Problems with Iditarod rules

Sick, injured and tired dropped dogs are crammed into a small airplane. The dogs are not properly secured and can be injured by turbulence, to which a small plane is especially vulnerable.

Sick, injured and tired dropped dogs are crammed into a small airplane. The dogs are not properly secured and can be injured by turbulence, to which a small plane is especially vulnerable.

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Prison inmates care for dogs who may be sick or injured

“Trail Fact: A record 44 inmates from the Hiland Mountain/Meadow Creek correctional centers in Eagle River have volunteered to care for dogs dropped from race teams, Superintendent Dean Marshall said. Dogs dropped from teams at checkpoints before the midway point of the race are flown to Anchorage and then taken to the prison for tending until the mushers retrieve them.”

- Associated Press, Fairbanks News-Miner, March 7, 2005

“The pilots ferry dropped dogs back to Anchorage, where volunteers take the animals to the Eagle River Correctional Center; there, inmates feed, water and care for canines until their owners return from the trail.”

- Rennick, Penny, ed. The Iditarod, Anchorage: Alaska Geographic, 2001

“As soon as possible, these dogs are flown to dropped-dog hub checkpoints and from there to facilities at either Eagle River [near Anchorage] or Nome. At Eagle River, the minimum-security inmates and their supervisors at Hiland Mountain and Meadow Creek Correctional Center care for dogs dropped from the race.”

- Hood, Mary. A Fan’s Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland: Alpine Publications, 1996

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

Whip used on sled dogs, photo attributed to wikimedia

No rule prohibits the use of whips

Many other dog sled races do have this prohibition, including all Can-Am Crown races, International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race, Copper Basin 300, Tustumena 200, Dubois, Empire 130, AttaBoy300, Yukon Quest, Yukon 500, Grand Portage Passage Sled Dog Race, Sandwich Notch Races and Kuskokwim 300.The International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) bans whips.

Iditarod 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

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

Mushers says dogs who won’t race should be whacked:

“Her [Sandy McKee's] dogs are being regally obstinate. They will not move. McKee is talking about dropping out, a fact that irks [Bill] Borden to no end. ‘Those dogs are playing mind games on you,’ he says, pacing inside the community center. ‘You gotta whack them in the ass and say, ‘Lets’ go.””

- Bill Donahue, “Sit. Stay. Fetch,” Sports Illustrated Women, December, 2002

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

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

Whips used to drive dogs across the finish line:

“As we came up over the sea wall onto Front Street, I reached in my sled bag and pulled out a whip just as he glanced around and saw it. So he reached in and pulled out his. And that’s the way we came down the street, just driving those dogs for all there was in us.”

- Iditarod winner Dick Mackey discussing how he and Rick Swenson used their whips to drive their dogs across the finish line on Front Steet in Nome.
- Freedman, Lew. Iditarod Classics, Seattle: Epicenter Press, 1992

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

Mushers allowed to wear shoes that could be dangerous for dogs

The Iditarod does not have a rule prohibiting mushers from wearing shoes that could be dangerous for dogs.

The International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) rule regarding shoes says:

“The competitor should not be wearing shoes that could be dangerous for dogs. Shoes with hardened spikes or studs of 1mm maximum are allowed.”

- International Federation of Sleddog Sports, General Rules, August 29, 2012

Inhumane transport of dropped dogs

The Iditarod has no rules regarding how dropped dogs (dogs left at checkpoints) must be transported. These dogs are sick, injured or exhausted. PenAir (Peninsula Airways) has flown over 100 dropped dogs out of checkpoints without putting them in boxes or carriers. Danny Seybert, CEO of PenAir, said that he preferred to fly dogs this way. Seybert claimed he could fly “hundreds of dogs safely with a short choke chain on each dog.” When a plane is airborne, the dogs could easily be thrown or tossed about and badly hurt when there is turbulence. They could be choked by their collars or injured in other ways.

Here’s what Iditarod board member Danny Seybert said:

“[Danny] Seybert noted that PenAir had transported 120 dogs in the SAAB without boxes. he said he preferred to do it that way. He said he can carry hundreds of dogs safely with a short choke chain on each dog.”

- Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. board of directors meeting minutes, May 5, 2012

Iditarod crashers

The Iditarod takes place on public lands. Consequently, the race has no way to keep people away or to regulate their conduct. Mushers who are not officially entered in the Iditarod cannot be prevented from being on the trail during the race.

16-year-old tags along with Iditarod mushers:

“Ellie [Claus] was sixteen years old and traveling the trail alone after her adult companions had bailed out.”

“She had joined up with those of us in the back of the pack and was tagging along until Unalakleet. She was learning the trail, still with two more years to go before she could officially do the race.”

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

Is drug testing rule for dogs enforced?

AP story raises important questions about testing dogs for drugs:

“Dogs, not mushers, are tested for steroids, stimulants and other performance-enhancing drugs in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.”

“When the teams of veterinarians examine the dogs at the checkpoints, they go around with cups attached to sticks to collect urine samples. Dogs are subject to collection of urine or blood samples at the discretion of the testing vets at any point from the pre-race exam until 6 hours after the teams finish in Nome. No one has been found to be doping their dogs, but there are suspicions among some mushers that it’s been done, if not in the race, then in training.”

- Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, March 8, 2005

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:

1) While the Iditarod rule 20 says that dogs are subject to blood tests during the race, are these tests ever given?

2) How many dogs receive blood or urine tests at each checkpoint?

3) Do the same dogs receive these tests at every checkpoint or at one or more additional checkpoints?

4) When mushers stay at a checkpoint for only a short time, how can the dogs get blood or urine tests?

(On March 9, 2005, Bjornar Andersen and Mitch Seavey arrived at the McGrath checkpoint each with 15 dogs at 3:24 a.m. and 3:25 a.m., respectively. Both mushers stayed at the checkpoint for two minutes. How could the vets possibly have given all these dogs urine or blood tests in two minutes? How could these dogs possibly been given physical exams?)

5) If a musher wants to rush through a checkpoint, but a vet wants to administer a blood or urine test, why don’t the rules require the musher to delay his/her departure?

6) Why does the Iditarod administration never disclose the names of the dogs that were tested, the name of their musher, when and where they were tested, what tests they received and what the results were?

7) Since no statistics are ever disclosed, is it possible that in any given year no dogs are tested for drugs?

Dogs being given drugs is an issue:

“Iditarod dogs are also subjected to random drug testing. Among the banned substances: anabolic steroids, diuretics, tranquilizers and opiates. Blood doping is prohibited. If drugs are not an issue, why do race organizers bother to ban them?”

- Jon Saraceno, USA Today, March 5, 2001

Cheating

“It is true that sports and cheating go hand in hand.”

- Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics, New York, William Morrow, 2005
- Steven Levitt did his undergraduate work at Harvard and has a PhD from MIT. He teaches economics at the University of Chicago, and recently received the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded every two years to the best American economist under forty. – Stephen Dubner writes for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

No rule requires dogs to get veterinary physical exams at checkpoints

No physical examinations mandated for dogs at checkpoints:

The Iditarod Trail Committee’s rules do not require veterinarians to give the dogs physical examinations at the checkpoints.

- Iditarod race rules, Iditarod website

Musher’s prerogative to race through checkpoints:

“When they come through real quickly we’d like to get our hands on each one of them and examine them, but that is their prerogative to go ahead and continue– continue through if they feel their dogs are doing well.”

- Veterinarian Harvey Goho talking about mushers racing their dogs through checkpoints
- Interview with Gabriel Spitzer, Alaska Public Radio Network, website, March 8, 2006

It’s just a “goal” that dogs get any kind of vet check, including a visual one:

“The goal of the veterinary program is to have each dog examined by a vet at every checkpoint, Nelson said. But given that some teams spend very little time in some checkpoints, that isn’t always possible.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Dogs get poor veterinary care when veterinarians only do visual checks. All dogs should receive veterinary physical exams at all checkpoints.]

- Stuart Nelson is the Iditarod’s chief veterinarian
- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2002

Rule forbidding replacement of dropped dogs is inhumane

Terrible burden placed on dogs left to pull musher and loaded sled:

Iditarod rule number 17 states that “No dogs may be added to a team after the re-start of the race.” (The race is restarted after the “ceremonial start” which is 11 miles long.) “At least five (5) dogs must be on the towline at the finish line.”

Mushers may drop or remove dogs, but those dogs cannot be replaced. Imagine the awful stress and terrible burden felt by the 5 dogs who are forced to race while pulling a musher and a loaded sled untold distances with perhaps only a few short rest stops. (In the Iditarod, which can last from 9 to 15 days, there are only 3 mandatory rest stops- one 24 hour stop and two 8 hour ones.)

- The Sled Dog Action Coalition
- Rule number 17 on Iditarod website

Mushers can replace sleds twice but not dogs:

“Mushers can replace sleds twice but not dogs.”

- Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, March 8, 2005

Physiological damage to the dogs may appear during or after the race:

Andrea Flyod-Wilson: “Let’s take a look at a dog that is days into the trail and perhaps not in good shape to begin with, and now being asked to pull a heavier load [because dropped dogs cannot be replaced]. What kind of physiological changes will we be looking at in their bodies?”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “There are a number of them. There would be hemorrhaging in the lungs and there would be a breakdown of the muscle tissue. When that muscle tissue breaks down and gets into the blood stream, it creates a very severe toxicity to the liver and the kidneys which can fail either suddenly or slowly. And, because of the stress on the heart, there can be sudden heart failure or there can be irreparable damage to the heart muscle, that doesn’t manifest itself until after the end of the race like many of other the deteriorating conditions that occur from the extreme prolonged exertion.”

- Andrea Floyd-Wilson is the host of the All About Animals Radio Show. On February 23, 2003, she interviewed Paula Kislak, DVM, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.

No rules govern leasing dogs for racing in the Iditarod

Dogs are treated like rent-a-cars:

The Iditarod Trail Committee allows people to lease dogs for racing in the Iditarod and has not instituted any rules to govern this business. Mushers are not required to spend a minimum number of hours working with and training each leased dog. They are not required to know anything about a dog’s health history or personality. The Iditarod Trail Committee’s failure to regulate the leasing of dogs puts the dogs at great risk.

- The Sled Dog Action Coalition- Iditarod website

“Hickel, 56, doesn’t own a dog lot. He doesn’t even own a dog. He leased a complete team from Big Lake musher Ramey Smyth for more than $20,000, he said.”

- Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 5, 2003

No regulations for snowmachiners

Snowmachiners have killed and injured dogs and harassed mushers. Because the Iditarod is held on public lands, the race cannot regulate where snowmachiners go.

Snowmachine disasters:

“The chance for disaster is out there,” said Rick Koch, president of the Iditarod Trail Committee, “and I think we’ve seen that this year.”

“I [Rick Koch] definitely wouldn’t ever want to see any regulations saying this is where you can go with a snowmachine and this is where you can go with a dog team, because we all want to go to the same places.”

“Koch said the Iditarod has a similar view.”

- Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2001

Snowmachines kill dogs:

“At approximately 10 p.m. last evening, a snowmachiner ran into Jennifer Freking’s team on the Yukon River near Koyukuk. Unfortunately, the incident caused the death of a 3-year-old female named ‘Lorne.’”

- Iditarod website advisory, March 10, 2008

“More violent were the deaths of two dogs and the injuries to two others in Rollin Westrum’s team. Westrrum was nearing White Mountain, about 85 miles from the finish line, when his team was illuminated in the glaring headlight of a snowmachine. ‘It came head-on,’ the musher told reporters later. ‘It hit the dogs and then glanced off to one side and went right by.’”

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

Speeding snowmachine drivers hit dog teams:

“Musher Mike Nosko dropped out of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race after his dog team was hit by a speeding snowmachine driver.”"The dogs were bruised and banged up…”

- The Associated Press, March 6, 2001

“A second team in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race was injured Saturday by a snowmachine. A dog in the team of Palmer Sagoonick of Shaktoolik suffered a broken leg when it was hit, according to race marshal Mark Nordman.”

- Anchorage Daily News, March 18, 2001

Dog team struck by a recreational snowmachiner:

“Mushers were grappling with another annoyance – hordes of recreational snow machiners following along as spectators. Iditarod officials had received a report from a photographer that a snowmachine struck a team on the trail about two miles outside Knik on Sunday afternoon. According to the caller, the dogs were unhurt and the musher kept going, Potts said. ‘They’re just all over,’ Delia said. ‘They almost were weaving in and out of the teams.’”

- Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2000

Dogs stressed from snowmachine tracks on trail:

“I found the trail from Knik to Yentna to be really tough. It was so criss-crossed with snowmachine tracks that my leaders were stressed out with a kind of vertigo.”

- Brian O’Donaghue, Iditarod musher and former reporter for the Fairbanks News-Miner
- Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Snowmachiner harasses musher and charges dogs:

“But when she got there [Bondarenko] Sunday night, the bonfire participants started yelling and shooting flash photographs.

“‘They scared me to death,’ said Bondarenko. When she veered away, someone started chasing her on a snowmachine, and kept charging her dogs to make them stop. Finally, she did.”

- The bonfire was held on Shell Lake, between between Skwentna and Finger Lake
- Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 10, 2004

Drunken snowmachiners and speed of machines make for accidents and deaths:

“One of the great hazards of the race was snowmachines, especially being driven by drunks.” “During the day it can be bad enough, especially if it’s off the river and they come around a corner blind and hit the team. But at night it’s worse. They move at speeds that make it impossible for the driver to react if he sees something in his headlights, and there are many accidents. Teams are hit, dogs have been killed, people injured and some killed.”

