Will New President Free the Dogs From the Iditarod?

PETA Seeks a Meeting With Mike Mills to Discuss How to Distance Race From Dog Deaths and Doping

For Immediate Release:
August 28, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Wasilla, Alaska – Mike Mills has stepped in as the new president of the Iditarod Trail Committee Board of Directors, and today, PETA sent him a letter seeking to open a dialog about moving the race in a new direction that features human cyclists, cross-country skiers, or snowmobilers instead of dogs.

“Shuffling around the Iditarod’s Board of Directors can’t erase dozens of dogs’ deaths or the dog-doping scandal,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “The controversy over forcing dogs to run until they choke on their own vomit will only grow with time, and PETA is asking Mike Mills to take the lead in reshaping the Iditarod as a celebration of Alaska’s history and huskies that doesn’t run dogs to their deaths.”

PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.” For more information, please visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to Mike Mills follows.

August 28, 2018

Michael Mills


Iditarod Board of Directors

Dear Mr. Mills,

Congratulations on your appointment as the Iditarod’s new president. On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, we’re contacting you to open a dialog about moving the race in a new direction. As you are undoubtedly aware, the controversy over the race and the toll it takes on dogs have grown considerably over the years. The inexorable shift in social trends and changing attitudes mean that dissension will continue to plague the Iditarod if it survives.

More than 150 dogs have died in the history of the race—not counting innumerable others who died during the off-season while kept on chains or who were killed simply because they didn’t make the grade. On average, up to half the dogs who start the race don’t make it across the finish line. At least 350 of them were pulled out of the Iditarod this year—likely because of exhaustion, illness, or injury. One of those dogs, Blonde, later died from aspiration pneumonia—meaning that he likely choked to death on his own vomit from being forced to run excessively hard. This painful condition is the leading cause of death for dogs who die while running the Iditarod.

Dogs’ deaths aren’t the only cause for outrage. An onslaught of bad publicity hit the Iditarod as a result of last year’s dog-doping scandal involving Dallas Seavey and the damning reports that came just days before it broke, after a whistleblower came forward with disturbing footage that apparently reveals dying puppies and injured, sick dogs at a kennel reportedly owned by Seavey. A musher has also alleged that Seavey and others have killed “hundreds on top of hundreds or more dogs” because they were too weak or too slow for racing. And when the race is over, dogs are kept tethered and chained or in factory farm–style pens, and some have nothing more than dilapidated plastic crates as their shelter in extreme heat and bitter cold.

Surely, the time has come to move the Iditarod in a fresh direction. We urge you to take the helm with an open mind and a fresh perspective. Please celebrate the historic Iditarod Trail relay (which didn’t force dogs to run 1,000 miles) and Alaskan huskies without causing them to suffer and die. The Iditarod could go on with willing human cyclists, cross-country skiers, or snowmobilers instead of dogs.

May we discuss ways for the Iditarod to take a new course so that everyone can cheer it on? Thank you for your time. We look forward to working with you.

Yours truly,

Ingrid Newkirk


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

For Media: Contact PETA's
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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