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Iditarod 2009: Six Dogs Dead

Written by PETA | March 25, 2009


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When we discussed the first dog to die during the 2009 Iditarod, I mentioned that more were likely to follow. Now, at the end of the race, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that this year’s death toll stands at six.

Six dogs. Dead.

And for what? A belt buckle. A long shot at some money, a pickup truck, and a few endorsement deals. I suppose they think that they’re covering themselves in glory, too, but it looks more like blood to me.

Consider this: Two of the dogs may have frozen to death in the punishing weather. Two others died with fluid in their lungs. The most recently reported death apparently happened during a turbulent plane flight after the “musher” gave up. Even the generally Iditarod-supportive Anchorage Daily News called the number of deaths—only five, at the time—”troubling,” but that misses the point: Even one dog dead is too many, and it is unacceptable that the dogs who survive are run to exhaustion or injury, only to be stuck back on a chain until the next race.

To paraphrase a classic cartoon, we say it’s cruelty, and we say the hell with it. PETA has asked the Alaska State Troopers to open a criminal investigation into the deaths of these dogs in the Iditarod. We’ll keep you posted on any major developments. In the meantime, even though this year’s event has mercifully ended, it’s not too late to tell the 2009 Iditarod sponsors to make this the last year that they contribute to dogs’ deaths.

Written by Jeff Mackey

Commenting is closed.
  • oSparkyy says:

    I heard this year 1 dog died, the dogs name was Dorado and the dog’s owner was named Paige Drobny

  • Alexis and Paloma Martinez says:

    We are at this website for a school project and we just want to say to all the bone heads how kill these amazing dogs should go to hell!!!

  • Heat84 says:

    If sled dogs “love pulling sleds”, how did they exist during the thousands of years before sleds existed? If the answer is they were bred to like it, that means its unnatural for them to like it. So how is that ok?

  • PETA says:

    @Aleksandra – It sounds as though your dogs are well taken care of. However, most sled dogs aren’t so lucky. Check out for more information.

  • aleksandra says:

    our family had the first husky back in the early 90’s, i was six at the time. now living almoust my entirely life whit these dogs and getting to know the breed in these years so well, i’m bit shocked of petas accusations towards dogs used as sleddogs. we are talking about arctic breed, dogs that love cold weather and snow…and also pulling sled! our family lives in finland, lapland near russian border. it gets realy cold here in winter -30C is quite normal temperament for many months in winter. we have 23 dogs, most of them working type siberian huskies, few show type siberians (blue eyes, black/white fur) like most of siberian huskies in us and also few alaskan huskies. anyway, our dogs have free acces to our house through a small “dog door”(which can bee closed if wanted). we have huge yeard that has been fenced everywear, that we can let dogs run freely in our yeard. we also have small stable (turned kennell space) inside that fenced area. when me and my husband are not home, dogs are put to kennell where they can either be inside (where in winter we keep temperament somewhere between +10 to +15C) or outside in smaller fenced areas. all the dogs get to come inside our house when we are home, also in our bedroom and in our kids room. we do make “small safari trips” for tourist so all our dogs work as sleddogs most time of the winter. but first of all, they are family members! they are deeply loved and cared, and are best friends whit our seven yeard old son. who has dogbeds for his “own” dogs in his room, where two of our older dogs sleep most nights. most younger dogs WANT TO SLEEP OUTSIDE at nights, even that they have acces to inside the house. our five year old siberian husky male named uljas never goes inside a doghouse, he hates them. he stays inside the house until we fell a sleep, and then gos outside to sleep in his favorite place, at corner of the old stable (we can see there in bedroom window). so even when these arctic dogs have a chance to be inside the house in warm, most of them prefer to sleep outside, in the cold. and we keep our inside temperament i the house belove +20C ’cause of the dogs, they can’t stand the heat! arctic breed that live in colder parts of the world do make batter winter coats and don’t feel the cold and can survive in there. so people, don’t judge us mushers that we are evil and mistreating dogs and that dogsledding is cruel. these dogs really love snow, cold weather and pulling the sled. and what could be more wonderful than takinf a few days safari trip to mountains whit your best friends…the huskies, knowing they love it as much as you, or even more!

