Cruel dog training for Iditarod

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Dog deaths during training are unreported


There is no accounting of how many dogs die in training for the Iditarod each year.
Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Sled dogs whipped, beaten, kicked, bitten, thrown, dragged


Dog’s beating left dog handler appalled, sick and shocked:

“It is around one year ago today as I write this, fewer than two weeks before the legendary 2011 Iditarod race start, that, as a dog handler at a private kennel location in Alaska, I witnessed the extremely violent beating of an Iditarod racing dog by one of the racing industry’s most high-profile top 10 mushers.

Be assured the beating was clearly not within an ‘acceptable range’ of ‘discipline’.

Indeed, the scene left me appalled, sick and shocked.

After viewing an individual sled dog repeatedly booted with full force, the male person doing the beating jumping back and forth like a pendulum with his full body weight to gain full momentum and impact.

He then alternated his beating technique with full-ranging, hard and fast, closed-fist punches like a piston to the dog as it was held by its harness splayed onto the ground.

He then staggeringly lifted the dog by the harness with two arms above waist height, then slammed the dog into the ground with full force, again repeatedly, all of this repeatedly.

The other dogs harnessed into the team were barking loudly and excitedly, jumping and running around frenzied in their harnesses.

The attack was sustained, continuing for several minutes perhaps over four minutes, within view at least, until the all-terrain vehicle I was a passenger on turned a curve on the converging trails, and the scene disappeared from view.

This particular dog was just under 10 days out from commencing racing in the long distance Iditarod race. It was later seen to have survived the attack, although bloodied as a result.

Personally, I have never witnessed such a violent attack on a living creature before. The image of that explosion of anger and physical force of one man on a smaller animal is burnt to my memory.”

– Jane Stevens, Australia
– Letter to the Editor, Whitehorse Star, February 23, 2011

Iditarod sled dog beaten with a shovel. Photo attributed to Rachel Ford James

Iditarod sled dog is beaten with a shovel. Photo attributed to Rachel Ford James on flickr

Dog beaten with shovel:

“I bought one of my dogs from a musher who bragged about beating him with a shovel. The musher’s son collaborated* this and was amused by the abuse.”

*GB Jones wrote “collaborated” but probably meant to write “corroborated.” Mr. Jones raced in the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011 Iditarods.

– Jones, GB. Winning the Iditarod: The GB Jones Story, Wasilla: Northern Publishing, 2005

Musher Mitch Seavey tells people to hit dogs:

“Call his name and a command, like ‘hike up.’ When he doesn’t respond, stop, go up to the dog, pull back on his tug line and with a pre-selected will stick about 1/2 inch in diameter and three feet long, give him a good whack on the butt as you repeat the command. You have to whack him good, too.”

“Distance racing does have its negative moments (gasp!); time when Fluffy would rather not do what I want him to do, like pull the dang sled.

‘Fluffy, hike up!’

Fluffy thinks, ‘No thanks. Actually I’m a little tired here, and pulling would be a negative experience so I don’t think I would like to pull the sled. No, I definitely don’t want to pull the sled right now.’

‘Fluffy, quit-your-screwing-around-you-miserable-excuse-of-a-fur-covered-garbage-disposal-before-I-whack-your-worthless-hiney-so-hard-you-will-need-two-stamps-to-send-back-a-postcard.’

Collect yourself a stick, give the verbal command ‘hike up; stop the sled, pull back on Fluffy’s tug line, and whack Fluffy’s butt.”

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

Beating puppies:

Mushers beat their dogs with quirt whips. A quirt whip has two falls or tails at the end. The core of the quirt is normally filled with lead shot. The handle is braided leather. Mushers can roll up quirt whips and put them into their pockets.

Mushers beat their dogs with quirt whips. The whip has two tails at the end, and a core that’s normally filled with lead shot. Mushers roll up their whips and hide them in their pockets.

“People sometimes ask me if I whip my dogs. Only when they are puppies. And they never forget. To discipline one of my grown dogs, all I have to do is slap it with my glove, and he will act as though he had a real beating.”

– Okleasik, Isaac, musher and writer. Vaudrin, Bill, compiler of articles. Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1977

“On many occasions, I witnessed the mother in law of an Iditarod musher strike puppies with a wiffle ball bat (a hollow plastic bat, approximately three feet long) to quiet them in harness and teach them to line out before a run. The puppies yelped and hit the ground, whimpering and clawing at the ground to try and get out of the way, trapped by their harnesses being hooked into the gangline.”

– 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

“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: Puppies being beaten with plastic bats to ‘quiet them’ while hooking them into harness.”

– 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 beaten into submission:

“They’ve had the hell beaten out of them.””You don’t just whisper into their ears, ‘OK, stand there until I tell you to run like the devil.’ They understand one thing: a beating. These dogs are beaten into submission the same way elephants are trained for a circus. The mushers will deny it. And you know what? They are all lying.”

-Tom Classen, retired Air Force colonel and Alaskan resident for over 40 years
-USA Today, March 3, 2000 in Jon Saraceno’s column

Whips made of eight strands of leather and weights:

“The old whips were made of seal leather, eight strands, as thick as a thumb and five feet long. The handle is about ten inches long. The leather is weighted about inches from the handle with a slender fill with shot.”

– Wendt, Ron. Alaska Dog Mushing Guide, Wasilla: Goldstream Publications, 1999

Dogs who don’t pull are dragged to death in harness:

“Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don’t pull dragged to death in harness. (Imagine being dragged by your neck-line at 15 miles per hour while suffering a major heart-attack!)…”

– Mike Cranford, Two Rivers, Alaska – The Bush Blade Newspaper, March, 2000, website article

Musher whips dogs who aren’t perfect:

“The main thing is to get the dogs to respond when you ask them to do something. You have got to get that message across. Every time you ask for something, they go to give it to you. If they don’t, they have to be corrected. There is only one way for me to correct and that is with the whip.”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Iditarod mushers whip sled dogs who stop or slow down going up hills, even the steep ones.

Iditarod mushers whip sled dogs who stop or slow down going up hills, even the steep ones.

Dogs get whipped if they stop while running up hills (even steep ones):

“In winter training I never get off the sled going up a hill. The dogs soon learn that they have to pull me up no matter how steep.”

“If the team should stop without any command from me, they will be whip corrected instantly because the rule is that they are not allowed to stop unless told to by the driver.”

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

Musher whips dogs for slowing down on hills:

“When I am training my dogs and I come to a hill, I want my dogs to lope up that hill and not quit on me. I know they can do it. When I am half way up and they slow down to a trot, if I tell them to ‘Get up’ and they just won’t give it to me, then, that is another time I would whip them.”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Dogs beaten for going off of trail to sniff or lift a leg and for going too slowly:

“Punishable offenses include pulling off of the trail to sniff or to lift a leg, going too slowly, not keeping the tugline tight, disobeying a command, being aggressive to humans, or fighting with each other.” “…A ‘spanking’ may be administered with…a birch/willow switch.”

– Hood, Mary H. A Fan’s Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland:Alpine Blue Ribbon Books, 1996

Dogs get whipped for stopping to relieve themselves:

Question asked of George Attla: “What do you do about a leader who stops to relieve himself?”

