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Iditarod 2009: The First Dog Dies

Written by PETA | March 11, 2009
doggies / CC

Every year, we brace ourselves for this predictable—yet avoidable—catastrophe, but it’s still upsetting. The first dog has been run to death in this year’s edition of the cruel and pointless Iditarod dogsled race: His name was Victor, and he was just 6 years old. Ominously, a Fox Sports article refers to Victor’s death as just “the first of this year’s race,” while an AP story reports that the unusually warm weather is taking a toll on the dogs. We already fear the worst for one dog who went missing after first-time Iditarod driver Nancy Yoshida crashed not one but two different sleds. (You can also click here to read a powerful op-ed ed by PETA staffer Jen O’Connor describing the unseen cruelty of the Iditarod.)

Can we finally put to rest the myth that dogsled racing is OK because the “dogs love to run”? Dogs don’t love to run until they collapse from exhaustion, choke on their own vomit, or get killed by a snow machine (as happened last year). That’s abuse, not “sport.”

It’s especially galling to me that I share a last name with the defending “champion,” Lance Mackey. I’d certainly leap at the chance to give him a piece of my mind at the Mackey family reunion. While that might not be possible, fortunately, there’s plenty that we can all do to help put an end to this annual nightmare for dogs.

For example, be on the lookout for any TV or radio programs that attempt to hide the cruelty that dogs endure during the Iditarod. A recent radio show with travel journalist Rick Steves failed to mention the suffering of the dogs, so perhaps you’d like to let Steves and his producers know what they missed?

Written by Jeff Mackey

Commenting is closed.
  • Yukoner says:

    LOL…you need to find something more worthwhile to protests, methinks. These dogs are athletes and their sport is their life. Human athletes die from time to time, as well; it’s one of the chances one takes. You may argue that the human made a conscious choice to compete, but believe me, those dogs do, too! They utterly love it, and would be miserable all their life if they couldn’t run.

  • Margarita says:

    It is true that aninals love the outdoors and run around but I am sure that they are not going to choose being raced to death with burst lungs etc. than being in a house that with a proper diet and nutrition are not going to get overweight.

  • K1 says:

    Yes it is very sad to hear that the dog died but like many have mentioned before a lot of dogs die in this race or die from being fat and lazy. So which ones worse? Dogsledding is not like NASCAR when the tired are bad the driver gets new ones the sled rider person does not run their dogs to death and then replace them when they die. Those dogs are probably a lot happy and healthier than most house pets that arent taken out for walks or let out to run around. Also the animal rights bit gets a little out of hand when you care more about the life of the dog than the human being. Early in this article it was mentioned that a woman crashed her sled and oh my goodness the poor dogs blah blah blah. What about the sled rider? Is she ok? How about her health and happiness?

  • Krystina says:

    i hope everyone clicks that last link and lets steve hear them. if he has any compassion at all he would spread the message to his listeners and apologize for giving the iditarod a false positive endorcment.

  • Margarita says:

    Tim obviously your dogs are not being run to exhaustion in the dead of winter in one of the coldest places on earth. Thomas all the abuses that you mention are just as bad as the ‘Idiotride’ as somebody called it.

  • Tim O'Leary says:

    I do not own or run sled dogs but I do own and run a pack of Wisconsin bear hounds. Be at my place some morning when we load the dogs to go for a run. They know exactly where theyre going and they go absolutely nuts with excitement as we load them into their dog boxes. They absolutely LIVE for the chase. Its in their breeding. Other than keeping them well feed warm dry loved and not abused to not run these dogs would be the most cruel thing I could do to them. Same goes for the Iditarod dogs! You PETA people are nuts if you think we are being cruel to and abusing our dogs. Just the reverse!