- Paulsen, Gary. Winterdance: the find madness of running the Iditarod. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994

“The problem of careless snowmachine drivers, especially drunk ones, is serious for everyone. I almost got hit several times coming into Nome several weeks earlier when I finished the iditarod. Running from Safety, 22 miles from the finish, into Nome is almost suicidal. I dodged snowmachines twice and lucked out.”

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

No rules govern treatment of dogs in the kennels

For quotes about the miserable treatment the dogs receive in the kennels, click Abuse in Kennels.

Being half drunk is allowed

Self-indulgent drinking is considered safe and legal:

“Perhaps Rule 29, dealing with musher conduct, sums up the real character of this race. It allows that “excessive use of alcohol by mushers during the race is prohibited.

So unlike NASCAR, these sled drivers can be half in-the-bag and still be considered safe and legal.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: The Iditarod Trail Committee does not check how much alcohol a musher brings. However, Rule 5 states that a musher's gear may be checked for the required Iditarod promotional material.]

- Bob Chorush, op-ed, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 2, 2002
- Bob Chorush is a former editor of Rolling Stone Magazine
- Iditarod website, Race Rules

“We were piling up there trying to wait out the storm.” Terry Adkins organized the poker playing and the whiskey drinking.”

- Dave Olesen, Iditarod musher
- Terry Adkins was a race veterinarian
- Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

This dog was one of several on Doug Bartko's property who were tied to "gang lines" with leads that allowed only 12 to 15 inches for movement. Photo is courtesy of SledDogma.org

This dog was one of several on Doug Bartko’s property who were tied to “gang lines” with leads that allowed only 12 to 15 inches for movement. Photo is courtesy of SledDogma.org

No rule prohibits mushers forcing sick and injured dogs to race

Mushers start race with sick dogs:

“He [veterinarian Terry Adkins] saw very little diarrhea along the trial from the ceremonial start Saturday, he said, adding though that John Barron of Helmville told him his dogs had it. Loose stools are a sign of ill health. Sled dogs relieve their bowels on the run.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: Because the dogs "relieve their bowels on the run," it is likely that the dogs running in back of those who were stricken with diarrhea inhaled this fecal material. The bacterial material it contains could cause infection and death. Sick dogs should be pulled out of the race.]

- Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 4, 2002

“One of his dogs caught a virus three days before the start and it went dog-to-dog through his team through the first two-thirds of the race, he [John Barron] said.”

- Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 14, 2002

“Zirkle, of Two Rivers, limped along the trail Tuesday morning with an ailing dog team. A few of her dogs got sick just before the race, and the bug has spread through her entire team she said.”

- Aliy Zirkle, musher in 2001 Iditarod
- Elizabeth Manning, Anchorage Daily News, March 8, 2001

“Even on Fourth Avenue [in Anchorage] I had two dogs coughing. “We spent the night in Wasilla, and there were five dogs coughing and hacking.”

- Aliy Zirkle, Iditarod musher
- Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

“Two of his [Bartlett's] veteran dogs were unable to keep running.” “Bartlett suspects the dogs were suffering from a virus. They had not wanted to eat since the ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage…”

- Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, Wednesday, March 5, 2003
[In 2003, the Iditarod restart was in Fairbanks on Monday, March 3, two days after the Anchorage ceremonial start. According to the AP report, Barlett's dogs raced for at least three days even though they were too sick to eat.]

“One dog had a cough the day the race started and that illness spread through the team, he said.”

- Terry Adkins, DVM, discussing musher Karen Land’s dogs
- Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, March 8, 2003

Mushers force sick dogs to run:

“Two of the MANY (emphasis added) mushers who battled viruses in their dog teams and placed well below their expectations were Vern Halter…and John Baker…”

- Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 2000

“It was my first Iditarod; I had to finish the ding-dang thing. The dogs all had fevers. The vets gave them a powerful antibiotic.”

“Every time I came into a checkpoint, the vets knew about me and asked how the dogs were doing.” “They [the dogs] had a virus with a fever, and they were coughing mucus.”

- Aliy Zirkle, Iditarod musher
- Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

“… (The dog’s) recovery in the checkpoints was slowed by some sort of virus.”

- Doug Swingley, the 2000 Iditarod race winner
- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 14, 2000

“Around Nikolai, about 350 miles into the race, some of his dogs caught a virus.” “‘They had some bad discomfort’” said Swingley. “‘It was hard for me to manage them.’”

- Doug Swingley, the 2000 Iditarod race winner
- Lew Freedman, Anchorage Daily News, March 15, 2000

“COAXING SICK DOGS: Linwood Fiedler, DeeDee Jonrowe’s Willow neighbor, finished just ahead of her in 19th and had to nurse sick dogs much of the time.”

- Staff report, Anchorage Daily News, March 17, 2000, article on website

“I just couldn’t keep fluids in them,” the musher said. “I’d get in the checkpoints, and they’d look good, and I’d get out and they’d lose their hydration.”

- Jason Halseth, musher in 2001 Iditarod
- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 15, 2001

“Although one or two dogs in his [Ramy Brooks] team attacked their food bowls with gusto, most poked at their chow or ignored it.”

[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: According to the Iditarod website, Ramy Brooks was at the Unalakleet checkpoint with nine dogs. The race ends in Nome which is 260 miles from this checkpoint.]
- Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 11, 2003 report from Unalakleet

“With another, he [Lindwood Fiedler] opened its [the dog's] mouth and fed it antibiotics to fight an infection. ‘Better mushing through pharmacy,’ he quipped.”

Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2003

Vets lack the authority to exclude sick and injured dogs from the race:

“…I’ve been able to keep a couple of dogs in the team the vets thought I should drop.”

- Bowers, Don. Back of the Pack, Anchorage: Publication Consultants, 2000
- Iditarod rules, Iditarod website

“The checkpoint’s vet has recommended sending Pig [Land's lead dog] back to Anchorage, too. ‘He yanked on my dogs’ joints and poked hard at their muscles,’ Land gripes. ‘But he just doesn’t have the sensibility to tell me what I can do with Pig.” “… Land decides she will chance it [keeping Pig in the race].

Bill Donahue, “Sit. Stay. Fetch.” Sports Illustrated Women, December, 2002

“Peryll Kyzer is nursing her dogs along, including one vets advised her to drop in Nikolai.”

- Alaska Public Radio Network, 1997 Iditarod audio files

“Later Swenson was in front of the cabin trying to decide if he should drop a little pup named Carrot. A veterinarian and I were waiting for his decision, ready to take the dog if he chose to leave her.” “She wasn’t moving with the same ease she had in the months of training.”

- Lisa Frederic, Anchorage Press, March 8, 2006

Rules do not prohibit dogs in heat from racing

Males don’t want to race when a female is in heat:

“One of [Rick] Swenson’s female dogs is in heat. The allure of mating throws a hard curve into the social structure of the team. If not managed properly, the effect can weaken a team’s concentration on the race. [Joe] Runyan intimated that Swenson had not been able to overcome the obstacle.”