George Attla’s answer: “When I am starting a leader and he does this, I give him a whipping every time he does this.”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Musher Mitch Seavey says to beat dogs on their noses:

Iditarod musher says dogs should be beaten on their noses when they won't run. Photo attributed to A.C. Riley on flickr

Iditarod musher says dogs should be beaten on their noses when they won’t run. Photo attributed to A.C. Riley on flickr

“If he turns around and goes back, catch him and cuff him on the nose. Line him back up, push his rump forward, and repeat the command, ‘stay.'”

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

Beating dogs who scream:

“I find that licking a dog that doesn’t scream is not the right way to discipline it. Dogs that don’t scream simply don’t respond to whipping. The screamers do.”

– Redington, Joe, Sr., musher and writer. Vaudrin, Bill, compiler of articles. Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1977

Leaders who won’t run faster are whipped:

Question asked of George Attla: “A leader sets a pace, but not as fast as the team is capable of going. How do you get him to pick it up?”

George Attla’s answer: “If the dog has got it, if for that first mile he could really put out, really motor, and say you had four more miles to go, there is no reason in the world why he shouldn’t give it to you. Like you say his name is Ring. If I say, ‘Ring, get up!’ he knows I want more. If he doesn’t do it, and if I give this command three or four more times and he still doesn’t do it, I use my whip on him.”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Any dog who won’t run faster gets whipped:

“Maybe his name is Ring. You holler, ‘Get up, Ring!’ You try that three or four times and he doesn’t pick it up. Then you go there with your whip and whip him.”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Musher says Alaskans like dogs they can beat on:

“I heard one highly respected (sled dog) driver once state that “‘Alaskans like the kind of dog they can beat on.'”

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

Beatings are very commonplace:

“Beatings are very commonplace. Many mushers will even brag about it to their friends and all will have a hearty laugh and then look you right in the eyes and tell you how much they care about their dogs.”

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

Whip is called an “effective tool”:

“A whip is an effective tool and can be used as a warning, as punishment, or as encouragement.”

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

Dogs who mess up while passing are whipped:

Question asked of George Attla: “How do you train your leaders to pass?”

George Attla’s answer: “A lot of times the leaders, or even the dogs behind will try to hook the dogs they are passing with their heads. Then they get tangled up in their lines. Usually these dogs are just looking for a way of stopping with that team. I whip the dogs when they do this.” “After they pass, I teach them to pick it up. If I say ‘Get up!’ and they don’t pick it up right, or they start looking back at the other dogs, then I whip them for it.”

Question asked of George Attla: “How do you teach a new lead dog to pass?”

George Attla’s response: “I have a double lead, a new dog and one of my older leaders. My older leader naturally wants to go by real fast. If the new dog drags back too much or messes up the team, then there is hardly any way to get around giving him a whipping.”

– Attla, George, and Bella Levorsen, editor. Everything I Know About Training and Racing Sled Dogs, Rome: Arner Publications, 1974

Musher says beating dogs is very humane:

“Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective…A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective.” “It is a common training device in use among dog mushers…A whip is a very humane training tool.”

“Never say ‘whoa’if you intend to stop to whip a dog.” “So without saying ‘whoa’ you plant the hook, run up the side ‘Fido’ is on, grab the back of his harness, pull back enough so that there is slack in the tug line, say ‘Fido, get up’ immediately rapping his hind end with a whip….”

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

Musher says mushers should always have the whip with them:

“Denis Christman passed on a piece of advice that he had gotten from Bill Taylor years earlier. Never let the dogs see the whip until you are actually going to use it. Hide it, but always have it with you.”

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

Former dog handler, Ashley Keith, saw Iditarod mushers beat their dogs with pine branches. Then, I'd attribute the photo to Tweety2766/Susan on flickr.

Former dog handler, Ashley Keith, saw Iditarod mushers beat their dogs with pine branches. Photo attributed to Tweety2766/Susan on flickr.

Dogs whipped and hit with ATVs:

“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 whipped with pine branches to “encourage” them to go faster and maintain distance from an ATV. Some mushers even run the ATV up close enough to “bump” the dogs closest to the ATV when they are going too slow.”

– 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

Bolting dogs get physical punishment:

“You must take control. When a dog bolts anywhere you must make the time he bolts an unpleasant experience without disturbing the other dogs in the team too much.”

“Chances are if this has happened more than two or three times, ‘No’ will not be enough and this is where you have to know what region you live in and what it allows for animal discipline in teaching your dog. Will it allow for you to go up and pinch the dog’s ear or to strike your bolting dog with your hat?

You have to make these decisions because sometimes physical control may be the only way you can break a bolting dog.”

– Barve, Lavon. The Art of dog Mushing, Wasilla: Northern Adventures Publications, 2000

How to whip a dog without bothering teamates:

“If a dog messes up badly enough that he needs discipline, don’t whip it in the team. With animals as sensitive and high-strung as top racing dogs, whipping one is like whipping the whole team… Take the one that messed up out again the next day in a three-dog team, preferably with seasoned teammates who won’t be bothered. The dog will mess up again. Then lick him.”

– Redington, Jr., Joee, musher and writer. Vaudrin, Bill, compiler of articles. Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs, Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1977

Alaska veterinarian says mushers crack ribs, break jaws or skulls:

“Veterinarian Jeanne Olson talks of cracked ribs, broken jaws or skulls from the use of two-by-fours as a punishment enforcer.

‘There are mushers out there whose philosophy is…that if that dog acts up I will hit that dog to the point where it would rather die than do what it did, `cause the next time it is gonna die.’

Olson looks me right in the eye when she says this, and I ask her if people have actually said this to her. ‘Yes,’ she says ‘and they’re even proud of it.’

Sled dogs most often don’t get another chance. Many mushers kill dogs who fight, act up, don’t run as fast or even contain traits that are not desirable.”

– Stephanie Land, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Department of Journalism website, 2007
– Dr. Olson has been practicing veterinary medicine in Alaska since 1988.

Mushers beat their dogs with whatever is handy:

“Mushers use whatever is at hand to beat their dogs: Trail stakes, limbs, clubs, ice hooks, etc.”

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

High-profile musher seen beating dog:

“Ten years ago, this sled dog was saved by one of [Arna Dan] Isacsson’s friends, who came across her as she was being beaten by a musher while still harnessed to the team. Isacsson asked me not to use the dog’s name for fear the incident will be linked to that high-profile musher even today.”

– Lisa Wogan, Bark Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008
– Arna Dan Isacsson lives in Fairbanks, Alaska

Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on the ear to force them to race. Photo attributed to willowmina on flickr

Iditarod mushers bite sled dogs on the ear to force them to race. Photo attributed to willowmina on flickr

Mushers bite dog’s ears as punishment during training:

“Each Thursday on the Dog Sledding Examiner we will talk about training of sled dogs.”

“Some experienced mushers bite a dog’s ear to punish him, and they feel that it is a natural form of communication.”

– Robert Forto, Ph.D., Team Ineka Blog, June 3, 2010
– Dr. Forto is a canine behaviorist. He’s been a professional musher for 15 years and is training dogs for his participation in the 2013 Iditarod.

Dogs are choked, smothered and beaten:

“The abuse occurs during training and out of the public’s eyes. I’ve seen the dogs choked, smothered and beaten with everything from clubs to steel snowhooks. One musher showed me his club made out of chain and how well it worked and he was proud of it.”

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

Noises used to terrify dogs


From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Some mushers attach “jigglers” or “poppers” to their whips. When they whip their dogs, the “jigglers” or “poppers” make a noise. As a result, the dogs become conditioned to think that the noise from a “jiggler” or a “popper” means the musher will inflict pain by whipping them. For these dogs, those noises alone are terrifying.

“If a dog growls or tires to nip at the other one, I always reprimand them right then, even though I have a dog in one hand. The next time I may have a small popper in my pocket. If so, I can discipline the dog if he tries to bite the other dog.”

– Barve, Lavon. The Art of dog Mushing, Wasilla: Northern Adventures Publications, 2000

Use of force is widespread


“Cim Smyth of Big Lake said while any kind of force should not be allowed on the Iditarod Trial, he doesn’t know of many mushers who don’t discipline their dogs during training.”

– Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, April 28, 2007

“You are trying to train the dog. I think some pretty common training techniques that have developed are the possibility of biting or twisting their ear of slapping them with a short leather quirt*.”

*A quirt is a whip consisting of a short stout stock and a lash of braided leather.
– Swenson, Rick. The Secrets of Long Distance Training and Racing, 1987

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: During the Iditarod mushers are by themselves most of the time. They could easily use force on their dogs without being seen. When mushers habitually train their dogs using force, why wouldn't they do it during the Iditarod when there is far more at stake?]

Debunking the big sled dog myth

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Mushers have promoted the myth that sled dogs are the only dogs who love to run. However, the love of running is inborn in all dogs. A study in The Journal of Experimental Biology* found that dogs' bodies release a marijuana-like substance when they run for a long period of time. This substance encourages them to run. But, just like us, dogs don't want to run when they're exhausted, sick or injured. Mushers beat, club, kick and bite dogs to get them to run or to run faster.]

The love of running is inborn in all dogs:

“Searching, retrieving, running and chasing are all natural forms of work and play for dogs.”

– Bethel Mill Animal Hospital, New Jersey, website article 2013

“Running is very high on most dogs’ lists of favorite things to do. He’ll do it as often as you’ll let him. Dogs are exuberant creatures.”

– Petcentric.com, website article, 2013

“Dogs love to run….”

– Orchard Animal Clinic’s advertisement in The Loveland Reporter-Herald, July, 2013

Nature rewards dogs who run with euphoria-inducing buzz, which encourages more running:

“Researchers at the University of Arizona have found that dog’s bodies release a chemical similar to one found in marijuana when they run for a prolonged period of time.

David Raichlen and his team studied endocannabinoids and found that “‘a neurobiological reward for endurance exercise may explain why humans and other cursorial mammals habitually engage in aerobic exercise.'”

“Dogs are considered to be cursorial animals, meaning that they have legs adapted for running.”

– Jennifer Viegas, News.Discovery.com, May 14, 2013
– Oregon State University Vet Gazette, May 31, 2013
*Raichlen, David A.; Foster, Adam D.; Gerdeman, Gregory L.; Seillier, Alexandra and Giuffrida, Andrea. “Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runners high.’” Journal of Experimental Biology, April 15, 2012, pages 1331-1336

Training damages a dog's digestive tract

Training results in significant gastrointestinal damage:

“I reviewed a recent study about gastrointestinal damage resulting from training and racing sled dogs which appeared in a well-respected veterinary journal. Two of the more interesting conclusions presented were:

Training alone, without the additional stress of racing, results in significant, measurable gastrointestinal damage.

and

Serious stomach ulcers and other significant, measurable gastrointestinal damage results from racing as little as 100 miles.”

– Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, President, Association of Veterinarians for Animals Rights
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on December 17, 2006

Training creates negative metabolic and physiological imbalances:

“Hypoglobulinemia in resting, conditioned sled dogs may reflect the immunosuppressive or catabolic effects of intense endurance training.”

– McKenzie EC, Jose-Cunilleras E, et al. “Serum chemistry alterations in Alaskan sled dogs during five successive days of prolonged endurance exercise,” Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, May 15, 2007

“Hypoglobulinemia is a lower than normal concentration of globulins proteins.”

– vetconnect.com.au, September 1, 2007

Dogs forced to pull very heavy weight

Anabolic steroids an issue because dogs are forced to pull trucks and heavy sleds:

“The dogs are pulling sleds totaling more than 400 pounds each. To prepare, teams might pull a truck. No wonder anabolic steroids are an issue.”

– Greg Cote, Miami Herald, March 5, 2002

Dogs pull 400 to 500 pounds in the sled:

“Whether we are just crawling up a steep hill with four hundred or five hundred pounds in the sled, or traveling fast on a hard-packed trail, I like to break up training runs every two hours.”

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

Dogs pull trucks:

“How is Emmet [Peters] training with no snow on the trails? ‘Well, I saw Emmet hook a team to his truck,’ Mark [Nordman] reported.”

– Mark Nordman, is Iditarod’s Race Marshall
– Joe Runyan, “Weather Confounds Iditarod Mushers” on Cabela’s website, Feb. 22, 2002

“Some people use their truck. This method, though it gives control to the driver, is fraught with pitfalls. The driver is unable to sense how fast and hard the dogs are working.”

– Jim Welch, The Speed Mushing Manual, 1990

“Martin Buser told me of a trick he has used when training with his truck. He has a length of very heavy chain between his front bumper and the rear end of the gangline. The chain is long enough so that he can see it from the driver’s seat and heavy enough so that the dogs have to be pulling fairly hard in order to keep the chain from drooping on the ground.”

– Jim Welch, The Speed Mushing Manual, 1990

Dogs pull ATVs:

“They pull a 500-pound ATV around in summer.”

– Chapoton, C. Mark. A Tale of Two Iditarods, Big Lake: CMC, 2008

“I always try to free-run the dogs with a four wheeler whenever I can.”

– Doug Swingley, Iditarod race winner
– Joe Runyan, “Doug Swingley-The Greatest Ever?” on Cabela’s website, Feb. 25, 2002

“Susan [Butcher] harnesses a team to an ATV.”

– Dolan, Ellen. Susan Butcher and the Iditarod Trail, 1993

“The four wheeler is a great training tool.”

– Joe Runyan, Winning Strategies for Distance Mushers, 1997

“Comparatively few Iditarod fans realize that when the snow is gone, we still mush. Instead of a toboggan sled skimming over the snow, the driver rides an all-terrain vehicle.”

– Lew Freedman & Dee Dee Jonrowe. Iditarod Dreams, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1995<

“We’ve been running our teams for a couple of weeks with ATVs on unpaved local borough roads.” [Alaska has boroughs, not counties.]

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

“Dogs are hooked up to all-terrain vehicles for runs.”

– Jon Saraceno, USA Today, March 5, 2001

“As you start out on your four-wheeler training in the first gear, motor off, you will find it hard to believe that 16 dogs can even pull the machine. Then you will come to the first hill and you will think surely I should use the motor here; no way are they going to make it to the top. Well, perhaps not, but then maybe you need different dogs. If you drive your truck up the hill in four-wheel-drive, then the 16-dog team should be able to pull a 300cc four-wheeler up it. Make them pull it up there, step by step, creeping up hill until you level out and speed up.”

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

9-month-old puppies pull a four-wheeler on dirt:

“We start serious training in the Fall, but you will work with us to ‘harness break’ our 9 month old puppies using a four-wheeler to run them on a dirt trail.”

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

Dogs pull heavy car chassis:

“[Terry] Adkins kept his dogs working through the summer, dragging a heavy car chassis through mountains near his home.”