  • Sarah says:

    It pretty funny that I imagine numerous comments on this page are pathetic meat eaters living in the lower 48 that are totally cool with going to the store and grabbing some hot dogs steaks ground turkey cheese…milk…. THOSE ARE FINE TO EAT people??? because you dont see their dying faces? Im sorry the dogs died outside running…but eight year old sled dog? He had Hypothermia like the owner of the sled dog that also nearly died!!!!This isnt animal cruelty this was just a part of human nature. Alaska has WILD animals. Sorry you guys have no idea what that is anymore.

  • mylah says:

    i feel very sorry for those dogs…

  • Hastaroth says:

    Question No.1Is it true that during the racethese dogs run for 16 hours consecutively? Question No.2Is it true that the regulations of the race allow only 34 hours sleep daily for these dogs? If youmushersanswer YES to any of these two questionsthen YESYOU ARE BARBARIC TORTURERS OF INNOCENT AND DEFENSELESS ANIMALS

  • You dont want to know. says:

    Hello I am a musher myself and I support mushing with every fiber of my being. For people that are against mushing I feel sorry that you are partially blind. Blind to the fact that these mushers are not certified veterinarians and are not equipped with everything for a tragic accident that might happen between checkpoints. Also to the fact that these most of these conditions that the dogs might have also have the same signs for a nonlifethreatening condition. People don’t think of the fact that mushers are out there for fun yes they might talk like it’s all business but they are all brought together because of their love for dogs and the sport. These mushers are only given a few items that could help them if a dog was injured on the trail with these items you can only do so much that is why there are veterinarians at every checkpoint. It would be difficult to carry a veterinarian clinic in you sled. This is all I’m going to say for now but I would love to hear you comments about this and get a good discussion going.

  • Margarita says:

    After reading so many ‘the dogs just love to run’ I have to say that all dogs love to run or all animals for that matter they all embrace their freedom and the ability to be able to do it that doesn’t mean that some dogs like to take it to the extreme and run like crazy non stop in a miserable freezing weather without any regards for their own discomfort.

  • Alexander Ludwig says:

    You do realise that these people love their dogs more than their own families? I don’t see people jumping up in arms when people die trying to climb everest.. It’s a risky sport but the dogs love to run and they are very well taken care of. You will never see people care so much for animals than a sled dog musher they are part of their families…

  • Kris says:

    The excuses and defenses I’m hearing are all too familiar from people who USE animals. “Bred for this” is also an excuse dog fighter’s use along with “can’t hold them back”. “They live to run” is also what we hear from race horse owners whose horses live in 6×6 stalls and are sent to slaughter once they have outlived their usefulness. If you want to prove the size of your manhood or how tough you are use your own strength and power race on skis or better yet on foot. Save yourself the money and save the animals who have been raised to believe this is what they have to do to please their master. And to Diane who posted “there are wild dogs living in the exact same conditions as these dogs are but noone is running around protesting that are they?” I have to say we are trying to focus on the animals who are forcebred handraised and trained to behave this way. No wild animals are running for 16 hours a day at the demand of an ‘owner’. They aren’t chained up unable to run when they may want to “because of all the fighting and breeding” why are these animals not fixed?!?!?! to keep themselves warm in between running a race. Wild dogs hunt when they are hungry sleep when they are tired run when they like and eventually they die… it is sad but that is life. Domesticated dogs are as similar to wild dogs as your house cat is to lions in Africa and I don’t think Fluffy could take down a water buffalo! If you believe animals are here for us to USE HOWEVER WE SEE FIT you will justify anything and everything you do in some way. People see and know what they want to especially if it keeps them from feeling guilt for their actions. Alan I’m sorry for your loss… I’m sure in your head and heart you loved your dog and for that I’m sorry. But make no mistake you killed Cirque. Your choice to raise her that way and take her all the way to Alaska in order to pull you around in the freezing cold for days put her in a situation where she had to be put on that plane and that is where you are responsible.