- Mark Downey, Great Falls Tribune, Marcy 7, 2002

Females in heat don’t want to race:

“Paul [Ellering] lost dogs for a lot of different reasons,” [Becky] Timson said. “Two of them actually went into heat, and that’s not good. He put them up front for as long as they didn’t want to find the boys, but when they started turning around because the boys were back there, that was a big tangle.”

- Becky Timson is one of Rachael Scdoris’ dog handlers
- Roy Gault, Statesman Journal, March 18, 2005

Males on the team show behavioral problems:

“All eight females in her team have gone into heat since the Iditarod began Saturday, causing the six males in the team, including Willow [the lead dog], to display ‘behavioral problems, said Gould.

Lured by hormonal scents, Willow refuses to lead and keeps cranking his head around to sniff. He is also refusing to eat.”

“If the musher detects the heat early enough, he or she can administer drugs to stop the cycle. But the medications can cause other problems…., Bowser [veterinarian] said.”

- Melanie Gould, musher
- Tim Bowser, veterinarian, Soldotna, AK
- Paula Dobbyn, Anchorage Daily News, March 6, 2002

No rules govern dog foot care

Dogs are not wearing booties during the Iditarod. As you face the photo, look at left paw of the dog on your right. Photo attributed to Orloskaya on flickr,

Sled dogs are not wearing booties while racing in the Iditarod. Click on the photo to enlarge it. As you face the photo, look at left paw of the dog on your right. Photo attributed to Orloskaya on flickr,

Race rules do not require mushers to put booties on their dogs. But, there are rules that tell a musher when to wear his/her Iditarod bib:

According to the Iditarod website, Iditarod Trail Committee rules require a musher to have “eight booties for each dog in the sled or in use” at all times. There are no standards regarding the materials of which the booties are made. The rules do not require mushers to put the booties on the dogs.

However, there are rules that tell a mushers when to wear his/her official Iditarod Trail bib:

“The musher must wear the bib in a visible fashion from Safety Checkpoint to Nome. The winner shall continue to wear the bib through the lead dog ceremony.”

- Rule 14, Iditarod website

“…[It] is a large bib with the logo of a major race sponsor and the competitor’s starting-position number on it.”

- Hood, Mary. A Fan’s Guide to the Iditarod, Loveland: Alpine Publications, 1996

Dogs have bleeding and cracked paws:

“I covered the Iditarod dog-sled race ten times. Walking out onto the ice of the Bering Sea in February, the Northern Lights dancing a spectacular show above, is a distinct memory. But watching those huskies’ paws bleed and crack during their 1100-mile, 22-hour-a-day run across the Alaskan tundra, was heartache for a dog lover.”

- Diana Nyad, The Score, KCRW Radio, November 2, 2006, website transcript

Booties fly off when put on improperly:

“You can’t just slap on booties. If done improperly, a bootie will fly off while the team is moving…”

- Chris Talbott, Juneau Empire, March 5, 2004
[From the Sled Dog Action Coalition: With mushers pushing their dogs to run at ever increasing speeds and stopping at many checkpoints for less than three minutes, how many booties are actually fitted properly?]

Dogs get blisters on their pads:

“They [the dogs] had gone through a river overflow and gotten their paws wet, which lead to blisters on their pads.”

- Nancy Russell, whose dogs raced in the Iditarod
- Laurie Arendt, Greater Milwaukee Today, November 24, 2003

[The blisters can easily become infected.]

Improperly fitting and worn booties cause injuries:

[From the Sled Dog Action Coaltion: Iditarod rules do not require that dogs be fitted for their booties.]

“Taking the dog in for a fitting is a good idea, [Dr. Arleigh] Reynolds said, because a boot that is too large won’t give proper traction on slippery surfaces. Openings at the top allow snow to enter the boot, also causing injuries. And a too-small boot can cut off circulation to the dog’s feet. Check the condition of the booties from time to time to ensure that the dog hasn’t worn holes in the bottom and that the boots aren’t too tight.”

- 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

Well-fitting booties can prevent injuries:

“The professor/musher [Arleigh Reynolds, D.V.M.] offers these tips to successfully share winter activities with dogs:

“Uninsulated booties are not for warmth, the Cornell expert noted, but for two kinds of protection: For preventative health care if the dog runs through changing conditions — from water to snow that forms balls in the hair of the feet or from powder snow to granular snow or ice with sharp edges — the booties prevent injuries. In deep-snow conditions, where dogs’ feet spread out and snow acts like tiny knives to produce cuts between the webs of their feet, Rover will be grateful for the fashionable attire.”

- 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

Dog allowed to start race with open sore on foot pad:

“He’s [Don Bower's dog Batman] had an open sore on one of his front footpads since before the race and even with booties and lots of ointment, it’s not improving.”

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

No rule that volunteers be trained to care for sick and injured dogs

“Dropped Dogs: a few volunteers are needed to help with picking up dogs at the Anchorage airport or Lake Hood when the dogs come in off the trail. Help is needed…transporting dogs to the Eagle River holding facility. One necessity is a strong back.”

- Iditarod Sled Dog Race Volunteer Information and Applications, Iditarod website

No rule requires mushers to pass a written exam or demonstrate skills

The Iditarod Trail Committee has no rules or policies that require mushers to pass written tests or demonstrate knowledge of their mushing skills. Mushers are not required to be certified in canine first aid or canine CPR. For the safety and welfare of the dogs, mushers should be required to show they have a high degree of knowledge.

The Iditarod race is over 1,150 miles of grueling terrain. Mushing in shorter races or less challenging races, does not adequately prepare mushers for the situations that may arise during the Iditarod.

- “Policy 4– Musher Qualifications,” Iditarod website

Musher ignorance:

“I didn’t have any idea what to prepare for because I didn’t know what was coming. Everything from packing food drop bags to just knowing what the trail was like and how far it was between certain checkpoints. I had no idea. And I really had no idea how to run the dogs in any kind of logical way as far as a rest-run schedule went.”

- Jon Little, Iditarod musher and former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News
- Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

Rule prohibits food being shipped to some checkpoints

“Food and/or gear will not be shipped to the checkpoints of Yentna and Finger Lake. The Safety checkpoint is optional fo shipment of gear and/or food.”

- Iditarod rule 48, Iditarod website

Imagine the pain dogs endure when mushers force them into the compartments at the top of the truck.

Imagine the pain dogs endure when mushers force them into the compartments at the top of the truck.

Is drug testing rule for mushers a joke?

Iditarod won’t commit to punishing drug and alcohol users:

In the year 2010, Iditarod Rule 29 says that violators of the race’s drug and alcohol policy MAY be disqualified from a particular race or be ineligible to participate for a specified period of time in future races, or both.

The Iditarod does not obligate itself to punish violators of its rules.

And the Iditarod does not obligate itself to report illegal activity to the local authorities.

The Iditarod has not made public its Prohibited List of drugs.