– O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996
– O’Donoghue was a reporter for the Fairbanks News-Miner

Pulling heavy loads harms dogs:

“In order to condition dogs for racing, they are forced to pull heavy loads like vehicles. Not only does this put inordinate stress on their cardiovascular and respiratory systems, but it also causes strains and fractures of their musculoskeletal systems and rupture of the tendons and ligaments of their joints. In addition to painful acute injuries, almost all dogs allowed to survive until middle age will experience crippling arthritis from cumulative, repetitive damage to the spine and joints.”

– Dr. Paula Kislak, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, September 7, 2004 email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition

Sled dogs tortured with shockers

Sled dogs are shocked with handheld cattle prods that mushers can keep in their pockets.

Sled dogs are shocked with handheld cattle prods that mushers can keep in their pockets.

Cattle prods used on dogs:

“There is an undeniable need, in some cases for negative reinforcement.

One of the most effective tools for doing this is an electrical shocker. I always bought the small pocket models available at stores that sell stock supplies which are inconspicuous, yet effective.”

“This is the way I do it. Stop the team and snub them to a tree. Say the name of the offender, ‘Blazo,’ in a firm voice and give the slacker a short blast of electrons.”

“When he slacks off again, say his name again. If Blazo doesn’t hit the tow line, try it again. Usually a couple of times is all it takes.”

– Runyan, Joe. Winning Strategies for Distance Mushers, Sacramento: Griffin Printing Co.,1997
– Joe Runyan reported on the Iditarod for Iditarod sponsor Cabela’s Incorporated

Electric shock collars are used to terrorize sled dogs.

Electric shock collars are used to terrorize sled dogs. Photo attributed to wikimedia

“I’ve seen small hand held shockers used to motivate the dogs and they put out quite jolt.”

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

Electric collars used on dogs:

“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 shocked with electric collars to prevent them from fighting while running in harness.”

– 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

Electric shock to terrorize dogs is very detrimental:

“The use of electrical shock to terrorize a dog is very detrimental on many levels. It will force a dog to exceed his reasonable physical limitations and predispose him to painful injuries. And psychologically it creates fear and apprehension which degrades his quality of life. The shock stimulus itself, if inaccurately calibrated, can cause localized burns or sudden cardiac arrest.”

– Dr. Paula Kislak, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, September 7, 2004 email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition

The dogs train in stagnant water, which they often drink. This can be dangerous. Stagnant water may contain harmful bacteria and parasites. Photo courtesy of SledDogma.org

The dogs train in stagnant water, which they often drink. This can be dangerous. Stagnant water may contain harmful bacteria and parasites.
Photo courtesy of SledDogma.org

Deadly water training

How many Iditarod sled dogs died when they were tethered by the neck and forced to tread water for 45 minutes or more?

How many Iditarod sled dogs died because they were tethered by the neck and forced to tread water for 45 minutes or more? Photo attributed to jremsikr on flickr

Tethered dogs forced to train by treading water:

“While [Jeff] King’s idea was to string about 15 dogs at a time between two boats so the dogs can swim laps around the lake for 90 minutes, Another experienced musher’s game plan is much more compact. About eight dogs jump into his 7-foot-deep pool and get a workout for about 45 minutes.

“‘They’re just treading water in the pool, but they tread or otherwise they’ll sink,’ he said, pointing out that treading water for close to an hour is hard work.”

– The photo which accompanied the article showed the dogs treading water in a pool with one tether attached to the collar of each dog.
– Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod website, October 27, 2006
– Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

Forcing a tethered dog to tread water can be harmful:

“Forcing a dog to tread water while tethered by the neck for 45 or more minutes, and the only alternative is to sink and drown, will likely result in over-exertion and exhaustion.

Under these negative circumstances they may easily inhale water and choke or develop pulmonary inflammation or aspiration pneumonia.”

– Dr. Paula Kislak, DVM, President, Association of Veterinarians for Animals Rights
– Email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on December 17, 2006

Dog deaths, injuries and sickness during training for Iditarod

Some snowmobiles can move at speeds up to 150 mph (240 km/h). Iditarod sled dogs have been killed and injured by snowmobiles. Photo attributed to janandersen_dk on flickr

Some snowmobiles can move at speeds up to 150 mph (240 km/h). Iditarod sled dogs have been injured and killed by snowmobiles. Photo attributed to janandersen_dk on flickr

Dog killed by snowmachine:

“The road [Denali Highway] is also laid out perfectly for long training runs, which have become the norm for Iditarod and Quest mushers these days.”<

“The open road allows snowmachiners to travel at high speeds and one musher had a dog killed earlier this winter when one of two snowmachines that were racing down the road ran into the musher’s team.”

– Tim Mowry (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner), Juneau Empire, December 30, 2007

Dog injured by snowmachine:

“Michelle’s [Phillips] lead dog Hickory was expected to run in this year’s Iditarod but he was seriously injured by a snowmachine.”

– Michell Phillips’ Tagish Lake Kennel website, 2012

Iditarod musher's sled dog dies from eating rope.

Iditarod musher’s sled dog dies from eating rope.

Dallas Seavey’s dog dies after eating rope:

“One of the first major events in training was actually my main lead dog Frig passed away rather unexpectedly, ended up eating some rope, took him into the vet to have everything removed, surgery went great. When they took him off the anesthetics his heart just basically stopped.”

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

Dog killed by moose:

“So as the moose closed with the dogs, they now charged toward it.

‘They couldn’t get up to a very fast speed because of the drag,’ Smyth said, ‘but the leaders got past. The moose started working on the swing dogs. He kind of raised up for a one-two strike.’

One of the dogs was hit hard and went down, then got stomped hard. Smyth thinks now that must have been Fido.

The moose, Smyth said, ‘came down on him with both front feet, and then it just started with the rest of the team.’

As the dogs rolled on, the moose came racing up the gangline, hooves flying, until it got to the sled.” “When Smyth turned back to his team, he saw immediately that Fido was down.”

“When he went to the dog, he found him struggling to breathe. His stomach was distended, his sides swollen. Probably, the blow from the moose had ruptured blood vessels and he was bleeding internally. In that case, there wouldn’t be much that could be done even if a veterinarian was there, and the nearest veterinarian was tens of miles away.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, January 25, 2005

While training for the Iditarod, sled dogs have been injured or killed from tangles in the ganglines.

While training for the Iditarod, sled dogs have been injured or killed from tangles in the ganglines.

Dogs strangled to death:

“Nine of the 10 sled dogs that kept going when their musher [Jan Stevens] fell off near Willow survived two days of tangles, fights and hunger while trapped together on their gangline before being rescued Wednesday afternoon.”

“One dog, Tappy, was dead, apparently strangled in the mess of harnesses, said Ted English, the veteran musher who owns the team and who had loaned it to another musher.

‘Almost everybody had some type of bite wound on them, and a couple of them had already formed some abscesses…. [Erin] McLarnon said.'”

– Erin McLarnon is president of the Will Dog Mushers Association.
– James Halpin, Anchorage Daily News, December 31, 2009

“One of the dogs had become tangled in its harness and was beyond any possibility of resuscitation.”

– Jim Lanier. Beyond Ophir: Confessions of an Iditarod Musher, An Alaskan Odyssey, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

“A year later, [Jon] Terhune entered the Kusko a second time. He viewed it as a final Iditarod tune-up.”

“Dandy, the musher’s favorite, most dependable lead dog, was running inside the team.”

“But the strategy backfired tragically when Dandy fell on the slick ice. She dragged in a tangle of lines while Terhune battled to slow his runaway team. But he couldn’t plant his hook in the hard river ice. Afterward, he spent 20 minutes trying to revive poor Dandy. To no avail. The lead dog was dead.”

