By Tom Grady
March 29, 2006
I recently wrote a column for the sports section of the Star-News that focused on the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race. I’d like to expand on the theme here.
The animal lovers among us don’t like to see dogs or any animals forced to the limit for the entertainment of humans. In my view, dog fighting, greyhound racing and dog sled racing all fall under the same category, although dog fighting is especially cruel and separated at the top the list.
Maybe I’m not getting the full picture on sled racing, but I’ve seen the videos of dogs tied to short chains near tiny, crude doghouses and I’ve read stories about tragedies along the race course.
They have been bred for the so-called sport, and I’m sure their handlers would defend the practice by telling us they enjoy it. But can we really imagine that the dogs love the struggle that sometimes kills a fellow member of the team?
Do they really enjoy being tied up on a short chain for many hours at a time while they wait for the next race or the next training run? The answer is a definitive no – no matter what propaganda or spin might be presented.
I have no doubt that some of the folks involved do treat their dogs better than others. But in my view, dogs should be more a part of our families than a tool that we tie up by the backyard shed until we get the urge to engage in a hobby.
I was really upset when I found the Web site www.helpsleddogs.org. It lists numerous deaths in the 2006 race and in prior years.
The site also posts several opinion pieces, including a column by Fox Sports’ Jim Rome, who calls the Iditarod “the annual I-killed-a-dog-sled race.”
The more I read, the more dog sled racing reminds me of greyhound racing. The Web site suggests, through a referenced article in the Anchorage Daily News, that a high number of dogs are bred to produce the best possible racers. The dogs that don’t make the cut are killed, with some inhumanely shot in the head.
Sled racing is not a sport. The people involved might get a little cold, but they are nice and cozy in the sled compared to the dogs they push.
If these people want to race the long distance across Alaska for money, let them strap on snowshoes or skis and go it alone. That I could call a sport, and maybe the money raised over the next few “man-itarod” races might be enough to cover the vet bills and transportation to send the dogs to loving homes.