow. Margi [Eastman] was getting Hermione out, when Herm bolted out of the box for some reason, catapulting over Margi’s head and landing on top of Margie in a big crazy mess. Herm came up lame, very lame, on a back leg. Her hock was swelling before our eyes.”

– Dr. Tamara Rose, DVM, her blog entry on May 11, 2010

Spontaneous combustion of straw in dog box:

“One musher’s box almost burned up in the summer because of spontaneous combustion in the damp straw.”

– Collins, Miki and Julie Collins. Dog Driver: A Guide for the Serious Musher, Loveland: Alpine Publications, 1991

Dogs doubled up in one compartment fight:

Two dogs crammed into a small box can easily fight and injure each other.

Iditarod mushers sometimes cram two dogs into a small box on their trucks. These dogs can easily fight and injure each other. Photo courtesy of SledDogma.org

“We stopped once to check on two dogs we’d had to double up in one compartment. They were already arguing.”

– Riddles, Libby and Tim Jones. Race Across Alaska, Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1988

Musher Melanie Gould abandoned her dogs

Gould disappeared without making provisions for dogs to get food and water:

“The search for former Iditarod musher Melanie Gould, who has been missing since she clocked out from her job at the Talkeetna Roadhouse on May 30, was still ongoing Monday, with few new details emerging, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Gould disappeared from her hometown of Talkeetna without telling anyone where she was going, and without any provisions for care for the animals in her small dog kennel.”

– Ben Anderson, Alaska Dispatch, Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Although Gould knew she abandoned her dogs, she stayed away from rescuers:

“Volunteers found Iditarod veteran Melanie Gould alive Saturday in the Cantwell area, more than 11 days after the Talkeetna musher disappeared.”

“‘She indicated that she saw search efforts but stayed away,’ [Megan] Peters wrote in an email.”

– Megan Peters is the Alaska State Trooper’s spokesperson.
– Kyle Hopkins and Casey Grove, Anchorage Daily News, June 12, 2011

Melanie Gould competed in seven Iditarods:

“Gould competed in seven Iditarods, beginning in 2000.”

– Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, June 11, 2011

Dogs have been terribly injured when they've jumped or were thrown from the bed of a pick up truck. In some cases, chained dogs were thrown out of the truck while still attached and were dragged on the road. Dogs tethered by short chains on pickup bed trucks have been injured when drivers stopped short or slammed on the breaks. Photo attributed to fouldsy on flickr.

Dogs have been terribly injured when they’ve jumped or were thrown from the bed of a pick up truck. In some cases, chained dogs were thrown out of the truck while still attached and were dragged on the road. Dogs tethered by short chains on pickup bed trucks have been injured when drivers stopped short or slammed on the breaks. Photo attributed to fouldsy on flickr.

Sled dog poop creates infectious and painful living conditions for dogs

Dog poop attracts biting flies, mosquitoes and pests that attack the dogs and contaminate ground and surface water. A typical sled dog excretes 274 pound of waste annually. Forty sled dogs produce four tons of poop a year, 60 sled dogs produce six tons of poop yearly, 80 dogs produce eight tons, etc.

Dog poop attracts biting flies, mosquitoes and pests that attack the dogs and contaminate ground and surface water. A typical sled dog excretes 274 pound of waste annually. Forty sled dogs produce four tons of poop a year, 60 sled dogs produce six tons of poop yearly, 80 dogs produce eight tons, etc.

Dog waste can attract flies and pests (rats, mice, etc.):

“The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical dog excretes three quarters of a pound of waste per day—or 274 pounds per year.

A musher with a modest-sized kennel of 20 dogs must dispose of more than two tons of dog waste annually!

To get an idea of the scale of the dog waste generated in Alaska, consider that in Fairbanks and Anchorage alone, an estimated 20 million pounds of dog waste is produced each year.

Left alone, dog waste can pollute ground and surface water, attract flies and pests, cause an unpleasant odor, and create unsanitary living conditions for dogs. Dog waste can also transmit parasites and infectious diseases.”

– Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alaska Office, website article, June, 2011

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: When there are piles of dog feces on the ground or in open holes near the dogs, pests (rats, mice, etc.) and flies can easily attack the dogs and contaminate their food and water.]

Fly bites are painful and can become infected:

“Ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes can cause red swollen areas of the skin, which itch and can sometimes become infected. Fly bites can pose a special nuisance to outdoor pets. Fly bites can cause crusty bumps or sores, especially around the ears or face, that can become infected if left untreated.”

– Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
– Webvet.com, June, 2011

“Fly bites cause a common condition in outside dogs, often called “fly strike.” It most frequently occurs…when flies land on and bite the tips and top surface of the dog’s ears. They may also bite the bridge of the nose. They are biting the dog to obtain a blood meal and the bite is often painful. Because of the thin skin and hair on the ears and the inability of the dog to defend his ears, flies will seek out this location. Some of these dogs will endure hundreds of bites a day for weeks at a time. Anyone that has ever been bitten by a stable fly knows how painful the bite is. If you see blood spots or flies congregating near your dog’s ears then you can assume fly bites are occurring. The bite wounds attract flies which may lay their eggs in the damaged tissue. These will later hatch into maggots.”

– Peteducation.com, June, 2011

Dogs chained near hole where dog feces and dead dogs were dumped:

“I worked in an Iditarod kennel where the dog waste was put in the same pit where they dumped their dead dogs. The hole was close to the dogs. I had to walk next to or behind dog houses to dump the wheelbarrel of dog feces into the pit.”

– Ashley Keith, former musher and Iditarod kennel employee who now rescues and rehabilitates abused sled dogs.
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, June 20, 2011

Dogs chained close to large hole containing dog feces:

“I worked in an Iditarod kennel where dogs’ fecal matter was dumped in a large hole in the ground located close to where the dogs were chained.”

– Jane Stevens, former Iditarod kennel employee
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, June 23, 2011

Mushers break the law

The law in Mat-Su, a borough in Alaska, requires people owning five or more dogs to register as a kennel:

23.10.020(A) “Registration required. In addition to the registration requirements of MSB 24.10.010, no person shall own or operate a kennel or cattery or own five or more dogs or cats over the age of six months without registering as a kennel or cattery operator for each location of a kennel or cattery.”

– Mat-Su Borough Code, Mat-Su Borough website

Iditarod mushers who broke the law by not registering their kennels:

Martin Buser
Kathleen Frederick
Kelley Griffen
Matt Hayashida
Lynda Plettner
Ryan Reddington
Ray Reddington, Jr.
Justin Savidis
Heather Siirtola
Cim Smyth

– Mat-Su Borough documents about unlicensed kennels in the borough, May 17, 2011
– Current Internet information shows that these mushers have five or more dogs who are over the age of six months.

Iditarod mushers devocalize (debark) their dogs

“Squeaky (formerly known as ‘Rob’) was bred and spend the first part of his life in the US, but in the summer of ’01, he came up to live with us. He has quickly adapted to working life and is a valued team member. I often mistake him in harness for his Grandfather, Spud – that is quite a complement! Squeaky gets his nickname from his debarked status. Major Races: Iditarod 2003, Iditarod 2004.”

– Iditarod musher Karen Ramstead, her website northwapiti.com, January 20, 2012

“I debarked Jewels Monday August 1st. Most of my dogs are debarked, I used to debark all of them, because of the neighbor problems.”

– Iditarod musher Eric Rogers, his website northbounddogs.com, January 20, 2012

“Iditarod musher and veterinarian Dr. Roland “Doc” Lombard says debarking 10 of his 50 dogs has made no difference in their performance.”

– Amy Bermar, Anchorage Daily News, June 15, 1982

“We’re just in a unique circumstance where we live, in that we don’t have a lot of close neighbors, and I do tend to de-bark the loud dogs, which helps considerably,” [Robert] Bundtzen said.

– Melissa Devaughn, Anchorage Daily News, February 22, 2003
– Robert Bundtzen is an Iditarod musher.

“KEIKO is Rom’s sister, Female, DOB 5/28/02 (7 of 9’s pup). Approx. 50 lbs, debarked, spayed, a little shy. Keiko is a young, happy, hard driving, fast, girl who has been leading since she was a pup. As a two year old she is rapidly becoming one of my main leaders. Finished the Iditarod in 2006, but as the team has gotten faster has not wanted to run lead very often.”

“ROM is Keiko’s brother – debarked, neutered and very affectionate. DOB 5/28/02 (7 of 9’s pup). Runs anywhere from wheel to swing. Makes an excellent wheel dog. Rom finished the 2006 Iditarod.”

– Dogsled.net, January 20, 2012

Here’s what experts say about the cruelties of debarking:

– Debarking is inhumane:

“‘Debarking is not a medically necessary procedure,’ Dr. Klausner said. ‘We think it’s not humane to the dogs to put them through the surgery and the pain. We just do not think that it should be performed.'”

– Dr. Jeffrey Klausner is the senior vice president and chief medical officer of Banfield, the Pet Hospital, which has more than 750 veterinary practices across the country.
– Sam Dolnick, New York Times, February 2, 2010

“These amputations are strictly for the benefit of the owner. They serve no therapeutic or medical purpose. They are not surgeries in the true sense of the word.

The word mutilation is much more appropriate.”

– Charles Danten, DVM, in a speech presented to the Montreal Rotary Club on January 6, 2000, and published on Dr. Danten’s website

– Debarking surgery is very dangerous:

“[Dr. Nicholas] Dodman said there is a risk to any surgery, but operating in the vocal cord area is very dangerous because it’s hard to administer anesthetics and there’s a lot of blood in the area. Animals may suffer from infections, scar tissue, trouble breathing, and hemorrhaging or aspiration pneumonia from devocalization procedures. ‘Some dogs have died in different stages (of the procedure),’ said Dodman. ‘This is what’s called a convenient surgery. Some surgeries are necessary. But this is a cosmetic surgery like ear cropping and tail cropping. You’re removing a natural part of a dog.’”

– Dr. Nicholas Dodman, DACVB is a veterinarian behaviorist of about 50 in the world.
– David Ertischek, West Roxbury Transcript, June 16, 2009

– Debarking interferes with breathing:

“Excessive tissue removal results in scar tissue formation that can interfere with breathing.”

– Letter from Christine M. Runnels, DVM, Diplomat, American College of Veterinary Surgeons, March 7, 2005

“Dr. Gary W. Ellison, of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida, cautioned that the procedure can lead to complications. He said he has had to operate on debarked dogs after excess scar tissue built up in the throat, making it difficult for the dog to breathe.”

– Sam Dolnick, New York Times, February 2, 2010

– Debarked dogs more prone to aspirate digestive juices leading to pneumonia:

Dr. Paula Kislak: “This surgery is especially bad, because even under the best of circumstances animals, because of the messing around in the throat area, that are debarked are more prone to aspirate their own digestive juices. And when dogs are put under these intense circumstances of racing and they’re gasping all the time, they’re constantly aspirating or inhaling any vomit or digestive juice that comes up in their mouth, and that sets them up for life-threatening aspiration pneumonias. So that’s a double whammy of the debarking.”

Rob Moore: “This debarking, what is the procedure?”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “It’s a surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia. There’s two actual procedures one goes from the outside of the throat and one goes from the inside of the throat, but it’s the cutting of the vocal cords basically.”

– Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, is president of the Association of Veterinarins for Animal Rights – Rob Moore hosts Animal Voices, a radio show in Toronto Canada.
– This interview was done on February 28, 2006

Dogs rejected from racing in Iditarod not given vaccinations

“Mackey said he thinks this year’s mandatory kennel cough vaccinations are a good idea, though the price to get shots for every dog was steep. Without mandatory vaccinations, he said, there is often a lot of skimping on the part of mushers.

