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Iditarod 2009: Whistleblower Puts Dog Death Toll at Eight

Written by PETA | March 31, 2009


jerriroberts / CC
sled dogs

When the racers in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race crossed the finish line last week, the press reported that six dogs had died on the bitter, involuntary trek from Iditarod to Nome. Now we have received a whistleblower report alleging that two more dogs may have died because of the 2009 race.

Here’s what we’re told: Lou Packer, a 55-year-old musher, struggled to finish the race, and even after two of his dogs died, he continued to push his team until he eventually scratched. It now appears that two more of his dogs may have perished after he was removed from the trail. The whistleblower claims that Packer may have denied his dogs food and left them out in the open throughout the night during a bitterly cold storm, while other mushers took their dogs to the tree line to protect them from the wind. If true, that would have been a death sentence.

Now that the death toll may have reached eight, we have renewed our request to Col. Audie Holloway, Director of the Alaska State Troopers, to launch a vigorous criminal investigation into all the deaths related to this year’s Iditarod. Alaskan cruelty-to-animals laws specifically prohibit people from knowingly inflicting “prolonged suffering on an animal.” The conditions under which the Iditarod is run are no secret. Anyone with half a brain and one ounce of compassion knows that no dog chooses to struggle to survive for days and nights in the freezing cold while being pushed to or beyond his or her physical limits. Or are Iditarod racers exempt from anti-cruelty laws—or the laws of human decency?

Written by Liz Graffeo

Commenting is closed.
  • Alexis and Paloma Martinez says:

    I hate people who kill dogs!!! That Lou Packer dude should be left outside in a storm and not be fed

  • Dena says:

    I have to agree with Stephen I personlly own alasken husky and I run them for receration and to race. These dogs will go crazy if you don’t run them every day. In fact when I became preg. and could not run them my dogs had become very depressed they did not like just being walked or just running around the yard loose. Pulling a sled is there life they see a harness and they go crazy my dogs will line them selves up while I harness them. Maybe if you personally go and meet some of these teams you will see that the dogs are there life they are part of the family. And yes there are some bad mushers but you should not let that affect everyone.

  • Stephen says:

    I’ve been to many Iditarod kennels in Alaska and from what I saw I can tell you with 100 certainty that the Iditarod IS NOT AN INHUMANE RACE! The dogs love to run it’s in their blood. When the sled is dragged out into the common area they go absolutely nuts to get hitched up. An as for the cold weather they are perfectly adapted and comfortable in it. Anything above 40 degrees will send them into their shelters to escape the “heat”. The dog mushers absolutely love their dogs and make sure that their happiness is a top priority. Yes some dogs do unfortunatly die and it’s a tragedy when it happens both to the musher and to the sport. But I can guaruntee that if you could ask a sled dog how it prefered to pass away it would say they would rather be on the trail than anywhere else. Due to the intense weather and sheer number of dogs that participate I would say that while the 8 deaths may we very heartbreaking the mushers have done a great job keeping their dogs safe and happy. Just watch the Iditarod and you will understand that this is a great race for both humans and animals!

  • Chris says:

    I can promise anyone reading this story that twoand only two of Lou Packers dogs died. Any rumors suggesting otherwise are completely false and are simply the work of people trying to create attacks based on false premises against either Mr. Packer or the Iditarod race.

  • Amy says:

    I am from Alaska and I know that this is a very “usual” number of dogs to lose during the harsh Iditarod. It is a cruel and terrible fate for the dogs being pushed through the brutal weather conditions with little food and water and almost no rest. Although these huskies do love to run and will run great distances on their own they should not be forced over the edge like this for human entertainment and a feeling of achievement. I will say that I do not mind sled dog racing in very short distances or using the dogs for travel. It is what they love to do and I know they get anxious when they aren’t running. But the contests where dogs are abused neglected forced over the edge of what they want to do and into where humans must force them and lost are unacceptable.

  • ellenv arosi says:

    There were a total of two dead dogs by Packer. No more. All the other dogs are in great shape and can be verified by their tags. No food was denied. It was an unfortunate struggle with a tragic outcome. In fact some of the dogs weighed more after the race than before and all were in excellent shape. The dogs were fed well and routinely during this period. The run during those 36 hours was a total of 22 miles after a 12+ hour lay over this 12+ hour rest period occured directly before the tragedy. Once the storm hit the several attempts to move the team over the ridge and back down to the tree were made. During this period the musher was out in front and the dogs moved at .1 to .2 miles per hour. The dogs were fed on schedule. I watched the entire movement on 43 on the GPS. A ground blizzard high winds lethal temperatures and chest deep snow that could not be condensed were the limiting factors of this unfortunate circumstance. So sorry.

  • Phil says:

    This disgusting race should be called the ‘I killed a dog 500!!’

  • sunnie says:

    the dogs do all of the work. how could you abuse animals like this? i don’t understand

  • kelly says:

    More about this fake sport

  • kelly says:

    The race is one abuse. But these dogs are horribly abused at their “kennels. These mushers and breeders basically run puppy mills. Dogs are often kept chained out in all weather and shooting or starving unwanted dogs is common. It is similar to dog fighting too. Abusing and killing dogs in the name of making money off them.

  • Brien Comerford says:

    Killing dogs in the name of canine racing is criminal.