  • melissa neitzel says:

    I see this as almost as bad as vick!Although he deserved more time!What can we do is the question…

  • Thomas says:

    Margarita why waste all that manpower and time protesting something that I don’t see changing. How about protesting stiffer penalties for people abandoning their animals. How about a crackdown on the number of kennels and breeders and tougher laws on acquiring licenses. How about the notion of ALL pets being microchipped as a law. I think instead of focusing on a dog race that clearly celebrates the bond between man and dog we do something about a person’s total disregard and irresponsibility of owning an animal. Helping millions of animals or disputing the morality of a race with a thousand dogs? That really isn’t a tough decision for an animal lover who really wants to make a difference!

  • Joe says:

    you have no idea about sled dogs they love what they do if you walk in the yard with a harness they go nuts knowing whats going on. This is what they are bread for and if they out law dog mushing what would you dowith all the dogs. just think YOU HAVE NO IDEA NOT UNTIL YOU ACUALLY RUN DOGS!!!

  • Margarita says:

    I think that this like I said in another comment about another issue requires ahead of time preparation. A good 2 months before the race starts it would be the most helpful to get protests and letter writing campaigning going to get more people and businesses aware to what’s really going on. And in that way by doing it early put more pressure on this issue.

  • Karen says:

    I visited Shageluk on the Iditarod Trail last weekend and had the pleasure of watching numerous mushers handle their dogs. I believe mushers are every bit as saddened by loss of dog as anyone else. While I agree with PETA on some issues even parodies of our AK governor I part company with you on this issue. I spent a couple hours in the subzero temperatures and a few minutes in the blistering wind and was amazed at the mushers’ determination to feed rest and otherwise tend to their dogs. I also think it is unfortunate that the survival of Dr. Packer seems completely lost in the discussion. He suffered the greatest loss but thankfully he is able to return to his wife and three young children.

  • Vicki Moffat says:

    I read the comments above and agree with Thomas and Patty there are bigger fish to fry out there with regard to animal abuse. Most of the sled dogs on the Iditarod are well cared for elite athletes. I’d like to see you accuse Martin Buser or Dee Dee Jonrow of abuse. We have two siberian husky crosses and the younger one particularly is never more happy than when it cools down and he is able to run for as long as he is allowed. Any type of husky whether siberian or alaskan as most of the top mushers use are not an easy dog to train they are independent and must be taught the right way the first time or you can waste a heck of a lot of time retraining. We use ours for competitive obedience and like most working dogs they thrive on doing what they are bred and trained for. As in most sports whether with animals or not there are people who will abuse their or the animals talent but as in most well regulated sports these are soon weeded out not only by the organisers but by the other competitors who don’t want themselves or their sport put into disrepute.

  • Shaun says:

    I live in Fairbanks Alaska and own a two dogs who pull me on my skis every day on subsero temperatures with wind. To say that these dogs are “run to death” is a complete exaggeration. The fact that the author above mentioned Lace Mackey should be a personnal insult to any dog owner anywhere. He does not shoot his dogs if they do not perform. In fact his kennel has recieved much acclaim for his excellent care. Now let me comment on the dogs “wanting to run so much.” I dont have iditarod quality dogs but when i do skijor with my dogs at 30 to 0 degrees with wind by the time i bring them inside my home they are still begging me to go back out. These dogs are incredible performers who beg to get this sort of work out. An average dog does not have the same framework or God given ability to distance run as a husky or similar mix has. And please tell me how this is not a sport if it involves much athleticism and competitiion. To the author i would like to know how many dogs you have because Lance Mackey owns well more than you can handle. This is his life the care of animals not running them to death. In a quote last year after winning both the Iditarod and the Veterinarians Choice Award mackey said “This means more to me than winning this damn race.” If anything you should feel honored to meet him and im sure he will share with you any answers you would like. In fact he has a website you can use to ask him questions then you can post your conversation with him on this site. Try to put little more thought into your explicitly condescending statements and accusations about people and their care for their own animals.

  • Uh huh says:

    OK I’m pretty sure those dog owners don’t want to run their dogs over. OR kill them. Whatever you say about humanity you’re saying it about yourself too. If YOU can do ANY activity even just existing without hurting a single other animal then you can say crap.

  • Diane Gallagher says:

    How in the world can anyone claim to know that these dogs love running in freezing temperatures? Did they tell you this? It’s the same when people say horses love pulling those heavy carriages in sweltering temperatures. If these poor animals could talk they would most likely tell the humans to try it themselves if they think it is so much fun!!!!

  • patty speidel says:

    I think it would be safe to say that all of Lance Mackey’s dogs are cared better cared for that 99 of the dogs in this country. I am a huge supporter on many peta issues but this is not one of them. I also own two sled dogs both rescues and can be found several times a month playing at the peta dogpark with both dogs. But unless live with a northern breed dog you have no idea what they are like.They love sub zero temps the snow and to run. To me it’s more of a crime to see unwanted pets “humanely” die each day lonely in a shelter than it is to see one dog die running the iditarod. HoweverI am glad for organizations such a peta and hsus to keep an eye on the race. Oh and Nancy Yoshida’s dog was found and has since been reunited with his owner.

  • Thomas says:

    I absolutely love this topic! The “abuse” of sled dogs! Comparing it to that of some sort of Michael Vick house party or something. I understand that many people find dogs pulling a sled a certain distance to be a disgrace and “abuse” to animals. I mean shouldn’t every dog get a chance to just lay around a house with little or no exercise and be overfed and die old and fat? Sounds a lot like Americans come to think of it! I know that the care of these animals will always be in question but these are some of the most well taken care of trained animals in the world. I know that I can’t speak for everyone in the sport but I can for myself. I actually have a rescue that takes in huskies that have been passed over or “not good enough.” I just think there are bigger fish to fry out there. How about this fact last week there were over 5 dogs abandoned in my neighborhood 1 tied to a stop sign more than likely because of the effect of the economy. Should we focus all our efforts on a dog race with one unfortunate event or the thousands maybe millions of Americans abandoning their animals that are now homeless starving and more than likely being caught and euthanized or worry about well taken care of loved dogs who pull a sled?

  • 4mula1 says:

    race cars NOT animals!.. see my messages at click search type in indycar01 hope to see all ah ya at the track!

  • Sarah says:

    The Iditarod is definitely unnecessary. This is not a “sport”. People have feet that can run. Why don’t they try and run in snow for a long period of time and see how those dogs feel.

  • vegancoin says:

    another sad and relentlessly cruel tale of anthropocentric greed to add the the long list of mankinds brutal and domineering history. and this celebrates nothing. yet another barbaric inhumane and cruel bloodsport disguised as entertainment. It’s the animals that suffer before during and after the race.

  • Wendy says:

    This is so sad and so unnecessary. It’s abuse. Simple! Why? There is no answer to this. It’s so wrong and so stupid. This isn’t a sport in anyway. I wish this would just end with a lot of other animal abuse!

  • Brien Comerford says:

    In the land of Sarah Palin there is inordinate animal cruelty and carnage. Too many inhumane and unenlightened animal abusers thrive in Alaska.

  • Amber Falobas says:

    While I may be scared of Husky dogs they are beautiful dogs and they don’t deserve this shit. Let’s tie up the people who race them and make them race in the cold conditions.

  • Pepsi One is Fun says:

    It wouldn’t be too far fetched to think that with all the shit greyhounds go through it might be the same with sled dogs.

  • Simran says:

    Oh god! Why do they do this? I went dogsledding when I was 5. I will never do it again! Its so cruel!

  • Nicole Dziuban says:

    Yet again a horrible story. When will this end? What I would like to know is how people can continue to watch this and think it is fun? Just like the horse racing this is despicable.

  • kelly says:

    There’s a lot of information here httpwww.helpsleddogs.orgfaq.htm about this whole cruel thing

  • kelly says:

    Lots of these sled dogs die and don’t make it into the media These sled dog breeders run sled dog puppy mills. Many of these dogs are chained for life and killed with a gunshot or set loose to die if they don’t perform. The whole industry is based on abuse and death.