‘I was one of those people,’ he said. ‘The team that we know we’re taking we’ll vaccinate.”

– Andrew Wellner, Frontiersman, March 2, 2012

Dead dogs fed to other dogs

“Sometimes the dogs were skinned and the fur used to make mittens and parka ruffs, and in some kennels the dogs are fed to other dogs.”

– Mike Cranford, dog handler, Two Rivers, Alaska, letter sent to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on February 28, 2000.

Were sick horses fed to dogs?

“My shop was set up to handle carcasses, such as horses. A meat saw quickly put the meat into chunks that could be gobbled by a meat grinder.”

“The Fairbanks area supports about 4,000 horses, which is a lot. At any one time there is likely to be a 1200 LB hay burner [horse] with a problem [emphasis added] available for the giant maw of a meat grinder. To me, it was a $500 dollar windfall of great dog feed when I got the call.”

– Runyan, Joe. Winning Strategies for Distance Mushers, Sacramento: Griffin Printing Co., 1997

Dogs deprived of food and water

“If we have ten puppies in the pen, we give them nine dippers of food. There is never quite enough so that everybody has their fill.”

“They will get water in the morning, maybe they will get water again in the afternoon and maybe they will get water at night.

But the rest of the time, they are not going to have full pans of water sitting around in their pan. I dump the pans of water back in the bucket or spill them. The dogs drink when there is water and they eat when there is food.”

– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

— Dogs need to have fresh water available at all times:

“Clean, thawed drinking water should always be available”.

– The Pet Stop, Anchorage, Alaska, website article

KEEP FRESH WATER AVAILABLE AT ALL TIMES!!! Change your pet’s water daily or more frequently if necessary.

– Hudson Road Animal Hospital, Woodbury, MN, website article

“It’s important to always keep plenty of fresh water around where your pets have easy access.”

– Princeton Veterinary Animal Hospital, Princeton, IN, website article

Dogs endure mud, dust, slop and filth of ungodly magnitude

“I will admit to having kept some kennels over the years that should by rights have landed me in jail, facing a firing squad manned by the local humane society. My dogs have for days at a time endured mud, slop and filth of ungodly magnitude.”

– Olesen, Dave. Cold Nights Fast Trails, Minocqua: NorthWord Press, Inc., 1989

“Mud is a real problem during rainy spells and dust plagues you during dry spells.”

– Collins, Miki and Julie Collins. Dog Driver: A Guide for the Serious Musher, Loveland: Alpine Publications, 1991

Plastic and metal houses are hazardous for dogs

Iditarod dogs living in metal shelters. Metal houses are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter for the dogs. Photo attributed to bwitched4you on flicker.

Iditarod dogs living in metal shelters. Metal houses are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter for the dogs. Photo attributed to bwitched4you on flicker.

From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Some mushers have plastic or metal houses for their dogs.

Chuck Schaeffer’s dogs live in plastic barrels:

“They live in spartan houses made of discarded 55 gallon plastic barrels. [Chuck] Schaeffer had cut the barrels in half and carved out doorways.”

– Ray Gaskin, IndianCountryTodayMedia Network.com, March 30, 2015

Plastic and metal houses are too hot in summer and too cold in winter:

Iditarod sled dogs often have metal shelters and metal water bowls and cans. A dog's tongue and lips can get stuck to the metal, causing a painful injury. Photo attributed to Tambako The Jaguar on flickr

Look at this sled dog’s tongue. Iditarod dogs often have metal shelters and metal water bowls and cans. A dog’s tongue and lips can get stuck to cold metal, causing painful injuries. Photo attributed to Tambako The Jaguar on flickr

“Plastic and metal houses are not a good idea, as they are either too hot during summertime or too cold during the winter.”

– New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, website article, 2012

Dog gets stuck half-way out of his metal house:

Dallas Seavey: “Next over here we have Suds. Suds is getting stuck half-way in his house.”

