Commercialized Cruelty to Sled Dogs

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF Staff Writer on March 2, 2015

Around this time of year, ALDF is often asked: “are the Iditarod and other commercialized dogsledding events cruel to animals?” Every March—this year beginning March 7—the Iditarod is held in Alaska, and is the most famous example of commercialized dogsledding.

The annual Alaskan Iditarod is a grueling race through 1000 miles of the roughest terrain on earth, in temperatures that drop well below zero. Teams of dogs run, sometimes up to 100 miles a day, for 7-10 days. The human mushers compete for substantial financial rewards—even at the cost of injuring dogs. ALDF Founder and General Counsel Joyce Tischler explains:

Under the laws of some states, commercial dog sledding practices would be considered criminally cruel. In California, for example, the state criminal anti-cruelty law makes it a crime to inflict needless suffering or unnecessary cruelty upon an animal—including by overworking an animal. Conveniently for the Iditarod backers, Alaska’s anti-cruelty law conveniently exempts standard dog sledding practices and lets the industry define what is acceptable.

Since the Iditarod began decades ago, more than 140 dogs have died from heart attacks, pneumonia, muscle deterioration, dehydration, diarrhea, and spinal injuries. Some have been impaled on sleds, drowned, or accidentally strangled. Injured dogs are left alone at checkpoints, according to the Sled Dog Action Coalition. And big game animals, like elk and moose, who get in the way of the race, may be killed. During the off-season, sled dogs are generally kept chained to their doghouse in an outdoor kennel. Often, when the dogs are no longer profitable, they are killed.

And it’s not just Alaska—last year, a Colorado sled dog operator was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty after an investigation revealed starving, sick, and constantly tethered dogs left out in the cold. From the 1990s through 2014, the operator of Krabloonik Sled Dog Center was accused of “culling” his dogs by gunshot, as well as neglect, punching and beating dogs, and providing inadequate shelter.

Another commercial sled dog enterprise in Colorado at the Pawsatrak Racing Sled Dog Kennel also got in hot water for cruelty to animals. Authorities found six dogs dead on the premise and the rest were seized. A veterinarian who performed necropsies attested that the neglect of these dogs was chronic. Both owners were convicted of criminal animal cruelty.

In fact, cruelty charges have been filed against operators at sled dog operations all over the country, from Maine to Montana to New York—the abuse and neglect of sled dogs is horrific, pervasive, and chronic. Any time animals are used as objects to produce profits, in under-regulated industries, their well-being is in danger. Please do not support this inherently cruel industry.

30 thoughts on “Commercialized Cruelty to Sled Dogs

  1. colby says:

    It should definitely be banned. And before someone tries to say well that what they did when they had no way to get around or something like that, there is no need to drag these dogs out in the cold you have snowmobiles!!!!


  3. This is first class animal abuse. It needs to stop right now. Please find something better to do with your time. Leave the dogs alone.

  4. Adele says:

    Some things are better left in the past. This race is not necessary and not healthy for these animals. As Colby wrote, you have snowmobiles now. Leave the dogs in peace.

  5. Riverdivine says:

    There remains vast ignorance and denial about the cruelty of the dog sledding industry, even amongst self- proclaimed ‘dog lovers’.
    There remains justification for rampant cruelty, neglect, and abuse. There is no difference, in my view, between the dog sledding industry, and dog fighting rings.

    1. Mary Roberts says:

      My comment is meant to echo your sentiments. I agree 100%! The time is long past since dogs are needed for any sort of transport – commercial or private.

  6. Ban it! It’s cruel! It’s time we stop torturing animals!

  7. Rachelle Rizz says:

    This needs to be banned now!!

  8. Carolyn Sawyer says:

    Time to extend animal cruelty laws to include sled dogs also.

  9. Pamela Cornish says:

    This cruelty absolutely needs to be stopped!!
    It breaks my heart how selfish and greedy some
    people can be to allow animals to suffer so
    that they can make money from it!! I wonder
    how they would feel if they were the dogs who
    are used instead of the mushers and other
    people who support this cruelty??

  10. Beverly Kleiner says:

    We are living at a historical juncture where banning these events is the only thing to do. It no longer should be considered “sporting” or manly or anything else because it’s old fashioned – and mainly, it causes agony in many forms to the dogs who are forced to participate. Change it up right now.

  11. Emily says:

    To say dogs should not sled would be misguided possibly ignorant. Some dogs are inherently driven to do certain types of work. Sled dogs have a drive to run and work. But there is a limit. Too much strain on a dog can cause dangerous and often permanent and even fatal side effects. 1000 miles, even when broken up to 50-100 miles a day for 7-10 straight days is too much. There needs to be regulations put in place to protect the health and wellbeing of sled dogs.

  12. Deanna Johnson Mawhinney says:

    please help sled dogs:(

  13. Gary Shogren says:

    Time to shut this cruel event down!

  14. Kimberly Cox says:

    Stop the abuse!!

  15. William James says:

    I believe that it is morally wrong (on the same level as dog racing)to continue to allow this. It seems to me that it is a juvenile exercise for bragging rights.

  16. Cheryl says:

    No matter how much ability a dog may have it is cruel to think this animal can withstand such unnecessary torture. It is just that plain and simple torture. No amount of money or fame can honestly allow us to look into the eyes of these tortured animals and say it is Ok. Therefore it should be noted that this must stop and laws must be written so we can put a stop to this immediately.

  17. Susan Baguiao says:


  18. Bianca Sandhu says:

    Please end this cruel race. It is not humane.

  19. Rita says:

    No, sled dogs face extreme cruelty and dog races should be banned. No to chaining dogs in off season. This is torture, please stop!

  20. Κατερίνα says:

    Shame on you……

  21. De Moya says:

    just another example of subhuman a using animals to their peril. End this horrible race and all sledding events

  22. Susan Wilson says:

    This is another sport humans dreamed up. These poor animals are driven to the point of insanity.

  23. Rena says:

    Shameful and greedy people exploiting helpless Dogs in Alaska. It’s about time that the Sled Dogs getting the deserved attention that they need. Sled Dogs are suffering terrible, some die from exhaustion, some have their feet’s frozen off. This must be banned.

  24. Annette says:

    Anyone who makes money off the backs of animals, in ANY way, be it breeding, fighting, racing, etc… deserves to be treated the exact same way as the animals they abuse.

  25. Crystal hart says:

    enough is enough already. Go get a freakin snowmobile.

  26. Corinne Lewis says:

    Please give us a petition to sign

  27. sueanne coster says:

    this needs to stop its vile and cruel

  28. Belinda Resor says:

    When is the animal abuse ever going to stop???

  29. Dog musher says:

    ….Only mills are making money off the dogs…and those industrial operations should be shut down and banned.

    True dog breeders or true mushers end up spending money on the operation, not making it, and they continue to operate in spite of at a loss because they are not in it for the money; they are in it for the dogs.

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