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