– O’Donoghue, Brian Patrick. My Lead Dog was a Lesbian, New York: Vintage Books, 1996

Dogs fatally injured by motorized vehicles:

- – Two dogs die:

“A 23-year-old North Pole man was charged with reckless driving in connection with the hit-and-run death of a sled dog last October.”

“According to musher Jeff Holt, Tanner ran through the intersection of Peede and Brock roads and struck Goose, a leader, shattering his jaw so severely the dog had to be euthanized.”

“Goose was the second of Holt’s sled dogs to die at the hands of a hit-and-run driver.

Chip, an older lead dog, was killed during a training run in early 2003 when a six-wheel all-terrain vehicle drove into Holt’s 10-dog team and over the sled Holt was driving. Two other dogs were injured; the collision left Holt with a broken hand and damaged sled.”

– Amanda Bohman, Fairbanks News-Miner, July 14, 2005

- – Five dogs die:

“[Jon] Little took out a four-wheeler pulled by 13 dogs, and was followed by another four-wheeler pulled by 12 dogs, being driven by Mike Barnett, a friend and past handler of Little’s from the winter of 2006-07. It was getting dark as they neared the tail-end of an 8-mile run, and to finish up they needed to cross the Sterling Highway near it’s intersection with Kalifornsky Beach Road — a busy location, but one Little had safely driven dog teams over for more than 10 years.

‘I got across and then signalled to Mike to hold up because there was a lot of traffic,’ Little said.

Barnett said he got the dogs stopped, briefly jumped off to deal with a tangle, then hopped back on the wheeler and began to wait for several minutes as a stream of continuous vehicles came through. However, as the dogs got their wind while on the break, they got their legs under them too, and started pulling against the four-wheeler’s brakes, which after several training seasons were not as new as they once were.

‘They started pulling me, further and further. Jon was waving to stop and I was riding the brakes, but they got into the road,’ Barnett said.

‘I saw the car and saw the dog and knew something bad was going to happen,’ Little said.

Six dogs — all lead dogs or leaders in training — were struck by a southbound 2007 Subaru Outback driven by Richard Abboud of Homer.”

“Of the six that were hit, one dog miraculously sustained no injuries, but three others were killed instantly. These dogs were Belfast, a 5-year-old female and an Iditarod veteran, Breaburn, a 4-year-old female that, while leased out, finished the Iditarod on Jeff King’s second-place team in 2008 and on Zack Steer’s third-place team in 2007, and Nike, a 4-year-old male and another Iditarod veteran.

Two other dogs were hit and sustained injuries, but did not die at the scene. One was Handel, a 9-year-old female in semi-retirement that had eight 1,000 mile races to her name, including leading portions of the Iditarod last season while leased to Joe Runyan. Unfortunately, Handel had to be euthanized on Tuesday due to the extent of her internal injuries.”

– Joseph Robertia, Peninsula Clarion, October 2, 2008
– Jon Little works for Cabela’s and writes a blog that’s published on the Iditarod website.
– He formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

- – One dog dies:

“And I had Nugget. She was a great dog. In 1977 I was training my dogs in Anchorage and she slipped her harness and got away from me. She ran off and got hit by a car and was killed.”

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

Dog dead from dogfight:

“Meanwhile Ivor and a male named Dancer kept trying to join the battle. I kept throwing them aside as I hung on to Tiger in a frantic attempt to save him from Wayne’s powerful jaws.”

“Each time Way was able to get a firmer, more deadly grip until Tiger was seriously injured.”

“We were at Dr. Sept’s office at eight o’clock the following morning. Bob operated on Tiger until noon, attempting to patch him back together.”

“Tiger died on the operating table.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013
– Burt Bomhoff served on the Iditarod’s board of directors, as Iditarod president for many years, and ran dogs in the race seven times.

Dog killed by another dog after training run:

“I broke my right shoulder in November. The dogs didn’t run for two weeks. I hired a gal to go out there and train them with Varona [Thompson]. I was back home in Wasilla recuperating. I tried to fly back and forth every day to see how things were going.

Things weren’t going well. After a run, one of the dogs killed another.”

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

Training over rocky ground

During training, dogs pull an ATV over hard, rocky ground. This injures their paws and tendons.

Running on bare ground is murder on paws and tendons:

“His [Kurt Reich] ragtag band of 24 mutts has had to practice for weeks by pulling an ATV because there is not enough winter around Pikes Peak for a sled.”

“Of course, training in the semi-rural hills of Teller County poses its own challenges. Dirt bikes have almost hit the dogs on forest trails. Trouble-making neighborhood retrievers like to chase the ATV. And the lack of snow is murder on the dogs’ paws. Two are out with tendonitis and Reich has to rub his pooches’ pads with Vaseline to sooth dry cracks.”

– Dave Phillips, The Gazette, February 14, 2009

Cracked pad on dog's paw. Running on hard, rocky ground makes painful cracks or cuts in a dog's pads.

Cracked pad on dog’s paw. Running on hard, rocky ground makes painful cracks or cuts in a dog’s pads.

“The scant snowfall across the state has forced frustrated mushers to leave their sleds in the garage and instead train their dogs with four-wheelers.””Some mushers have reported that running on the hard, frozen ground has damaged the dogs’ paw pads.” “‘With the frozen ground, the little rocks become like very rough sandpaper,’ he [musher Linwood Fiedler] said.”

– Ron Wilmot, Anchorage Daily News, November 17, 2002

20 dogs drown in freezing water training for Iditarod:

“I got out on the ice with the lead ten-dog team. My wife [Kristen] was behind me, following with ten more dogs. I got about a mile and a half out, and the ice didn’t seem safe to me. Sure enough, the sled broke through the ice and I went into the water.”

“Then my team pulled the sled out of the water and I was able to get myself out.”

“I said to Kristen, ‘Let’s start for home and the dogs will follow us.’ For a while it looked like it was going to work. The dogs would have a lighter load and the ice might hold.

But then the dogs got farther and farther from shore, and they got tangled up in a big ball in the harness. From twenty dogs all spread out, now there were twenty dogs all concentrated in a small area. It was a thousand pounds of dogs. Kristen and I were almost to shore when we turned back and saw this mayhem of splashing dogs. I was in shock. Kristen said, ‘The dogs have fallen in.’ I said, ‘Get the canoe.’

By the time we got back with the canoe, there was nothing moving there.”

“I remember looking down into that hole and seeing a gang line and dogs and black water, and I knew that we had lost them.”

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

Dogs almost drown:

“‘Earlier this winter, I fell in the little Su training and I damn near drowned my team,’ says [Jason] Mackey.”

– Emily Schwing, KUAC.org, March 8, 2013

- At 50 degrees below mushers and dogs fall through ice:

“No matter the temperature, moving water under the ice can break the surface, which explains why dog mushers fall through rivers and lakes in the Bush while the temperature is a raging 50 degrees below, [Marc] Scholten said.”

– Andrew Petty, Juneau Empire, December 4, 2005

Leg hold trap. While training for the Iditarod, sled dogs have suffered horrific pain and injury from leg hold traps.

Leg hold trap with teeth or serrations. While training for the Iditarod, sled dogs have suffered horrific pain and injury from leg hold traps.

Dogs caught in leg-hold traps suffer horrific injury and pain:

“Some trappers, especially wolf trappers, set their traps in the middle of the trail hoping to catch something running the trail. She [Libby Riddles] said her dogs had gotten into traps twice. One of her wheelers got a hind foot caught in a trap, which must have been murderously painful. Before she could put on the brakes, the rest of the team had stretched the poor wheel dog to the point where his leg must have been ten feet long.

She said it was extremely difficult to remove the dog from the trap because of its pain, which cause it to snap, bite, and growl every time she got near it.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Hard impact causes hole bigger than 1/8 inch in dog’s eye:

“Sometime during a training run she [Rhu] ended up getting poked in the eye. It left an 1/8”+ sized hole in one of her eyes. It was disgusting!!!”

– Ed Stielstra, Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Racing & Adventures, blog, November 25, 2012

Dog’s nose gets bloody injury when a stick is thrust up his nostril:

 “He [Scissors] was running along and snagged a stick up his nostril! Blood was pouring out of his right nostril and he couldn’t stop sneezing.”

– Ed Stielstra, Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Racing & Adventures, blog, November 25, 2012

Granular snow. When sled dogs run on granular snow, their paws bleed.

Granular snow. When sled dogs run on granular snow, their paws bleed. Photo attributed to MTSOfan on flickr

Sharp granular snow makes paws bleed:

“We were on a long run and I began to see tiny spots of blood on the trial from the dogs’ feet. Snow is quite granular during extremely cold weather and can become as sharp as bits of broken glass. “

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Eight dogs injured:

“Eight of Dr. Knolmayer’s 20 dogs were injured at some point this winter.

It was more injuries than I expected, and some of it might have been because of our training in the mountains — dogs aren’t designed to run downhill. They’ve all improved, but a week and a half ago Tomahawk was injured. He’s my best and toughest leader, but I don’t think he’s going to make the race,” Dr. Knolmayer said.”

– Capt. Amy Hansen, Air Force Link, March 4, 2005

Lead dog injured before the race started:

“Gebhardt had a trying winter training and nearly lost his chief leader to injury before the race began in Anchorage on March 3.”

– Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 21, 2001

Dog collapses:

“’One is healing from surgery and is not recovered enough and the other in training the other day collapsed on us and was just sluggish, so better safe than sorry, [G.B.] Jones said.”

– Robert DeBerry, Frontiersman, March 6, 2011

Dogs get banged-up:

During a training run Wednesday, [Kelly] Maixner noted a few dogs having some trouble.“I got a few little banged-up dogs,” said Maixner.

– Robert DeBerry, Frontiersman, March 6, 2011

Ice hook snagged dog’s leg; dog needs 10 stitches:

“Two weeks ago, Jonrowe said she had a mishap with her new lead dog, 3-year-old Softail. An ice hook snagged his back leg while she was practicing with another team. The injury required 10 stitches. ‘I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t say anything. I just picked him up and put him in the sled,’ she (Jonrowe) said.”

Anchorage Daily News, “Mushers into Skwenta,” March 6, 2000

During a training run, a pair of lead dogs ran in front of a fast-moving semi-tractor and trailer. The truck slammed into the dogs at almost full speed, instantly killing three, injuring another.

During a training run, a pair of lead dogs ran in front of a fast-moving semi-tractor and trailer. The truck slammed into the dogs at almost full speed, instantly killing three, injuring another.

Dogs hit and killed by semi tractor:

“During a training run along the George Parks Highway, a pair of his (Dave Straub’s) lead dogs bolted across the pavement in front of a fast-moving semi tractor and trailer.” “The semi slammed into the dogs at almost full speed, instantly killing three, injuring another.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2000

Moose killed sled dogs during the Iditarod. Photo attributed to Travis S.on flickr

Moose have injured sled dogs who were on training runs. Photo attributed to Travis S.on flickr

Moose attack injures dogs:

“Whatever the catalyst, the animal wasn’t looking for a way out of the situation, and instead of fleeing to the woods, turned on Paul [Gebhardt] and his team. Laying her ears back, the [moose] cow immediately charged into the team – hooves slashing at the defenseless dogs. Attacking the dogs in the lead position first, she then proceeded to work her way the entire length of the team, stomping and slashing with her hooves as she went.”

“The ones bearing open, bleeding wounds were the most obvious. But we would sooner learn, that it was the hidden injuries that did the most damage.”

“X-Rays revealed her [Zanadoo] collapsed lung and crushed ribs. Sheered off at the spine and disjointed at the bottom, the bones had been crushed with one fatal blow from the moose. Less than a 50% chance of making it through the extensive surgery, not including the possibility of infection later. If she did survive, she would never have the capacity to be a performance athlete again. I cannot imagine the pain Paul must have experienced at having to decide to do the humane thing.”

– Evy Gebhardt, talking about Paul Gebhart’s training run, Aspen Hollow Lodging website, 2009

[With the surgery could Zanadoo have survived? Did Paul Gebhart euthanize Zanadoo because she would never again be a performance athlete?]

“Macky said the moose jumped the team again, stepping in the one empty slot where a dog was missing.

‘She was just ornery,’ Macky said….

One of Mackey’s dogs was kicked between the shoulder blades.”

– Jenni Dillion, Peninsula Clarion, March 10, 2004

“When she was two years old, a moose stomped through [Ed] Iten’s team during a training run, shattering Zoey’s leg with a single stamp of its cloven hoof. Her leg was literally flopping around.”

– Jon Little, Cabelas Iditarod Coverage, website March 11, 2006
– Jon Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

“Joe Redington Sr., had to sit out this year’s Iditarod because of injuries suffered a few weeks ago when an irate moose trampled his team during a practice run.”

– Colin Nickerson, Boston Globe, March 15, 1983

“Irving, a 5-year-old, must remain behind. He’s on the disabled list this year with a muscle tear in his hind leg. The consequence of what [Karen] Ramstead calls an ‘ambush’ attack during a recent training run on popular dog sled trails outside Willow.

Every musher has a moose story. Tales of charging bulls, or shattered sleds or head-on collisions with 1,000-pound cows.”

– Kyle Hopkins, iditablog, Anchorage Daily News, February 25, 2012

One dog dies of heart attack and another injured in Iditarod qualifier, the Knik 200:

“Only six days off the jet from London, standing on the runners of a dogsled for only the third time in his life and still trying to shake the jet-lag our of his head, Englishman Allen Garth wondered what he was doing in the middle of a sled dog race through the frigid Alaska wilds.”

“He’d signed with the legendary Joe Redington to train for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race….”

“Only a few hours away from the starting line, Garth endured the trauma of a dog death in his team.”

“‘I had a dog die after 18 or 15 miles out,’ Garth said.

Veterinarians determined the animal had a heart attack.”

“He was loading the carcass of the dead dogs into his sled when a fight broke out in his team. That resulted in a serious gash on the foot of one of his lead dogs.”

– Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, January 15, 1991

Dogs injured fighting with other dogs on team:

“My shot at winning the 2008 was ended prematurely when the main leader of what I consider to be the most talented team I ever had, up to that point, was badly chewed up by several other dogs in the team. We were camping at a training location so the tethering arrangements were less than ideal. While I was away from the dogs for a few minutes, one dog got loose and stared a fight. A gang chain broke, and at least five dogs piled on my leader. He managed to survive by getting out of his collar and hiding under the dog truck, though he needed a load of stitches…”

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

“He [Irving] had to stay home after fighting with another dog during a training run and suffering a puncture wound in his leg.”

– Irving is Karen Ramstead’s dog.