  • Vanessa says:

    Ok these dogs are bred to run. Before you start judging the dogsledders I suggest you go dogsledding yourself. If a dog didn’t want to run it wouldn’t. I have been dogsledding before and I could not hold them back from running that’s how excited they are to run. Also like Steven said above dogsledding is a very expensive sport so people would not pay that much just to deal with dogs they hate. Dogsledders LOVE their dogs and would never starve or neglect them. From my experiences the dogs are very happy and one of my tasks as a dogsledder in training was to go around and give each dog attention. Plus each dog is well fed and if a dog is sick or anything like that they do not run them. And to anyone who says “why don’t you pull a sled with chains?” No because that’s not what I was made to do. These dogs are meant to run just like some horses are meant to jump falcons are meant to hunt etc etc. Dogs die so do people things die and in this situation the deaths couldn’t be prevented. Please read on facts and things before you start complaining that they are being neglected and starved. You can’t just assume these things.

  • Leah says:

    I see that people are talking about how the dogs being put on the plane was a horrible idea and that it was a cruel thing to do. But I have a question for those of you who think that Do you think that it would have been better if the dogs were just left out there? Yes it is upsetting that a dog died on the plane. But it was a freak accident that no one could have foreseen or prevented! I also do not doubt that these dogs are properly cared for and loved by their humans. Think about it Would a badly treated unloved dog run these races and entrust their lives to their socalled caretakers?

  • crystal partee says:

    to the person who wrote we are too sensitive why dont u tie yourself up and run for miles in the cold elements and see how far you go!!!!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Alan I’m sorry for your loss. Losing a beloved friend is always hard but you put Cirque and her teammates onto that plane for their own safety! My heart goes out to you. I appreciate your willingness to write about it even to a hostile audience.

  • Jordan says:

    I have a husky who someone gave away to me when I lived in Alaskano don’t worry not purebred And I can tell you right now they are VERY hyper and do like to run… However… I don’t understand why these dogs have to sleep outside in the snow and sleet run what maybe 16 hours a day…. It’s unnatural. There needs to be SOME KIND of regulations if the Iditarod is going to continue.

  • Richard says:


  • Robin says:

    Sadly I don’t ever think that any ANIMAL on this planet will ever have any real rights ever. No thanks to all those who contributed to writing a BIBLE that depicts a GOD who allegedly only put these animals on our planet for us to do as we please. And so many GOD fearing people excuse this away because GOD allegedly set this up. How can we expect any hope for these animals when this same GOD allegedly allowed his only son to die a merciless death for our future salvation. And children also continue to be abused and neglected by humans under this GOD’S reign. Any of this make sense to animal lovers? Despite this these animals are still worth fighting for only don’t expect GOD to do it the BIBLE say the world will only get worse not better in time. But hey the out this GOD allegedly has is to blame it all on Satan.

  • Diane says:

    I’m sorry but racing such are the reason these dogs were created in the first place. They have been bred for generations to survive the weather that they are running in. And I bet you people aren’t even putting up the whole story as to why these dogs have died. If you could research the history on these dogs you will find all the things I’m telling you to be true. Sorry to offend anyone with this statement but it’s true… I mean there are wild dogs living in the exact same conditions as these dogs are but noone is running around protesting that are they? No

  • Steven says:

    Most of these causes of deaths are indeed not preventable. Almost all dogs that die on the trail including thesewith the exception of Lou Packer’s fall overdead. These dogs were completly asymptomatic they just died. Perhaps it was a heart condition or some other defect. How many human marathoners have died on the course take Ryan Shay last year for example or gone into cardiac arrest only to be resuscitated by a prepared ambulance on a monitored course? These are human athletes in the prime of their physical condition just as these dogs are. There are around 1600 dogs that run Iditarod each year and on average less than 2 die mostly from a sudden death. If the dogs had been running in the wild it is likely they would have keeled over as well. As for the comment about Lou Packer’s dogs they are fine. No more dogs died I was at the kennel he operated out of when the dogs arrived and visited them. They’re tired but in good health. As for the comments about the cruelty of even running with dogs I speak from experiencethese dogs love to run. They live for running. When I start harnessing dogs by my sled you’ve never heard such a ruckus from the dogs who don’t get to go. Yes these dogs are put on chains which swing around a rather large individual space and they have their own house. There is no logistical way you could let the dogs run freethere would be fights constant breedings. It would be chaos. Let me also say the dogs do not mind their circumstances. If you let a dog go he runs around excitedly for two or three minutes then returns to his house. They like their circumstancesthey are better than in the wild. These dogs are also not starved or dehydrated. Special care is taken to see that they stay at a healthy weight for an athletic dog. Yes they do seem skinny but compare them to human marathoners. These humans are also very thin but are they not in the prime of their health? If a dog begins to become too skinny he or she is fed more until his or her weight is brought up. The dogs are kept well hydratedmushers want them to be healthy! That brings me to the most important thingmushers love their dogs! They raise them take care of them learn about each of their dogs every weakness and strenght and personality trait. Mushers do not race for the money. The first place prize is a mere $69000. That’s not big bucks especially when you take into effect the cost for running one Iditarod. Each dog costs around $2500. If you have sixteen dogs almost all mushers have more that’s $40000. Then you have to buy a sled at least $2000 a dog truck or trailer another several thousand in addition to harnesses booties $1 a piece with an average of 2000 booties used in Iditarod not to mention the countless used in training and dog foodusually $55 a bag and you can go through one bag a day easy. You can easily see how this adds up and up. While sponsors do help pay for these things starting off still costs a minimum of $60000 almost the prize money for first place a position most of these mushers know they will never get they simply want to enjoy the sport and the challenge of the race. $69000 per year isn’t even that large of an income nothing worth backbreaking work and years of effort to win. Serious racers do it because they love the sport and they love the dogs. They are what the dogsledding is all about.

  • Margarita says:

    Sorry but you are not going to find any sympathy from me I can only feel emphaty towards the dogs plight.

  • beth says:

    the sled dogs are just too eager to please..too eager to be helpful..too eager to assist by dragging along those burdens of food rations and human passengers .. oh how I wish I wish the dogs.. ALL of them would just dig their heels in and simply REFUSE To drag those ridiculous wieghed down sleds and their selfihs human counterparts.. and if these sled riders whippped and coerced the dogs they would be deemed inflicting cruelty to animals.. which they would be and still do anyway whichever way.. dogs.. if ONLY you WOULD NOT and REFUSE to drag these stupid sled race farces.. but dogs being dogs.. they are only too willing too eager to please.. to be helpful. and to assist.. and a good number of them pay the ultimate price for it in the end.. how I loathe a certain circle and prevalent number of humans all over the world that use and abuse and exploit animasl even for stupid I repeat STUPID races like these only for selfish and personal and monetary gain.. DISGUSTING!!

  • .. says:

    Umm Tamra! Your wrong your the type of person who believes everything she sees. Why don’t you get the facts! Peta is right. Stop thinking just because you have huskies you know everything! Next time you don’t agree with Peta which probably knows more about animals then you go to the race your self and see how the dogs are treated.

  • Chelsea says:

    Well i definitly dont thnk ths sport should be banned.MOST of these “mushers” care very much for these dogs we shoould not classify this sport under one horrible man who could personally care less about his dogs

  • Justine says:

    Freezing to death having fluid in the lungs and dying in a turbulent flight all seem like very preventable deaths.

  • macaw97 says:

    Alan I feel so much sympathy for you. Loosing a team member is bad enough but being defamed in the media adds insult to the injury. Many consolations on the loss of your beloved Cirque from those of us who run dogs and understand what it means to love working creatures that have an additional pupose to sitting on the couch.

  • Carolyn C says:

    Very sad and Alaska needs to stop killing wolves.

  • Michele Galeotafiore says:

    They are running to their death and those in control don’t care they are selfish greedy and need to feel power. People who take advantage of animals are not human.

  • alan peck says:

    I lost a very close friend companion and family member on March 23rd in a tragic accident. Her name is Cirque. I have raised her from a puppy and we had developed a very close bond over the past two years of her life. She is one of a litter of eight. All of them enjoy playing in the fenced acre we have set aside for them and they enjoy coming inside when we are home to be with my wife and I. Cirque was a beautiful and playful dog that would paw at the air in our direction to ask for affection which we gladly lavished on her. In the summer she would join us for hikes in the mountains near home just like her siblings and the others in the kennel who were treated just as lovingly. In the winter her enthusiasm and focus was on running in a sled dog team with her team mates. Cirque was a family member and my wife and I are devastated by her death. I am sure some of you can relate to this if you have experienced the loss of a child. That is how we regard our kennel of 20 sled dogs. Each are individuals that receive lots of individual love and attention and together we love to take winter trips together. Meeting challenges and overcoming them together deepen our bonds. This is no different than a child persevering in a track event or basketball tournament and excelling against the competition. Self confidence of our dogs is elevated with success of meeting challenges. Cirque was in my Iditarod dog team. All of my 16 dogs were in excellent health and had great attitude. Veterinarians along the checkpoints of the trail commented that my team was one of the best cared for among the teams that they saw. In another race I have been awarded the best dog care award. My interaction with sled dogs extends 23 years where I have studied and learned about canine performance and care. I do not take lightly my commitment to care and love of my canine children and look out for their safety just as anyone would with a human child. I made a choice to end an attempt to finish the Iditarod Race when I encountered sever weather conditions along the Iditarod Trail. I determined the risk was too elevated for the dogs to continue through a coastal wind storm. When my dog team was flown out of the checkpoint where I stopped all were in excellent physical and mental health and were energetic if asked to continue down the trail to the finish. In the flight from the checkpoint to Nome Cirque died in a freak accident. Dogs were well secured and safe in the plane and the pilot was not to blame. Mushers enter the Iditarod Sled Dog Race for many reasons. Few do it with the goal to win. Many do it with goals to spend quality time with their canine friends see new trail meet people in villages along the way and simply finish. I wish you would believe me when I tell you that Alaska huskies live to run. They are truly marathon athletes. I cannot tell you how deeply hurt I feel when I am one accused by PETA of abusing and killing Cirque. This has been devastating enough to lose her in an accident that was out of anyones control. It is cruel that those without knowledge of the circumstances lay blame to mushers like me. Where is this type of scrutiny when dogs daily die of owner irresponsibility from having lose dogs hit by cars or taking their unwanted pets to the animal shelter with a high probability of euthanasia? I ask that you clearly learn the facts before accusing people. We all have the same goal to love and nurture our canine family. Alan Peck

  • Anya says:

    I think you people are overly sensitive! We have husky dogs here 3 of them and believe it not for those of you who are death they LOVE to run! Do you all have proof that these dogs are locked up and don’t see people? Because from what i’ve seen is that they are being taken care of before the races and the people that do it are extremely attached to them! These dogs are a breed to be raced their coat is a winter coat. Before you speak based on your emotions get facts 1st! As far as the treatment towards the dogs during transport i agree is absolutely inhumane! And i think that the races should be made way shorter distance where it is tolerable to the animal so for gods sake the dog doesn’t freeze to death i am afraid to think that this is all true!

  • Tamra says:

    This sport should be banned!!!

  • mandy says:

    who would kill inoccent dogs just to win a stupid sled race! all these videos make me wanna cry and do the things that happen to these animals to the people who take care of them!!!!!!!

  • Donna says:

    Actually it is rumored that Packer the musher who lost two dogs when he heartlessly abandoned his dog team to the elements of a raging snowstorm along the trail but took care of himself has actually NOW lost TWO MORE!!. These two dogs survived the storm that night but were not doing well and have now died. If true this brings the total of known dog deaths for this year’s iditarod to 8!!!

  • kelly says:

    This page has lots of information about this issue and what to do

  • Brien Comerford says:

    Alaska is a hellish place for animals. The cruel animal killer Sarah Palin personifies all that’s inhumane about Alaska.

  • Margarita says:

    we should start a protest. It seems to me that the earlier to start a petition the better. maybe peta could have some pamphlets that we can give to people so they become aware and join in the fight and also send it to businesses that participate as sponsors of the race. maybe if enough people make their voices heard to these sponsors there could be a change. I have a list of the sponsors and it is humongous.

  • Carla says:

    Not to mention all the preditory related deaths starvation dehydration by negligent owners dogs who don’t make the “cut” puppy cullings and list goes on… They’re tied to a 4 foot chain the rest of the year outside never to have human contact only at feeding time possibly where there may be 100’s of dogs in one lot. Very sad life. This must stop!!

  • Lianne says:

    That picture is just heartbreaking. They’re cuddling for warmth. I can’t believe people are defending the Iditarod by saying the dogs are having fun running. I like to run too but it might not be so fun if I was chained to a sled nonstop with several of my brothers and sisters in the freezing cold.