- Iditarod Rule 30:

“Use of Drugs and Alcohol: Alcohol impairment and drug use by mushers during the Race is prohibited. Violations of this policy may result in disqualification from a particular Race, ineligibility from participation for a specified period of time in future Races, or both.

All mushers will be subject to drug and alcohol testing under any of the following circumstances:

  • Whenever a race official reasonably suspects that the musher is under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • On a random basis, either individually or as a group;
  • A random group or all mushers on a date or dates to be determined within thirty days in advance of the start of the Race;
  • The first fixed number of mushers who arrive at a stated checkpoint (for example, the first thirty mushers to arrive in White Mountain).

For purposes of this policy, drugs will be defined in the Prohibited List which will be distributed annually no later than four months prior to the start of the Race.”

“Breathalyzer testing will be used to detect alcohol impairment which is defined as a .04% BAC. Discipline may be imposed immediately by the Race Marshall in the event of a finding of alcohol impairment.

A refusal to participate in drug or alcohol testing may result in immediate withdrawal from the Race. Adulteration of a test specimen may be treated as a refusal to participate in drug or alcohol testing.”

- Iditarod website

All mushers not tested for drugs:

- Iditarod said all mushers would be tested:

“The tests will take place somewhere along the trail, but race officials will not say where or when. [Stan] Hooley also says every musher will be tested, not just certain mushers.”

- Stan Hooley is the Iditarod’s Executive Director.
- Megan Baldino, March 5, 2010, KTUU-TV, KTUU.com

- Iditarod checks mushers for drugs at White Mountain checkpoint:

“This is also the first place I’ve seen drug testing of mushers on the trail. The checkpoint is in the village city hall building, and Mackey spent a few minutes behind a door with a hand-made “Work Safe” sign.”

- Kyle Hopkins,Anchorage Daily News – The Sled Blog, March 15, 2010
- Kyle Hopkins is at the White Mountain checkpoint, which is 77 miles from Nome.

“As mushers arrive in White Mountain, they’re being pulled aside for testing. Mackey was the first.”

- Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 16, 2010

- 15 mushers who dropped out before White Mountain not tested for drugs:

15 mushers dropped out of the 2010 Iditarod before reaching the White Mountain checkpoint. They were not tested for drugs. According to the Iditarod’s website, the mushers who dropped out are Hank Debruin, Ryan Redington, Warren Palfrey, Judy Currier, Emil Churchin, Tom Thurston, Linwood Fiedler, Justin Savidis, Karen Ramstead, Kathleen Frederick, Karin Hendrickson, Soya DeNure, Michael Suprenant, Pat Moon and Kirk Barnum

Mushers smoking marijuana:

“While mushers have been known to blow marijuana smoke near their teams to calm the dogs, some suggest the testing program is aimed at the wrong group.”

‘We joke that they should test more mushers than dogs,’ [Martin} Buser says."

- Douglas Robson, USA Today, February 29, 2008

"Alaska was no longer a pot smoker's haven. As a result of the recriminalization measure adopted during the November general election, possession of small amounts of marijuana was now punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. But cops weren't patrolling the Iditarod Trail as [Tom] Daily and I shared a few puffs on the crest of a barren hill.”

- 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

Rule allows mushers to take these drugs

The Iditarod Trail Committee never made public its list of prohibited drugs. But here’s what we do know: In August 2009, the Iditarod Board of Directors voted to adopt the list of prohibited drugs, as presented at its meeting. On the list was “marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine/methamphetamine, opiates (codeine/morphine) and synthetic opiates (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxymorphone) and add propoxyphene.”

Because they are not prohibited by the rule, mushers are allowed to take the following drugs: anabolic agents, diuretics, and peptide hormones, mimetics and analogues and some stimulants. Blood doping is allowed.

Some of these drugs could endanger the musher’s health.

- Iditarod Rules, Iditarod website

First aid kits for dogs, knowledge of canine first aid not mandatory

The Iditarod does not require mushers to be certified in canine first aid. Mushers are not required to carry first aid kits in their sleds.

The Iditarod does not require mushers to be certified in canine first aid. Mushers are not required to carry first aid kits in their sleds.

Iditarod rules do not require mushers to have first aid kits for the dogs or be certified in canine CPR and first aid.

- Iditarod website

Absaroka Search Dogs of Montana recommendations for first aid kit additions:

“For handlers who frequent working their dogs in cold weather conditions, these additions to their first aid kits should be considered:

Absorbent towels for drying dog
Space blanket or other heat reflective blanket
Thick sport weight or wool socks (kid’s size to fit paws) 2 pair
Cold weather dog jacket if appropriate for dog
Vaseline based ointment

Prevention of frostbite and hypothermia is possible by observing your dog frequently and providing the necessary support before trouble arrives. If your dog does not have an adequate coat, provide it with an artificial coat. Have a pad to insulate the dog from the cold ground when it must be in one place. Make sure that when you take a break and warm up, you get out the pad and give food and water. Check the temperature of the ears, scrotum and face, watching for signs of frostbite.”

- Vikki Fenton-Anderberg, Absarkoka Search Dogs of Montana, website article, 2005
(Absaroka Search Dogs of Montana train dogs to assist with search and rescue efforts for lost or missing individuals in all kinds of weather.)

The Iditarod does not require mushers to have first aid kits or carry any of the above recommended items. When mushers give the dogs something to sleep on, they routinely give them straw, not space blankets or other heat reflective blankets.

No rule that provides for doctors for mushers

Iditarod rules do not require medical doctors to be on the trail to diagnose and care for musher injuries. Mushers must rely upon veterinarians who may not be able to adequately diagnosis and treat human injuries and illnesses. When mushers are sick or injured, what kind of care do the dogs get?

In 2007, Aeromed provided medical care for humans at the Skwentna, McGrath and Unalakleet checkpoints. Crews do not include a medical doctor. According to Aeromed’s website (March 31, 2007), it has “a certified flight nurse (CFRN or CCRN) and critical care MICP administering the critical care treatment necessary to stabilize the patient during transport.”

Veterinarian gives first aid to musher who stepped on nail:

“He [Veterinarian Mike Yacapraro] said he performed first aid on one man who was preparing his sled and stepped on a nail.”

- Chris Kick, The Daily Record, March 31, 2007

Veterinarian sews up Joe Redington, Sr.’s cut:

“His sled dug in, he soared up in the air, and in the flip cut his knee, a three-four-inch gash. In Skwentna, Redington was looking for first aid, but no one was around to help. So he called for his old pal Terry Adkins. The mushing veterinarian was nearby with his team and he sewed up Redington’s cut.

‘I was afraid I was going to get socked with malpractice for practicing human medicine, ‘ said Adkins.”

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

Veterinarian clips nerves that got in Martin Buser’s way:

“While in Rohn, one of the race veterinarians looked at it [Buser's middle finger], and was a little taken aback by what he saw. ‘I had some nerves sticking out, drying out, and getting in my way,’ Buser recalled. He asked the vet to cut the nerves away. The veterinarian reluctantly agreed and made the snips.”

- Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 11, 2005
Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Did this musher get a mild concussion?

“He [Bill Cotter] mulled over the nasty bump on his forehead. Cotter said he got the injury when he encountered a log on the trail coming into the Rainy Pass checkpoint, 224 miles from Anchorage….” “‘I tipped over, landed in the snow and hit a tree.’”

- Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, March 9, 2004

Mild concussions can have significant effects:

“Athletes with mild concussions demonstrated significant declines in memory processes that were still evident at four and seven days post-injury. Other self-reported symptoms – including headaches, dizziness and nausea – resolved by day four.”

- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, website article, January 30, 2003

Many mushers injured in sled crashes:

“Cotter was among the humans nursing injuries from a sled crashes.”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 2004

Musher battles stomach virus for 10 days:

“”[Jessica] Hendricks battled a stomach virus during the 10-day race.”

- Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, March 15, 2003

Musher amputates part of pinky:

“He started the 1997 race with a cast on his broken right foot, and his back was still aching after breaking it the year before. Then shortly before the race, he broke a couple of fingers. Going down the hazardous Dalzell Gorge, unable to stand on his broken foot and holding on with one hand, he clipped an overhanging branch with the pinky of his left hand and, he says almost matter of factly, ‘cut the end of it off.’

The end of the finger?

‘Yeah, just the end.’

Just the end.

‘But it bled like hell, and so I wrapped it up with black tape. I lost a lot of blood, so I was really thirsty when I got into the next checkpoint. I usually use water purification tablets. But I was so thirsty I didn’t want to wait for it to sit for 20 minutes. Well, I chewed the tablet up, so that burned the hell out of my tongue. So then I couldn’t talk.’”

- Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, MSNBC.com, March 5, 2005

Veterinarian put four stitches into DeCaro’s thumb:

“We got to see Dave [DeCaro] this evening and he looks great!” “Dave had a little mishap with his pocket knife yesterday in Koyuk. There was alot of bleeding but the wonderful vet who was there on duty, Dr. Carolyn Witten, put 4 stitches into his thumb, gave him some antibiotic cream and sent him on his way. All his fingers are swollen but that is normal in all the mushers.”

- Dave DeCaro’s mother, Dave DeCaro’s Iditarod blog, 3-19-10 10:30 am AKDT Trail Update, 3-20-10 8am AKDT Trail Update

The story of poisoned mushers:

Please scroll down to read their story.

Sick and injured mushers on painkillers are allowed to participate

Partial amputation of Buser’s finger four days before race starts:

“Four-time Iditarod winner Martin Buser underwent a partial amputation of his middle finger after he injured it in a table saw accident at his Big Lake home, Iditarod officials said Wednesday.

Buser was treated at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage after injuring himself Tuesday. Buser told race managers he intends to participate in the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which kicks off Saturday with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage.”

- Anchorage Daily News, March 2, 2005

“The doctor amputated it just on the palm side of the middle knuckle, taking off more than 2 inches, he [Martin Buser] said.”

“The injured finger had started to hurt by Wednesday afternoon, Buser reported, though pain medication was keeping him comfortable. But the missing finger will be sensitive throughout the race, which for Buser would typically last nine or 10 days.”

- Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, March 3, 2005

Martin Buser starts Iditarod with mangled hand and loaded up on painkillers:

“Fearless, foolhardy or just plain stubborn, four-time champion Martin Buser cheerfully started the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, a few days after the middle finger of his right hand was amputated above the second joint.

Buser loaded up on painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pills, wore bandages and a special splint on his mangled hand — he also had stitches up the inside length of his ring finger and two stitches on his index finger from a table saw accident Tuesday — and stuffed it inside an oversized black mitten.”

- Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, March 5, 2004

Musher cracked a rib and tore muscles before race:

“At the emergency room, the doctor looks at the x-rays and says I’ve probably cracked a rib, and I almost certainly have torn some muscles and other good stuff inside my rib cage. He gives me some heavy-duty painkillers and advises me to get home somehow before I start taking them” “Regardless, I’ll still be at the starting line on March 4th, even if I have to carry enough serious painkillers to require an escort from the Drug Enforcement Agency. At least I can take some comfort in knowing I won’t be the first musher to try the race with a busted something or other.”

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

Musher starts with broken foot and fingers, and chronic back pain:

“He [Ramey Smyth] started the 1997 race with a cast on his broken right foot, and his back was still aching after breaking it the year before. Then shortly before the race, he broke a couple of fingers.”

- Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, MSNBC.com, March 5, 2005

Charlie Boulding’s two knees are painful from missing cartilage:

“[Charlie] Boulding said, “All of the cartilage is out of my knees so its pretty painful…”

- KTVA-TV, Anchorage, March 7, 2005

Bryan Mills has pneumonia:

“Five days before the race began, [Bryan] Mills developed pneumonia and couldn’t talk for the next 10 days.”

- Mike Leverton, The Monroe Times, March 31, 2005

Trisha Kolegar is allow to participate with a broken neck:

“She [Trisha Kolegar] completed the Iditarod on her first attempt, despite the fact that she suffered a broken neck on the Happy River run only a couple of days into the 1,100-mile journey.”

- Becky Stoppa, Anchorage Daily News, November 2, 2005

Rules do not require mushers to have pre-race physicals and pre-race drug tests

- Iditarod website

Rule requires dogs to race even when trail conditions are horrid

There’s no concern for the dogs’ welfare:

“Although trail conditions border on horrible at the moment, Jack Niggemeyer, trail manager for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, said the Iditarod will go north for Nome, no matter what.

Iditarod race rules, he noted, clearly say the Last Great Race starts the first Saturday in March ‘regardless of weather conditions.’”

- Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, January 16, 2003

Diseased and injured mushers are allowed to race dogs in the Iditarod. Mushers are not even required to have medical examinations. If a musher had a heart attack, the dogs would starve to death in the unforgiving wilderness. Photo attributed to Blausen medical on wikimedia

Diseased and injured mushers are allowed to race dogs in the Iditarod. Mushers are not  even required to have medical examinations before the Iditarod begins. If a musher had a heart attack, the dogs could easily starve to death in the unforgiving wilderness. Photo attributed to Blausen medical on wikimedia

Rules permit dogs to be given unsafe drugs

Females dogs allowed to take hazardous drugs:

Andrea Floyd-Wilson: “I found it very interesting that one type of drug that they [Iditarod Trail Administration] allow is specific for the female dogs. They allow Cheque Drops or Ovaban, drugs that are used to prevent the dogs from coming into season, and my understanding is these are not real safe drugs.”