– Dallas Seavey talking in his kennel, video Dallas Seavey – Lead Dogs for 2010 Iditarod uploaded by jjkelleriditarod onto youtube.com on March 1, 2010

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: When Suds tried to get out of his metal shelter, did he ever get cut on the sharp edge?]

A dog’s tongue could freeze to metal dog house:

“Besides being cold, if a dog licked a dog house made of metal, their tongue would freeze to it.”

– Mike Cranford, Iditarod dog handler, letter to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, 2012

Dogs eat their own stools (coprophagia)

“No one could walk through a dog lot at -40 and not be moved at the sight of a shivering dog chewing on his poop that he had stored in his house.”

– Mike Cranford, Iditarod dog handler, letter to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, 2012

Starving Iditarod sled dogs eat poop. “No one could walk through a dog lot at -40 and not be moved at the sight of a shivering dog chewing on his poop that he had stored in his house.” - Mike Cranford, Iditarod dog handler, letter to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, 2012

Starving Iditarod sled dogs eat poop. “No one could walk through a dog lot at -40 and not be moved at the sight of a shivering dog chewing on his poop that he had stored in his house.”
– Mike Cranford, Iditarod dog handler, letter to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, 2012 – Photo attributed to phoosh on flickr

Why do adult dogs eat their own poop?

“When adult dogs begin to eat stools, it may also be due to malabsorption of nutrients or to dietary nutritional deficiencies. In addition, any condition that might cause an increase in appetite or an unusual appetite, such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, thyroid disease, or treatment with certain drugs such as steroids may lead to an increase in stool eating. Dogs that are placed on extreme calorie restriction or that are fed poorly balanced diets may also begin to eat their stools.”

– VCA Animal Hospitals, website article, 2012

Dogs at risk of getting transmissible mink encephalopathy

“Even though there have been no documented cases of transmissible mink encephalopathy in dogs, there is always the risk that an infectious agent may infect a species it normally would not, particularly if the new host is overwhelmed with infectious material. If mink brain was being fed – and was from mink who were infected with the TME prion – this would certainly put the dogs at greater risk. The prion responsible for TME is in other nerve tissue as well, so even if brain was not being fed, there could still be a risk. Feeding mink – particularly those infected with TME – to the dogs is medically irresponsible and inviting the kind of disaster we have seen with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Because TME and other prion-caused diseases have a long incubation period, even mink who appear normal may harbor the agent.”

– Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis

American mink. Iditarod sled dogs who are given mink to eat are at risk of getting transmissible mink encephalopathy. Photo attributed to Tom Koerner/USFWS on flickr.

American mink. Iditarod sled dogs who are given mink to eat are at risk of getting transmissible mink encephalopathy. Photo attributed to Tom Koerner/USFWS on flickr.

Nathan Schroeder feeds dogs mink:

“Only half, those in a peak training period, were fed from [Nathan] Schroeder’s ladle — one of four meals a day. The other half were included in the second course: frozen, skinned mink. Schroeder gets them from a farmer who makes out by not having to pay rendering costs once the pelts are taken.

Schroeder keeps several drums of frozen mink on the property. In the kennel, there’s a pile of them that Schroeder covers with a tarp to stop the crows.”

– Brady Slater, Deluth News Tribune, March 1, 2015

Iditarod dogs are exhausted and overheated from running in hot summer weather. Their paws can easily be injured by running on rocks. Photo attributed to raer on flickr.

Iditarod dogs are tired and overheated from running in hot summer weather. Their paws can easily be injured by running on rocks. Photo attributed to raer on flickr.

Dogs sick from Iditarod spread virus to entire kennel

“…symptoms that ranged from diarrhea, some vomiting and fatigue.”

“[Kelly] Maixner said maybe the worst part of the flu bug came when he returned home to Big Lake.

He said the virus spread throughout his entire kennel — 60 dogs in all. ‘You can image what my yard looks like,’ he said.”

