Cruelty to Alaska’s Sled Dogs in the IditarodPosted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on February 25th, 2013
For "sled dogs," animal cruelty has become a corporate-sponsored industry. Beginning on March 2, 2013 Alaska will hold the annual "Iditarod"—in which teams of dogs are forced to pull a sled over 1,100 miles across the Alaska wilderness, often running at a grueling pace of over 100 miles per day for ten straight days. The race has become a huge money maker for corporate sponsors.
According to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, since the race began in 1973, over 140 dogs have died during the event. Dogs suffer heart attacks, pneumonia, muscle deterioration, dehydration, diarrhea, and spine injuries. They are impaled on sleds, drowned, or accidentally strangled. During the off-season the dogs are crowded into small kennels with no state management or oversight. Many are tethered on short chains at all times, unable to play, forced to sit, stand, and lie in the same small area in which they eat and defecate—conditions that cause untold emotional and physical stress. When these "money-makers" are no longer profitable, they are destroyed, as are the puppies who aren’t qualified to race. The Sled Dog Action Coalition notes that the dogs often aren’t even humanely euthanized, but merely shot in the head.
What does the law have to say? In some states, dog sledding conditions might be considered criminally cruel. California’s cruelty law, for example, makes it a crime to deprive any animal of proper food, water, or shelter, or to inflict "needless suffering" or "unnecessary cruelty" upon an animal, particularly for overloading or overworking any animal. Violations can result in up to three years in prison and fines of up to $20,000 under California Penal Code section 597(b). However, Alaska’s cruelty law conveniently does not protect animals from such overwork. Alaska Stat. § 11.61.140(e) states that the crime of animal cruelty "does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or practices." So the event continues, with the industry defining "generally accepted" practices, shielding themselves from meaningful scrutiny.
Cloaked in claims that dogs have "fun" in this traditional event, the truth is that this event is nothing more than corporate-sponsored cruelty. Please take action to help ALDF speak out for sled dogs by asking the corporate sponsors of events like the Iditarod to withdraw their support.
Thank you for taking action to help these sled dogs! By emailing the major corporate sponsors of the event you send a clear message that using dogs in this way is not acceptable. Want to do more?
Unfortunately for the dogs, this race has many more sponsors. By sending an additional personalized email, or making a phone call, you make a larger impact and send a clear signal to all sponsors of the race that you do not support this type of corporate-sponsored cruelty. You can find a full list of contacts for all of the sponsors of the Iditarod on the Sled Dog Action Coalition's website.
If you are in Canada please take a moment to contact your Legislative Assembly and demand they put a stop to the savage cruelty of the dog sledding industry. Find your MLA here. For more background on the issue please visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website.
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