Dr. Paula Kislak: “They’re not safe drugs. They have been implicated in causing cancer, but quite honestly these people aren’t looking toward the long term well-being and the long term future of these dogs. And, for obvious reasons, it would be very disruptive to have a female in heat because the males would get completely distracted. And yet, they don’t want to spay the females, because if a female does perform well, she will be used as a breeding bitch. They are giving drugs that are hormones, that are powerful hormones and do have consequences in the long term, but, again, they’re not looking at the long term best interests of the animal.”

- Andrea Floyd-Wilson is the host of the All About Animals Radio Show. On February 23, 2003, she interviewed Paula Kislak, DVM, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.
- Iditarod race rules permit the use of Ovaban and Cheque Drops.

Rules do not call for a larger vet staff when more dogs race

Iditarod Dog Care Measures call for a “staff of 35 veterinarians, including five rookies annually.” Chief Iditarod veterinarian Stu Nelson said, “We strive to have 35 trail veterinarians.” The Iditarod administration does not require a specific dog to veterinarian ratio, so that more dogs racing do not result in more veterinarians on the trail.

- Information on the number of veterinarians comes from the Iditarod website, 2004
- Sled Dog Action Coaliton

Rules do not require checkpoints to remain open

“There was an overwhelming sensation the clock was running, because they were starting to shut down the Rohn checkpoint while I was there. The officials were burning supplies, the tent that mushers can rest in was being stripped down. It was mass exodus.” “I was slow getting out of checkpoints. I was sleeping a long time.”

- Brian O’Donaghue, Iditarod musher and former Fairbanks News-Miner reporter
- Freedman, Lew. More Iditarod Classics, Kenmore: Epicenter Press, 2004

“We hardly finished cooking dog food before the Kaltag checker, operating on orders from Iditarod, had advised us to leave using a tone appropriate for a sheriff delivering an eviction notice.”

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

The story of poisoned mushers

Mushers poisoned by carbon monoxide:

“Catherine Mormile and four other mushers were poisoned by the odorless, toxic fumes from a propane heater while resting in an airtight plastic coated tent designated for mushers. “

- Natalie Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, January 27, 1997

Mushers show signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:

“Moroney and Moore were unconscious. They had to be dragged to safety.”

“Chapoton, a 28-year-old running a young team belonging to former Iditarod champ Martin Buser, said once he got out of the tent, he worked to help revive Mormile: He slapped her. ‘You did?’ said a surprised Mormile.”

- Natalie Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 1994

Iditarod does not call in medical doctors to give mushers exams:

“The ill mushers were taken to the nearby wilderness home of Barry and Kirsten Stanley.”

- Natalie Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, March 9, 1994

(The Iditarod did not and does not have medical doctors on the trail for the mushers.)

Mormile suffered brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning:

“Back in Anchorage, Mormile picked up a Newsweek magazine and the letters blurred. Road signs read like swear words. She also noticed that her attention span was short and she was irritable. After seeing doctors in Anchorage, Mormile ended up at Duke University Medical Center. She aid four days of testing showed that she had suffered brain damage from the carbon monoxide. Her IQ of 140 was not 90, she said.”

- Natalie Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, January 27, 1997

Mormile settles her lawsuit against Iditarod:

“One of the mushers who was nearly killed by carbon monoxide poisoning has settled her lawsuit against the Iditarod Trail Committee.”

“The amount of the settlement is confidential because Iditarod officials didn’t want it revealed, according to Mormile and her attorney, Robert Rehbock.”

- Natalie Phillips, Anchorage Daily News, January 27, 1997

Mormile clarifies statment made on CNN show Anderson Cooper 360 degrees:

“Dear Margery Glickman; c/o Sled Dog Action Coalition:

I would like to clarify a statement that I made on Anderson Cooper 360 degrees, which aired on 1-12-2006 on CNN. I stated that while competing in the 1994 Iditarod and subsequently suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, a doctor declared me dead. I would like to state that while this is true, I did not have the opportunity to clarify the following:

(1) The Iditarod did not have, at any time, any assigned doctors for humans, nor did the Iditarod provide any medical contingency plans or equipment.

(2) The doctor, Beth Baker, an MD/internist and fellow musher in the 1994 Iditarod, possessed no diagnostic equipment or medication on her person or sled.

(3) Dr. Baker visually looked at me, moved my extremities, and reportedly pinched me to determine my viability. She, by observation, made the declaration that I was dead.

(4) The man who carried my body was identified by various witnesses as a “local”. All witnesses concurred that he carried and dropped me. Not one witness could recollect his name. Not uncommon amongst those who seek to live in the “bush,” the individual apparently did not want to be identified and he eluded all attempts to find him. I hope this helps to clarify matters.

My greatest hope as well is that my words and information comforted the family of Randall McCloy, Jr, as well as the many others who have suffered from the cruel ravages of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Thank you and be well,
Catherine Mormile, DPT
Wasilla, Alaska
January, 14, 2006″

- Email to Margery Glickman and the Sled Dog Action Coalition on January 14, 2006

What kind of medical treatment should the mushers have immediately received?

Glasgow Coma Scale:

“Traditionally, the method of assessing the neurologic normality of a patient is the use of the Glasgow Coma Scale and the general orientation questions.”

- Eric P. Kindwall, MD and Harry T. Whelan, MD, editors. Hyperbaric Medicine Practice, Flagstaff: Best Publishing Company, 1995

Emergency medical care:

“If you have any of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, go to a hospital emergency department, particularly if several people in the household are affected….”

- eMedicine Health website

Blood tests:

“Because signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are not specific, a blood test to look for it is the best way to make the diagnosis.”

- eMedicine Health website

EKGs:

“An EKG should be obtained in all patients with or without symptoms, and if abnormal (commonly sinus tachycardia and ST-changes), serial creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) determinations should be performed, and the patient kept under close observation.”

- The Internet Journal of Emergency and Intensive Care Medicine website

In the years since this poisoning incident has the Iditarod changed any of its rules?

There are still no rules which require medical doctors to be on the trail, or for there to be emergency medical equipment for them to use. The rules say mushers may only use accommodations at officially authorized locations, but the Iditarod has no rules regarding the safety of these accommodations.

The Iditarod administration doesn’t seem to care about the health, safety and welfare of the mushers any more than they care about the health safety and welfare of the dogs.

Iditarod veterinarians violate Alaska law

When someone who is only licensed to practice veterinary medicine practices on a human, he is practicing medicine without a license in violation of Alaska law Sec.08.64.170.

Iditarod rules do not require medical doctors to be on the trail to treat the mushers.

Veterinarian Carolyn Witten puts four stitches in DeCaro’s thumb:

“We got to see Dave [DeCaro] this evening and he looks great!” “Dave had a little mishap with his pocket knife yesterday in Koyuk. There was alot of bleeding but the wonderful vet who was there on duty, Dr. Carolyn Witten, put 4 stitches into his thumb, gave him some antibiotic cream and sent him on his way. All his fingers are swollen but that is normal in all the mushers.”