– Brian Gehring, Bismarck Tribune, March 20, 2013

HAZARD: Sled dogs riding in pickup truck beds

Dogs have been terribly injured when they’ve jumped or were thrown from the bed of a pick up truck. In some cases, chained dogs were thrown out of the truck while still attached and were dragged on the road. Dogs tethered by short chains on pickup bed trucks have been injured when drivers stopped short or slammed on the breaks.

In an open pickup truck, dogs can be hit by road debris, as well as by dirt and insects, which can become embedded in their eyes, ears and nose.

Deadly tularemia

North American beaver. Lance Mackey feeds his dogs beaver meat. Dogs who eat beavers infected with tularemia can get sick and die. Photo attributed to stevehdc on flickr.

North American beaver. Iditarod musher Lance Mackey feeds his dogs beaver meat. Dogs who eat beavers infected with tularemia can get sick and die. Photo attributed to stevehdc on flickr.

Lance Mackey feeds his dogs beaver meat:

“Half-buried in icy, urine-stained snow, it [a band saw] is tasked daily with slicing up whole skinned beavers, along with halal-certified lamb chunks, 50-pound blocks of ground chicken and beef, and big king salmon—all of it frozen as solid as the rolling countryside near Fairbanks, Alaska, where any wintertime temperature above minus 20 degrees, [Lance] Mackey told me, is tropical.”
 
“Beaver isn’t the kind of meat you can buy over the counter, but Mackey’s mom has a good connection, a trapper down around Anchorage.”

– Josh Dean, Outside Magazine, January 13, 2014

Anna and Kristy Berington feed their dogs beaver:

“This kibble is then often mixed with a raw, natural meat product like beef, chicken, tripe, beaver, lamb, horse, turkey, fish, or other animal fat.”

– Anna and Kristy Berington, Seeing Double Sled Dog Racing, Dog FAQs, 2015

Jeff and Cali King feed their dogs beaver:

Question: What did your dogs like eating the best?
Answer: Cali [King]: Along with the dry dog food we feed them—the kibbles they really like—they like eating frozen cow intestines. It’s called tripe and they really like that. We also feed them ground beaver and ground beef. My dad buys the ground beaver at a canine caviar food supply place.”

– Scholastic.com, March 18, 2003

Beavers have tularemia disease:

“The second cycle [of tularemia disease] occurs in water. Beaver and muskrats are the primary hosts.”

– Alaska Department of Fish and Game, website, 2014

Dogs can get tularemia from eating infected beavers:

“Infection is often caused by ingestion of an infected mammals’ tissue.”

– Petmd.com, 2014

Tularemia can kill dogs:

“Dogs and cats can die from tularemia.”

– Alaska Department of Fish and Game, website, 2014

Are Iditarod dogs dying from salmon poisoning disease?

Iditarod dogs are given tons of wild Alaskan salmon to eat:

“Main Image Caption: Yukon Quest winner Allan Moore and his wife, Iditarod top musher Aliy Zirkle, run a kennel in Two Rivers that’s reliant on wild Alaska salmon — by the tons — to keep the dogs performance ready.”

“Many veterans of the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race say wild Alaska salmon is an important part of their racing team’s diet. They prize it for its nutritional value, the enthusiasm of the dogs for devouring it, and most important, for warmer days on the trail, for its high water content.”

– Margaret Bauman, Alaska Dispatch, March 10, 2013

– What is salmon poisoning disease?

Mushers smoke salmon for the sled dogs to eat. But smoking the salmon does not prevent dogs from getting salmon poisoning disease. Photo attributed to chiavatti on flickr

Mushers smoke salmon for the sled dogs to eat. But smoking the salmon does not prevent dogs from getting salmon poisoning disease. Photo attributed to chiavatti on flickr

“Salmon poisoning disease is a potentially fatal condition seen in dogs who have ingested certain types of raw fish found in the Pacific Northwest from San Francisco to the coast of Alaska.”

– Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, website article, July 2013

– What types of fish may be infected?

“Salmon (salmonid fish) and other anadromous fish (fish that swim upstream to breed) can be infected with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola.”

– Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, website article, July, 2013

– Is salmon poisoning disease deadly for dogs?

“If untreated, death usually occurs within fourteen days of eating the infected fish. Ninety percent of dogs showing symptoms die if they are not treated.”

– Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, website article, July, 2013

– Salmon poisoning disease is contagious:

“Although salmon poisoning is not highly contagious, aerosol and contact transmission between dogs can occur and [the] infected dog should be isolated.”

– School of Veterinary Medicine Louisiana State University, website article, July, 2013

– Salmon poisoning disease cannot always be prevented:

– – Cooking and deep-freezing salmon for at least 2 weeks prevents salmon poisoning disease:

“Don’t feed raw fish to your dog. Cook fish thoroughly or deep-freeze it for a minimum of 2 weeks to destroy the parasite before feeding it to your dog.”

– Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, website article, July, 2013

“Home freezers may not be cold enough to kill the parasites.”

– Statement from the Seafood Information Center
– Les Palmer, Peninsula Clarion, December 2, 2011

– – Smoking the salmon does not prevent salmon poisoning disease:

“Cooking destroys the infective agent but the agent can survive freezing and smoking.”

– School of Veterinary Medicine Louisiana State University, website article, July, 2013

Risky and painful removal of dew claws

Mushers removing dew claws is risky and painful for dogs:

Right front paw of dog showing A) claw, B) digital pads, C) metacarpal pad, D) dew claw, E) carpal pad. A dog's pads act as a cushion for the load-bearing limbs of the animal. In the Iditarod, paws become bloodied, cracked, cut, torn, blistered and swollen. Damaged paws are often extremely painful. Photo attributed to Amos T. Fairchild on Wikimedia.

Right front paw of dog showing 
D) dew claw. Mushers removing dew claws is risky and painful for dogs. Photo attributed to Amos T. Fairchild on Wikimedia.

“Removing dew claws from dogs should not be done except when medically necessary. These structures, especially on the front legs, serve a purpose with respect to scratching. If removal is deemed beneficial to the individual dog, this should be done by a licensed veterinarian using aseptic technique to minimize the risk of infection. Anesthesia must be used because the procedure would be very painful otherwise. The site should be sutured like any other skin incision in order to facilitate healing.

– Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis

Mushers remove dew claws of newborn sled dog puppies:

“The screeching, the squealing, the crying— each a done-me-wrong declaration—are the worst. Yet, despite knowing the worst would be encountered, Rebecca agreed to clip the dew claws of five newborn pups for another musher this morning. With tools of the clipping variety, Rebecca arrived and set to the task. Most long distant mushers remove the dew claws between three to five days after the pup is born.”

– Justin and Rebecca Savidis, Snow Hook Kennel website, 2012

“Anyway, back to work…Mallory removed the dew claws from Tulli’s puppies today”

– Ed Stielstral Nature’s Kennel website, 2010

“I use a large toenail clipper and just cut ’em off. Then you will see a little soft bone in there. It’s really just a little nub. You have to get it out of there, or else it will grow back in one form or another.”

– Seavey, Mitch. Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!, Sterling: Ididaride Publishing Company, 2008

Sick from Beaver Fever (Giardia)

 “Giardiasis is known by its commonly called name, ‘Beaver Fever.'”

– web.clark.edu, 2015

Alaska common place for giardia infections:

“According to Centers for Disease Control data, Alaska is considered one of the most common states for giardia infections, with Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and South Dakota seeing similar rates.”

– KTUU-TV, September 14, 2015

 Dogs might get infected with giardia by:

“Being in contact with infected feces (poop) from another dog or cat
Rolling and playing in contaminated soil
Licking its body after contact with a contaminated surface (for example, a dirty litter box or dog cage or crate)
Drinking water from a contaminated creek, pond, or other body of water”

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, 2015