Iditarod - Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
Hundreds of dogs are abused every year in Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a grueling trek of more than 1,000 miles. Today's event lacks the purpose of the original Iditarod, which served as a race along a mail route to deliver an emergency supply of diphtheria serum to Nome. Now the participants - almost none of whom are indigenous Alaskans - are motivated solely by the cash prize, and they will do almost anything to get it.
Typically, dogs in the Iditarod are forced to run an average of 125 grueling miles per day with little rest. They are subjected to biting winds, blinding snowstorms, and subzero temperatures, and they are frequently in danger of falling through ice into frigid waters. Their feet become bruised, bloodied, and cut. Many dogs pull muscles, incur stress fractures, or become sick with diarrhea, dehydration, or intestinal viruses. In January 2005, the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine published an assessment showing that 61 percent of the sled dogs studied exhibited an increased frequency of gastric erosions or ulcers after completing the Iditarod; none of the dogs studied had exhibited these symptoms before the race.
Dogs die every year in the Iditarod. At least four died in the 2006 race, and in 2005, at least three died, from causes including hypothermia, gastric ulcers, or "sled dog myopathy" - literally being run to death.
In addition to being subjected to the obvious cruelty of the race itself, dogs used in the Iditarod also pay a terrible price behind the scenes. Not every puppy born is a fast runner, and those who do not make the grade are usually killed - sometimes by bludgeoning or drowning - for not possessing monumental stamina and speed. "Mushers" freely admit that dogs who do not measure up are killed, and one musher equates it with "weeding a garden." Almost invariably, those dogs who survive the cull spend their lives in cramped, substandard kennels that are rarely - or never - inspected by any regulatory agency. Many kennel operators keep dogs tethered on short ropes or chains or cram them into tiny confined spaces.
Wells Fargo & Company, Chevron Corporation, and DaimlerChrysler Corporation are all sponsors of the 2007 Iditarod. Not only is Wells Fargo & Company a "Presenting Sponsor" (valued at $250,000) of this year's Iditarod, it is also sponsoring the "Teacher on the Trail" program, in which a teacher is selected to participate as an Iditarod volunteer.