– Kyle Hopkins, iditarodblog, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2012

“Her most ‘hair raising’ Iditarod experience didn’t occur in the race itself. It came in the middle of training when [Shelly] Gill needed more dogs, after a dog fight injured three members of her team during a preliminary run.”

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

“Tiger and Dancer tried to turn around and follow Mark back to the cabin and got into a fight in the process.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Dog breaks leg:

“Ryan noticed that Pop has a slight fracture. He injured this same leg last year. His season & probably his racing career are over.”

– Emil Curchin, Training Blog & Dog Bios, 2012

Dogs injured by porcupine quills:

“This season the sled dog training at the lower elevations has been wrought by run-ins with porcupines.

‘It seems to be there’s more of them this year,’ [Tim] Osmar said. ‘They’re on the trails, on the beach, they’re everywhere.'”

“‘A porcupine was there,’ he[Osmar] said. ‘Three dogs got quilled: my leaders and a swing dog. One of them had them bad; they were in the dog’s mouth, face and shoulder.’ Osmar couldn’t pull the quills out on site. Also, with several young pups in the main team, and his lead dogs incapacitated from their injuries, Osmar had no way of running the team home, so he flagged down a passing car.

– Joseph Robertia, Peninsula Clarion, October 6, 2009

Photo of porcupine quills, Alaska, attributed to StevenErat on flickr

Photo of porcupine quills, Alaska, attributed to StevenErat on flickr

- Porcupine quills can puncture internal organs, cause abscesses and pain:

“The one thing you should not do is wait for the quills to work themselves out of your pet’s skin on their own. They won’t. Instead, because quills are barbed, two things may happen. First, your pet is likely to break them off as he tries to paw them out himself. This ultimately makes the quills harder to remove and also may result in abscessing. Second, since quills are designed to travel one way only, they tend to bury themselves deeper with time, and eventually they can even soften and migrate far enough to puncture an internal organ.”

- Bricklin, Mark. Pets as Part of the Family: The Total Care Guide for all the Pets in Your Life, Rodale Press, 1999

- Veterinarians should remove porcupine quills and give dogs anesthesia prior to removal:

“If your pet has more than a few quills embedded in her (a pooch can get several hundred at a time from a single porcupine), don’t fool around. Take her to the vet immediately. She’s probably in a lot of pain and will be much more comfortable if anesthetized before the lengthy process of removing the quills begins.” 

– Bricklin, Mark. Pets as Part of the Family: The Total Care Guide for all the Pets in Your Life, Rodale Press, 1999

An abscess can result when a dog tries to remove a porcupine quill by pawing at it.

An abscess can result when a dog tries to remove a porcupine quill by pawing at it.

“Your veterinarian is best-equipped to remove quills. Quill removal is painful and quills may break off inside your pet. Removing quills under anesthesia reduces traumatic removal/quill breakage and allows for more thorough checking. (All muscles and skin are relaxed, making it easier to palpate for quills).”

– Dr. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, about.com, 2013

- Musher removes porcupine quills and dogs get NO anesthesia:

“A multitude of [porcupine] quills protrude from muzzles, noses, eyeballs, legs, etc. No part of a dog’s anatomy is immune. Some poor pooches are so distraught that I need to restrain them and carry them home. Then comes the night’s main event, in my garage with extractions, utilizing the instrument that best grabs, quill by quill.”

– Jim Lanier. Beyond Ophir: Confessions of an Iditarod Musher, An Alaskan Odyssey, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Dog has severe harness burns:

“I found that Leeda has severe harness burns because one of the handlers had put a harness on her that was too small. The long run gave it plenty of time to chafe.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Dogs develop diarrhea:

“Several of the dogs are developing diarrhea.”

– Don Bower’s is talking about his dogs developing diarrhea during the Copper Basin 300, an Iditarod qualifying race.
– Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000

Musk ox kills sled dogs. Photo attributed to Travis S on flickr

Musk ox kills sled dogs. Photo attributed to Travis S on flickr

Dogs killed by musk ox:

“Bethel radio station KYUK reports on a Russian Mission man who encountered a musk ox that killed his main swing dog and leader.”

Anchorage Daily News, December 22, 2010

Dogs start to fight.

Sled dogs start to fight. They live at the end of chains, which makes them aggressive.

Chief vet tells mushers how to avoid detection of prohibited medications used during training

“All prohibited drugs must be out of the dogs system at the time of the pre-Race veterinary check. Most anti-inflamatories such as pherrylbutazone and aspirin, which may be used on an injured dog during training are out of the system by 72 hours after they are given. To give a wide safety margin, I recommend that you discontinue all prohibited medications 2 weeks before the start of the Race unless they have been authorized by the head veterinarian.”

– Chief Iditarod veterinarian, Karin Schmidt, DVM
– 1994 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Musher’s/Veterinarian’s Handbook

Sadistic training on wheel

Burt Bomhoff socialized while dogs ran endlessly:

“Joe [Redington] would often stop by to visit Burt and enjoy a cup of tea with honey while the dogs made endless circles on the training wheel.”

–  Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

Dogs have been chained to exercise wheels and forced to run endlessly. Photo attributed to Grom HellScream on flickr, July 27, 2010

Dogs have been chained to exercise wheels and forced to run endlessly. Photo attributed to Grom HellScream on flickr, July 27, 2010

Sadism:

“Another good plan [for exercising racing sled dogs] is to erect a ‘Russian merry-go-round’ with four or more arms, to each of which a dog is chained. This will give them all the exercise they want. If there are more than two dogs, it very often happens (especially with young ones) that they never all want to lie down at the same time. It is very amusing to watch them jerk the lazy one to his feet and start pulling him around when he doesn’t want to go. The more he pulls back and growls, the more the other seem to delight in keeping him on the jump.”

- Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: The dog who didn't want to run could have been injured, sick or exhausted.]

Joe Redington, Sr. watched TV:

“He [Joe Redington, Sr.] invented a dog wheel that looked like a Ferris wheel turned on its side. He could hook up as many as thirty dogs at a time and watch them run in circles, sort of like gerbils. The dogs trotted ten or twelve miles an hour around and around a loop of a hundred and fifty-five feet.

‘You could sit there and watch television and put forty miles on the dogs,’ said Redington who admitted he did that a few times.”

– Freedman, Lew. Father of the Iditarod, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 1999

Mushers shove matchsticks up dog's butts

Mushers shove matchsticks up a dog's butt to get the dog to poop on command. Photo attributed to ajalfaro on flickr

Mushers shove matchsticks up a dog’s butt to get the dog to poop on command. Photo attributed to ajalfaro on flickr

“Training a dog to poop on command is challenging at best, so [Rex] Jones uses the old matchstick-up-the butt trick.

‘The irritation of the matchstick helps them clean their system and therefore run a better race,’ said Jones.”

– Rex Jones is the owner and operator of Arctic Paws Kennel and Sled Dog School in Chugiak, Alaska.
– Jillian Rogers, Yukon News, March 8, 2006

Dogs trained to race are under great stress

“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: Training regimes so stressful that dogs discontinue eating, lose weight rapidly, and become lethargic and/or depressed within days. These dogs are often still hooked up to run during each training session, so they can ‘work through their physical and mental issues.'”

