Iditarod Statistics, From PETA

For Immediate Release:
February 25, 2019

David Perle 202-483-7382

Anchorage, Alaska

As the 2019 Iditarod approaches, PETA is detailing the number of dogs who are injured, killed, and/or pulled from the race each year:

  • A total of 350 dogs were pulled off the trail during the 2018 Iditarod—which is typical for the race—likely because of exhaustion, illness, or injury. One of those dogs, Blonde, later died from aspiration pneumonia—meaning that he probably choked to death on his own vomit, which is the leading cause of death for dogs who don’t survive the race.
  • 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.
  • The Iditarod will start this year with the smallest field in 22 years. In 2016, there were 86 mushers signed up to race. This number dropped to 73 in 2017, 68 in 2018, and 52 in 2019.
  • Coca-Cola has discontinued its years-long public support for the Iditarod, and Jack Daniel’s ended its 15-year sponsorship of the race. These companies joined a long list of others—including Costco, Maxwell House, Nestlé, Pizza Hut, Rite Aid, Safeway, and Wells Fargo—that have cut ties with the race.
  • In 2017, veteran musher and four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey was caught in a doping scandal after his dogs tested positive for tramadol, a Class IV opioid used to manage severe pain. Later, a whistleblower released disturbing photographs and video footage of reportedly dying puppies and injured, sick dogs at Seavey’s kennel. After these scandals broke, the Iditarod’s chief of drug testing resigned—along with the race’s board president—amid an outcry from mushers. The new board apologized to Seavey, even though there was no evidence clearing him of wrongdoing and no other suspect was named.
  • 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, during 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 trainers 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. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules blithely asserts that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.”
  • 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 from the vast distances of frozen terrain that they cover. Mushers sleep indoors during the race, while the dogs are kept out in the freezing cold.

“Hundreds of dogs were pulled from the 2018 race, likely because of exhaustion, illness, or injury, and one choked to death on his own vomit. It’s clear that dogs will keep dying in horrific ways as long as they’re forced to run vast distances at breakneck speeds for the Iditarod just so that their owners can win prizes,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is calling for this deadly spectacle to be reinvented as a footrace, snowmobile race, or other event that celebrates human endurance, not canine misery.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a supremacist view of the world. Sled Dogs, a documentary by director Fern Levitt, exposes ugly behind-the-scenes cruelty in the dog-sledding industry.

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