For Immediate Release:
February 26, 2020
David Perle 202-483-7382
Anchorage, Alaska – As the 2020 Iditarod approaches, PETA is sharing information regarding the number of dogs who are injured, killed, and/or pulled from the race each year.
In late 2018 and early 2019, a PETA investigator worked at kennels owned by former Iditarod champions (one of whom is set to race again this year) and found widespread neglect and suffering. Dogs were denied veterinary care for painful injuries, kept constantly chained next to dilapidated boxes and plastic barrels in the bitter cold, and forced to run even when they were exhausted and dehydrated.
This disregard for dogs’ suffering is standard throughout the dogsledding industry. Please consider the following information:
- A total of 235 dogs were pulled off the trail during the 2019 Iditarod—which is typical for the race—likely because of exhaustion, illness, or injury.
- A dog named Oshi died from aspiration pneumonia just one day after crossing the finish line in the 2019 race—probably from inhaling her own vomit, which is the leading cause of death for dogs who don’t survive the race. A dog named Blonde suffered the same fate after the 2018 Iditarod.
- Five dogs used in the 2017 Iditarod died in less than one week. One was hit by a car, another died of hyperthermia on a plane, and three others died on the trail.
- More than 150 dogs have died since the Iditarod began, and those are just the reported deaths. That number doesn’t include dogs who died immediately after the race, while training for it, or during the off-season while chained to plastic barrels or wooden boxes outside in the ice and snow (which is how mushers typically keep them). In 2017, a veteran musher alleged that trainers in the industry have killed “hundreds on top of hundreds” of dogs who didn’t make the cut. The official Iditarod rules even call some dog deaths an “Unpreventable Hazard.”
- Dogs used in the Iditarod are forced to run up to 100 miles a day—through biting winds and blinding snowstorms, in subzero temperatures, and across treacherous ice. Even though some wear snow booties, their feet can become cut, bruised, and worn raw—and many pull muscles, incur stress fractures, or are afflicted with diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses, or aspiration pneumonia. In one report, 81% of the dogs who managed to finish the race had lung damage, and in another, the dogs had a 61% higher rate of stomach erosions or ulcers.
“Mushers enter the Iditarod for a chance at glory and a prize purse, but it’s the dogs whose lives are at stake,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “It is time for the Iditarod to evolve, and PETA is calling for this cruel and deadly spectacle to be reinvented as a footrace, a snowmobile race, or other event that celebrates Alaskan history and human endurance, without canine misery.”
Coca-Cola discontinued its years-long public support for the Iditarod last year, and Jack Daniel’s ended its 15-year sponsorship the year before. These companies joined a long list of others—including Costco, Maxwell House, Nestlé, Pizza Hut, Rite Aid, Safeway, and Wells Fargo, a long-time lead sponsor—that have cut ties with the race.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist view of the world. For more information, please visit PETA.org.