– 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

Puppies are very stressed:

Janice Blue: “Dr. Kislak in one interview you did with Andrea Floyd-Wilson who is the host of All About Animals, the radio show, a couple of years ago, you mentioned that a lot of these dogs are very young, and just like children, where their bones are still growing, they’re not fully developed and that creates all kinds of problems.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “Yes, the growth plates, which are the cartilage plates that are important in bone formation are not mature in large breed dogs for at least up to two years and usually later. And these animals are started training much younger than that, and so it puts unbearable stress on the bones and the tendons and the ligaments and the cartilage and that’s why so many of them wash out early. And the ones that don’t wash out early, that actually make it to the race, then develop crippling arthritis within a year or two after that. And if they’re good breeding stock, then they’re kept alive even despite the crippling arthritis and their kept in these horrible freezing cold outdoor conditions.”

– 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

– Puppies beaten:

“On many occasions, I witnessed the mother in law of an Iditarod musher strike puppies with a wiffle ball bat (a hollow plastic bat, approximately three feetlong) to quiet them in harness and teach them to line out before a run. The puppies yelped and hit the ground, whimpering and clawing at the ground to try and get out of the way, trapped by their harnesses being hooked into the gangline.”

– 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 run for many hours

[People who know dogs know that by nature they love to sleep.]

Matt Anderson makes dogs run for 9-hours in a 13-hour period:

“After digging a path into his house, Anderson will hook his dogs up around 5 p.m., pack up enough gear to spend the night outside, and take off.

Anderson and his dog team will run for most of the night. They will camp out approximately four hours.

‘I’ll usually get a couple of hours of sleep then,’ he said.The tired team of dogs and musher will return home around 6 a.m.”

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

Lance Mackey makes dogs run for 19 hours:

“I train the way I’m going to race. And I’m going to race the way I train. So when I go out and do a 19-hour long run it’s not abnormal.”

– Lance Mackey is talking to Patrick Yack, video, Alaska Public Radio, March 7, 2011

Dogs are exhausted after a training run

Dogs are exhausted after a training run

Sled dogs train on treadmills

“Treadmills, also found on [Michael] Vick’s property, are commonly used to exercise sled dogs….”

– Michelle Tsai, Slate.com, July 20, 2007

“Michael Vick formally accepted a plea agreement from the federal government today at the United States District Court here, pleading guilty to a felony charge stemming from a dog fighting ring run from a property he owned.”

“Within the statement of facts, which accompanied the agreement, Vick admitted to funding the dog fighting operation and the gambling associated with it and to being complicit in the killing of at least six dogs that underperformed.”

“In the statement of facts, Vick said that he agreed to the killing of “approximately 6 to 8 dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions,’ adding that ‘all the dogs were killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning.’”

– Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times, August 27, 2007

Dogs punished for not eating all food in 30 seconds

30 seconds = half (1 minute).   Iditarod sled dog who doesn't eat all his food in 30 seconds is punished.

30 seconds = half (1 minute). An Iditarod sled dog who doesn’t eat all his food in 30 seconds is punished.

“Remember you are training the dog to eat everything immediately so he will do the same thing on a race.”

“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.

Dogs given less food before Iditarod starts

“The night before the start on March 8, I continued to cut back on the team’s feed ration, because I wanted them sharp for the start. Hungry and a little edgy.”

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

Suffering of old, and small, skinny dogs when endurance trained

“Like humans, members of the canine species start experiencing deterioration of the musculoskeletal, GI (gastrointestinal), kidney, liver, immune and other organ systems by middle age. After 4-5 years of age, desiccation (drying) of bones and soft tissues cause them to become more brittle, putting older dogs at increased risk for fractures and painful, persistent tendon, ligament, and muscular injuries. Degradation with age of other protective biological mechanisms and systems, like immune function, result in an inability to withstand the rigors and stresses of endurance training and racing, and are likely one of the factors in the prevalence of bleeding ulcers.”

“When dogs under 40-50 lbs. are endurance trained and raced, their health and welfare are compromised by subjecting them to forces and loads greater than their musculoskeletal frames should carry.”

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

Mushers smoke marijuana while training dogs

“As a musher the only drug I personally have ever encountered others using — either while training, or even more infrequently during racing — was marijuana.”

– Joseph Robertia, Peninsula Clarion, December 11, 2009

Traps cause dogs great pain and injury

Libby Riddle’s dogs stepped in traps:

Leg hold trap. While training for the Iditarod, sled dogs have suffered horrific pain and injury from leg hold traps.

Leg hold trap. While training for the Iditarod, sled dogs have suffered horrific pain and injury from leg hold traps.

“Some trappers, especially wolf trappers, set their traps in the middle of the trail hoping to catch something running the trail. She [Libby Riddles] said her dogs had gotten into traps twice. One of her wheelers got a hind foot caught in a trap, which must have been murderously painful. Before she could put on the brakes, the rest of the team had stretched the poor wheel dog to the point where his leg must have been ten feet long.

She said it was extremely difficult to remove the dog from the trap because of its pain, which cause it to snap, bite, and growl every time she got near it.”

– Bomhoff, Burt. Iditarod Alaska: The life of a Sled Dog Musher, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2013
– Burt Bomhoff served on the Iditarod’s board of directors, as Iditarod president for many years, and ran dogs in the race seven times.

Lance Mackey’s dog steps in a trap:

“Training this winter has been difficult with little snow cover. Because the trail is particularly rough, we did break a couple of gang lines and ended up chasing runaway teams. One dog stepped in a trap…..”

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

Foothold and killer-style traps are widely used in Alaska:

“Most furbearers are taken with either a trap (including foothold and killer-style traps) or snares….”

– 2011-2012 Alaska Trapping Regulations, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, website document

Foodhold or leg hold traps: The trap has two jaws, one or two springs, and a trigger in the middle, which is flat. When the animal steps on the trigger the trap slams shut around the foot or other body part, so the animal can’t escape. Some traps have teeth on the jaws.

“Most animals react to the instant pain by frantically pulling against the trap in a desperate attempt to free themselves, enduring fractures, ripped tendons, edema, blood loss, amputations, tooth and mouth damage (from chewing and biting at the trap), and starvation. Some animals will even chew or twist their limbs off.”

– Born Free USA, website, 2012

Killer-style (Conibear traps): Killer-style traps were designed to kill the animal instantly by breaking his spine at the base of the skull. It has two metal rectangles hinged together to open and close like scissors.

“Because it is impossible to control the size, species, and direction of the animal entering the trap, most animals do not die quickly in the Conibear trap, instead enduring prolonged suffering as the clamping force of the trap draws the jaws closer and closer together, crushing the animal’s abdomen, head, or other body part.”

– Born Free USA, website, 2012

Dogs have been chained to exercise wheels and forced to run endlessly. Photo attributed to Grom HellScream on flickr, July 27, 2010

Dogs have been chained to exercise wheels and forced to run endlessly. Photo attributed to Grom HellScream on flickr, July 27, 2010

Dogs lost in unforgiving wilderness

Dog runs off and is never caught:

“We didn’t know which dogs were leaders. We tested them all the time. In the middle of runs during the dry-land cart training, we were switching them around. We were trying to find twenty dogs to make a team.

We lost one dog while we were unloading it from the truck in Fairbanks. It took off and we never caught it.”

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

Rose Albert leaves dogs and they run away:

“‘Walked back up the hill, picked up what I lost and I went back to the top of the cliff and the dogs were gone.'”

– Rose Albert talking about her dogs running away
– Nielsen, Nicki J. The Iditarod: Women on the Trail, Anchorage: Wolfdog Publications, 1986