23 Quotes From Experts Show Why Making Dogs Pull Sleds Is Messed Up

Before you buy a ticket to the Iditarod or book a trip with a dog-sledding operation, you need to see this. Here are 23 quotes from industry insiders and experts who’ve witnessed firsthand how much dogs suffer when they’re forced to race (some until they die) approximately 1,000 miles in the Iditarod or when they’re made to spend their entire life chained up until tourist season, as revealed in the eye-opening dog-sled industry exposé Sled Dogs.

As Doug Allen, a columnist for the Aspen Daily News who’s frequently covered dog-sled operations and investigations into them, put it, “Wasn’t it Mahatma Gandhi that said we are judged by the way we care for our animals? If that’s the case, we’re in deep, deep, deep sh*t.”


On the Iditarod Dog-Sled Race

“It’s kind of like somebody running a marathon. And tomorrow, we’re gonna go run another marathon. And now somebody asks you to run 10 in a row. That’s what these guys are doing.”

—Sam Maxwell, former Iditarod musher

“I used to tell the dogs, I’d get ’em, you know, and say, ‘Hey, you know, you have to do this. And if you don’t do it, they will kill you.’ They’re like tools. That’s all they are is a tool.”

—“River Mike” Cranford, former handler for Iditarod mushers, later turned dog advocate

“The image—the thing that people see, the start of the Iditarod—is all very carefully managed. And the bad stuff—the cullings, the dogs that are kept out on these short chains for the vast majority of their lives—is all happening out in the middle of nowhere. It’s happening out of sight, out of mind.”

—Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund

“[A]ll that most people see [is] the tip of a very dirty and cruel iceberg.”

—Dr. Paula Kislak, board president of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

“Behind the scenes, you get back there, you see some really horrible things. You see some really sadistic people.”

“River Mike” Cranford, former handler for Iditarod mushers turned dog advocate

“[The dogs have] gone through so much stress that they physically and mentally change.”

—Sam Maxwell, former Iditarod musher

“A lot of them, if they don’t have the black pads on their feet, if they have white pads, they will kill ’em when they’re puppies, ’cause they want them black pads.”

—“River Mike” Cranford, former handler for Iditarod mushers turned dog advocate

“If they were elite athletes that can handle the stress of endurance racing, why would they get bleeding stomach ulcers? Why would their hormones be suppressed and their immune system ruined? Why would their internal organs and their musculoskeletal system fail?”

—Dr. Paula Kislak, board president of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

“Some of ’em wanna quit eating. They’re so tired, they don’t want to eat.”

—Sam Maxwell, former Iditarod musher

“I wanted Mike ’cause they had told me how much they had beat him. … And I told him, I said, ‘When I leave … you’re going with me.’ It’s hard for me to talk about him. He had been totally broken, mind and spirit, just totally. Just something about Mike, he just seemed like he needed a friend.”

—“River Mike” Cranford, former handler for Iditarod mushers turned dog advocate

On Tourist-Driven Dog-Sledding Operations in Canada and the U.S.

“Almost across the board, animals are considered no more valuable than a piece of furniture. Sled-dog companies are businesses—they’re there to make a profit. They’re not there for the welfare of the dogs.”

—Peter Fricker, communications director for the Vancouver Humane Society

“First rookie year, we had 23 dogs that we put up on ‘death row,’ we called it. They were all the old dogs that were gonna be euthanized after the mushers left. All the dogs that couldn’t run, they used to be shot.”

—Zach Mills, former musher for tourist dog-sled rides in Snowmass, Colorado, turned dog advocate

“Once, I pulled into the kennel, and my lead dog attacked a puppy in front of the guests. Well, once the guests left the yard, Dan came over, he picked up the puppy, and he sat it in front of the dog that attacked it. And it attacked it again. And he started hitting it with a chain. And he hit it with a chain until it dropped the puppy. … It was terrible. It was nothing short of bloodlust.”

—Curtis Hungate, former employee of Dan MacEachen, owner of Krabloonik Dog Sledding in Colorado for 40 years

“Yeah, he’s passed away. In the night. I have to get my sleigh. Yeah, he’s dead.”

—Gena Pierce, owner of Windrift Kennels, a breeder for the dog-sled industry, on finding a chained dog lying dead in the snow

“There’s this many dogs, and no one’s coming back to check on ’em. There’s no one here. This is a storage facility. These dogs are just here to be stored until they can make money.”

—Bill Fabrocini, cofounder of Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs, walking uninhibited through a dog-sled operation with 300 dogs chained throughout the summer

“The end of the season was when things started to become more real to me. Do you know how hot it is here in the summer? It’s brutal. It looks like a concentration camp when you come and visit it in the summertime. And it’s just bleak. There’s gravel everywhere. Dogs are under their kennels where there’s a little bit of shade where they can stay cool. Their necks get worn down so you can see their raw, their raw skin through their fur, and their noses get worn down raw.”

—Zach Mills, former musher for tourist dog-sled rides in Snowmass, Colorado, turned dog advocate

“That’s not a community—it’s a prison.”

—Dr. Rebecca Ledger, animal behavior scientist

“That’s always been the terrible thing about the care of sled dogs … you can keep a dog chained. As long as it’s 6 feet long, has a minimal standard of shelter, you can chain them their whole life ’til death. And that’s legal.”

—Bill Fabrocini, cofounder of Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs

“I’m in a position where it’s very fair for me to say that this industry is an abomination. I question whether anyone can do commercial dog sledding ethically.”

—Sue Eckersley, former volunteer director of Whistler Sled Dog Co., after dissolving the company and getting all the dogs adopted

On 100 Dogs Dumped in a Mass Grave by Howling Dog Tours, Whistler, British Columbia

The dogs were stomped on, shot dead, and dumped into the mass grave when bookings dropped after the 2010 Olympic Games.

“The Whistler thing, I think, was the first real eye-opener for people about what happens behind the scenes at dog operations. A hundred dogs being killed at Whistler is a horrible thing. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

—Doug Allen, columnist for the Aspen Daily News

“I know for everybody involved that day, it was quite a moment when the first bag and the first body was uncovered. … You could smell it first. It was—you kind of knew that morning as the smell started to come out, you know, that’s the smell of death.”

—Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer of the BC SPCA, Vancouver, on the excavation of the site

“[T]his dog was originally stepped on in the thorax area and the chest and abdomen crushed—and then the head was crushed.”

—Medical examiner for the bodies found in the mass grave

“This was a place where terrible, horrible things happened. Right here. This is where they were shot, this is where they—this is where they died horrible deaths.”

—Penny Stone, executive director of the Victoria Humane Society


You can also see 19 shocking and disturbing quotes from Iditarod “champion” mushers Mitch and Dallas Seavey as they admit to withholding food from dogs, denying them veterinary care, beating them, removing their dewclaws without painkillers, and watching as one caught on fire.

Based on evidence that PETA presented and after hearing from hundreds of thousands of animal advocates, companies including Coca-Cola, Jack Daniel’s, Costco, Maxwell House, Nestlé, Pizza Hut, Rite Aid, Safeway, and Wells Fargo ended sponsorships of the Iditarod.

You can help by urging the race’s remaining sponsors to cut their ties with it as well:

Tell Companies to Stop Supporting Cruelty to Dogs

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind