From PETA: 2021 Iditarod Dog Abuse

For Immediate Release:
March 18, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Willow, Alaska

As the last musher, Victoria Hardwick, was pulled across the finish line at Deshka Landing in Willow, Alaska, by a team of exhausted dogs this morning, PETA is sharing a roundup of the many incidents that occurred this year, which illustrates why PETA and other concerned people everywhere want this race to end.

  • Musher Dallas Seavey—who has raced dogs who’ve tested positive for opioids, operates a kennel accused of killing dogs who didn’t make the grade, and owns property where a whistleblower reported finding dying puppies—finished first after four dogs he pushed beyond the breaking point had to be removed from the race.
  • Musher Martin Buser apparently put an injured dog back in the harness and forced him or her to continue racing, despite video footage showing the dog limping at the Rainy Pass checkpoint.
  • PETA’s warning came true: Musher Gunnar Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 and was removed from the race. It was then revealed that he had shared a tent with two other mushers—whom Iditarod officials were apparently unable to identify—before testing positive. Other COVID-19 risks included checkpoint cabins where, in at least one incident, almost a dozen unmasked volunteers and pilots crowded together inside.
  • Musher Brenda Mackey admitted that she pulled out of the race after the dogs she forced to run suffered from “the most awful diarrhea I’ve ever seen,” violently vomited, and ended up with aspiration pneumonia, which is the leading cause of death for dogs in the Iditarod. Two dogs had to be hooked up to IVs.
  • Nearly 200 dogs were pulled off the trail during this year’s race because of exhaustion, illness, injury, or other causes.
  • Musher Pete Kaiser stopped racing after the dogs he was forcing to run became ill, apparently only because he didn’t consider his “team” to be competitive.

“The nearly 200 exhausted, sick, and injured dogs pulled off the trail this year are that many more reasons why the Iditarod must end,” says PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien. “PETA is calling for this year’s reckless, disease-spreading race to be the last of the Iditarod.”

In the last year, several companies agreed to drop their sponsorship of the Iditarod—which has killed more than 150 dogs since it began—including ExxonMobil, a major supporter giving $250,000 annually. This month, PETA has protested at the race’s start and finish lines and against one of its few remaining major sponsors, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, and its streaming partner, VUit.

More information about this year’s Iditarod is available here.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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