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Victory! TSA Scraps Iditarod Sponsorship

Written by PETA | February 16, 2011

Yesterday—the day after President Obama released his proposed 2012 budget cuts—PETA dashed off a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, pointing out a desperately needed cut to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) budget: its $100,000 sponsorship of the 2011 Iditarod. Less than 24 hours later, we have received word that the TSA would withdraw its support of this cruel event.

We were scratching our heads over how forcing dogs to slog through more than 1,000 miles of snow and ice in roughly two weeks in any way aided transportation security, but the TSA says the money was part of an effort to recruit airport security screeners … which still has us scratching our heads …

Anyway, after learning from PETA that 20 Iditarod dogs have died since 2005—often from hypothermia, bleeding stomach ulcers, or “sled dog myopathy” (literally being run to death)—the TSA hustled to distance itself from Alaska’s annual husky massacre.

 A sled dog lot from 2010 Iditarod.
 jkbrooks85/cc by2.0

Tail-waggingly good call, TSA. And if you still need help recruiting airport screeners, we’re really good at coming up with catchy ad campaigns.   

Written by Alisa Mullins

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  • PETA says:

    KP: Unlike human participants, dogs are given no choice as to whether they will participate in potentially lethal competitions like the Iditarod. Dogs die every year during and after this race, often of hyperthermia, gastric ulcers, or “sled dog myopathy”—literally being run to death. At least 142 dogs have died since deaths started being recorded, and we would consider even one unacceptable.

  • kp says:

    Article worth a read from the Alaska Dispatch Thanks, PETA, for strengthening Alaska’s Iditarod Scott Woodham | Feb 25, 2011 Well, the Iditarod is gearing up for its 2011 running, and we The Concerned are anticipating your annual campaign of protests and misinformation about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and dog mushing in general. We have have gotten used to it generally and mostly tune you out because you have no real idea of what mushing is. Pretty much every year, it’s safe to assume some unknowing Lower 48 reporter, columnist or editor will read one of your canted press releases and repeat what you want everyone to believe about mushing, but this year your propaganda found a way to exert pressure on unsuspecting federal bureaucrats to yank a sponsorship. We know your overall strategy is to do and say extreme things in order to change public perception of behavior you disagree with, but every year, you spread outdated falsehoods about how poorly Iditarod dogs are treated and how cruel mushers are to fool media members who have no real idea about Alaska or mushing. Even though we expect it every year, many of us are sick of it. But more than we’re sick of your efforts to slant, we The Concerned are tired of watching you fail so badly over and over again. Every time you lodge a protest, mushing figures out a way to remove the causes of your concerns, and compared to long ago, mushing is much less cruel today. Many fewer dogs die or are injured in today’s Iditarod, veterinarians outnumber mushers along the trail, dog booties are everywhere now, and even the oldest among us can’t recall the last time they saw a musher carry a bullwhip or axe handle because everyone’s found a way to discipline teams without looking mean. And as much as you might hate to hear it, keeping discipline is extremely important to a dog team or a kennel. No matter how awesome you may think it would be if all the dogs in the world just ran around free; it would be terrible, deadly even. Even northern children who have experience around large groups of leaderless dogs — which is most of them — know better than that. We’ve thought for a long time the conflict between you and mushing was cultural; after all, how many village dogs or sled teams are there in, say, San Dimas? But the fact remains that abused, neglected or mistreated dogs are dangerous to the people who keep them and to everyone else in a community. In fact, for a long time, your persistent half-true allegations have made us think you got your idea of mushing from Jack London’s fanciful tale, Call of the Wild, which depicts numerous instances of cruelty. That reliance on fiction may also explain why you think the Iditarod still commemorates the famous 1925 serum run to Nome. It may have started that way, and the first organized Iditarod certainly gave props to its long-ago predecessor. But the originators also primarily started the race that became today’s Iditarod to slow mushing’s disappearance under the tracks of snowmachines. The Iditarod does not commemorate some dead part of history; it is a living part of Alaska. It commemorates Alaska’s continued love of mushing and the staggering feats of cross-species teamwork and symbiosis that it showcases. But if your goal is truly, as you’ve stated, to bring an end to long-distance mushing once and for all, we’re concerned you have no idea that your tactics have only made northerners more stubbornly committed to the culture of mushing and more disdainful of your organization in general. What Alaskan can forget the time you sent some poor guy to stand in downtown Anchorage in a full-body fish costume as part of a campaign about the “cruelty” of fishing. We heard rumors that passersby tried to dump full sodas on the guy, which is pretty cruel, but not as cruel as sending him there in the first place. He’s probably lucky you weren’t cruel enough to send him to Dillingham, Dutch Harbor or Kodiak. In fact, come to think of it, maybe we’re more heartless than we’ve considered. Several hundred times among us we’ve thrown a tennis ball for fetch-crazy dogs one too many times. We didn’t even feel any remorse those times a particularly ancient dog we once knew (rest well, Boozer) laid down in a panting heap on sharp, parking lot gravel and gave his favorite Frisbee a few, mournful, desultory mouthings before returning to us. Despite his exhausted gait, his tongue bulging out the side of its elderly mouth, he practically dared us to throw it one last time. So we did. But maybe we were wrong; we The Concerned have been known to be wrong, after all. We should’ve taken a minute to think, and maybe you should too. Dog mushing in most of Alaska is essentially a thing of the past now because of alternative transportation, and every year the Iditarod seems to lose a bit more ground to the Iron Dog snowmachine race. The full-frontal assault you’ve been conducting for the last couple decades is actually helping keep support for the Iditarod strong in Alaska — and for that matter helping its organizers learn to control the race’s public image for people who have no idea what living in the North or keeping a dog team is like. you really want to end the Iditarod instead of further entrenching it in the culture of Alaska, you should go positive and throw your weight behind its far weaker competitors. We won’t bother suggesting you sponsor the Iron Dog until it lengthens its trail to 10,000 miles and offers a $10 million purse. But since you and activists allied with you have long said no humans would willingly do what mushing huskies are asked to do, why not give financial support to one of Alaska’s many ultra-long, humans-only races? There are many to choose from, among them the Iditarod Trail Invitational, the Susitna 100, the Resurrection Pass Trail run, and the Mount Marathon run. In fact, we understand most of the competitors at Mount Marathon are vegans, so that would probably be the best fit for your organization. We The Concerned aren’t sure if your no-cruelty policy extends to the apparent cruelty some humans exhibit toward themselves by running those races, but it’s worth considering. Whatever you decide, just know that every time you lie about the Iditarod to outsiders who don’t know better, a stronger mushing fan is born in Alaska.

  • Melmac says:

    I’ve actually read a lot on this race, and there is more to it than what you claim.

    YES, there have been dog deaths, but the riders do whatever they can to save the dogs. They also have booties to protect their feet that are changed after EVERY mile.

    One minor illness, they’re removed, and if four are taken off the race, the whole sled is eliminated. most teams drop because of this rule, which the vets are VERY STRICT on. I mean, I’ve read the pull the dogs out of the race if they do not eat within two minutes of check-in. The dogs have to eat heartily, and yes, several teams are eliminated because of this, let alone some issues you’ve brought up.

    BTW, I’ve also read that the Iditarod is protesting this attack on them and are going to go petition the TSA to reconsider.

  • Caidog1 says:

    Great news. So very cruel to force these dogs to run. The ones who survive don’t always make the cut and end up in a shelter and are killed anyway:(

  • ocean17 says:

    a step in the right direction. yes sled dog racing is so barbaric, something needs to change.

  • Mike Korn says:

    I’m a volunteer with the Sled Dog Action Coalition. People should know that they were instrumental in getting the TSA to drop its sponsorship.

  • Jesse says:

    Find a real musher who isn’t in it for the fame and glory and you will see how wonderful this sport really is. The dogs do, in fact, love it. This is no different from jumping horses. A horse treated well will love every minute in the arena, while a poorly treated horse will either not do it or will hate every second of it. A lot of mushers truly care about their dogs. Others don’t. It is this way with every sport that involves animals. Don’t punish those who love their animals just because of the ones who don’t. Punish them instead. This whole situation is like pit bulls. Don’t deem them a bad breed just because a few have done bad things.

  • Chris says:

    And if you need more proof of how barbaric sled dog business is, look at the 100 dogs shot and stabbed in cold blood in front of their pack that took place at outdoor adventures, whistler, BC. They were healthy dogs killed simply because the owner didn’t want to pay to take care of them anymore.

  • rob craig says:

    My stepmother used to rave about attending these amazingly stupid Iditarods. She said “The dogs love it!” I asked her how many canines she spoke with, and the subject was quickly dropped. Doh! Good job, PETA!

  • shelley says:

    WOW, read the article again,…. its cruel!! thats why she puts her name on it, its not about the picture. VICTORY!!

  • nancy says:

    Thank you for doing this. The idea of a dog running him or herself to death is so tragic-along with everything else they go through.

  • Aleksander says:

    Pamela, I like the picture very much. But why you recomend the article? Anyway the picture is nice.

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