- Dave DeCaro’s mother, Dave DeCaro’s Iditarod blog, 3-19-10 10:30 am; AKDT Trail Update, 3-20-10 8am AKDT Trail Update

“My memory of Dave [DeCaro] will be cemented in Koyuk when he sliced his hand with his knife and we all grimaced in the village hall as a vet stitched him up.”

- Iditarod musher Trent Herbst, Trent Herbst’s Blog, 2010

Veterinarians give Paul Gebhart dogs’ antibiotics:

“[Paul] Gebhardt personally is having a tough time. He’s been sick with flu-like symptoms since the race’s start. Veterinarians have been helping out by giving Gebhardt a few of their canine antibiotics.”

- Jon Little, Cabela’s Iditarod website, March 10, 2007
- Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News.

Veterinarian clips nerves that got in Martin Buser’s way:

“While in Rohn, one of the race veterinarians looked at it [Buser's middle finger], and was a little taken aback by what he saw. ‘I had some nerves sticking out, drying out, and getting in my way,’ Buser recalled. He asked the vet to cut the nerves away. The veterinarian reluctantly agreed and made the snips.”

- Jon Little, Cabela’s website, March 11, 2005
Little formerly wrote for the Anchorage Daily News

Veterinarian sews up Redington’s cut:

“His sled dug in, he soared up in the air, and in the flip cut his knee, a three-four-inch gash. In Skwentna, Redington was looking for first aid, but no one was around to help. So he called for his old pal Terry Adkins. The mushing veterinarian was nearby with his team and he sewed up Redington’s cut.

‘I was afraid I was going to get socked with malpractice for practicing human medicine, ‘ said Adkins.”

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

Veterinarian treats Paul Ellering’s wound:

“At the table across from where I was sitting sat a vet. ‘How is it going?’ she asked me.”

“I pulled up the leg of my mushing suit, and then the long john leg, exposing the hole. ‘I dono’o–you be the judge.’ ‘That should have stitches,’ she said smartly. ‘Hell’ I said, ‘my whole body is one giant zipper. What’s another scar to scar face?’ She frowned and went back into her vet bag, taking out a red liquid. Then she smiled…. It burned like hell.”

- Paul Ellering. Wrestling the Iditarod, Bend: Maverick Publications, 2005

Veterinarians treat Liz Parrish after she injures her leg:

“Veterinarians were continuing to work on Liz [Parrish] in Nulato.”

- John Schandelmeir, Herald and News, March 12, 2008

“Liz Parrish drove the last team out of Unalakleet at 2 a.m. today. She is holding down the red lantern position on Iditarod 36. She has had a tough race. Liz had a bad fall early in the race, injuring her leg; she has been cared for by veterinarians…”

- John Schandelmeier, Herald and News, March 14, 2008

Veterinarian treated C. Mark Chapoton’s wound:

“A vet doctored up an old burn wound of mine with super glue and mole skin when it was time to go. That’s what we do to dogs’ feet, and it worked great on my finger.”

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

Veterinarian Emi Berger treated sick mushers:

“And while she’s [veterinarian Emi Berger] seen and helped treat mushers with concussion, sprains, dislocated shoulders, disorientation caused by dehydration and the occasional finger or hand infection…”

- Randi Weiner, The Journal News, March 31, 2011

Iditarod tradition: Veterinarians working on humans:

“Five-time Iditarod champion Rick Swenson, 60, had just arrived. His collarbone looked broken and it was time for an unofficial Iditarod tradition: Animal doctors pinch hitting on human injuries.”

- Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2011

Rules do not require Iditarod to find missing dogs

Although the Iditarod has many resources at its disposal, the rules do not require it to find or help find dogs who are lost during the race.

- Iditarod website

Cindy Gallea looks for her lost dogs:

“Iditarod officials say that Montana musher Cindy Gallea left the checkpoint this morning but lost two of her dogs in route to Rohn. She is looking for them now.”

- Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Radio, March 6, 2007

No rule requires Iditarod Air Force to carry emergency rations and equipment for the dogs

The Iditarod Air Force transports humans and dogs during the Iditarod and after the race. Alaska law and Iditarod Air Force rules require that emergency rations and equipment for humans be carried on planes. However, the Iditarod, the Iditarod Air Force and the State of Alaska do not require airmen to carry equipment or food for the dogs in case of an emergency stop in an uninhabited place.

The Iditarod and the Iditarod Air Force should require airmen to carry the following emergency food and equipment for the dogs:

1. Food for each dog for one week
2. Five sets of four booties for each dog
3. One thermal blanket for each dog.
4. One coat for each dog that will protect him or her in subzero temperatures

- Alaska law:

“Alaska Statute 02.35.110 Emergency Rations & Equipment requires that an airman may not make a flight inside the state with an aircraft unless emergency equipment is carried as follows:

1. The minimum equipment during the summers months is: food for each occupant for one week; one axe or hatchet; one first aid kit; an assortment of fishing tackle such as hooks, flies, and sinkers; one knife; fire starter; one mosquito headnet for each occupant; and two signaling devices such as colored smoke bombs, pistol shells, etc. sealed in metal containers.

2. In addition to the above, the following must be carried as minimum equipment from October 15 to April 1 of each year: one pair of snowshoes; one sleeping bag; one wool blanket for each occupant over four.”

- State of Alaska Department of Transportation website, March, 2009

- Iditarod Air Force requirements:

“TRANSPORTING HUMAN PASSENGER CHECK LIST

Though each passenger is expected to be prepared to fly in a small, often unheated bush airplane, the pilot must have the final word regarding those passengers he/she will transport. The pilot must check to see that each prospective passenger has the following gear:

Sleeping bag rated for minus temperatures.

Warm hooded parka and pants, or warm jacket, pants and cap.

Warm gloves or mittens.

Compact kit containing healthful food which can be eaten without preparation in the event of an unplanned stop in an uninhabited place.”

- Iditarod Air Force website, March 2009

Meaningless rule about emergency dog food

Rule 16- Mandatory Items says: “When leaving a checkpoint adequate emergency dog food must be on the sled. (This will be carried in addition to what you carry for routine feeding and snacking.)”

This rule doesn’t state how much emergency dog food a musher must carry on the sled for each dog. The Iditarod doesn’t allow mushers to ship food to the Yentna and Finger Lake checkpoints, so at these locations, mushers cannot re-supply their dogs with emergency food. It’s optional for mushers to ship dog food to the Safety checkpoint.

Dogs eating steroids

“Iditarod rule 39 — Drug Use” allows mushers to put cortico-steroids on dogs’ feet. The Iditarod does not regulate how much steroid cream a musher puts on a dog’s foot. Once the cream is applied, the Iditarod cannot control how much cream a dog licks off and swallows.

Iditarod hides sick, injured and tired dogs

Iditarod doesn’t allow the media to see sick, injured and tired dogs:
(These dogs are kept in the Drop Dog Areas.)

“Drop Dog Areas are restricted to mushers and race personnel only.”

- 2014 Iditarod Media Guidelines