While going through my morning ritual of "Scanning the Globe" for sporting news, I happened across a headline that hit a nerve. "Warm Welcome For Winner of Iditarod." For those of you that are unaware, the Iditarod (or as I like to refer to it, I killed a dog) is an 1100 mile dogsled race through the Alaskan winter from Anchorage to Nome, in temperatures far below zero. Now I'm aware that things are somewhat different in other cultures, but the last time I checked, Alaska was still the USA. Dog sledding is illegal in 38 states, but here, it is more than a race it's a commemoration. And the more I read, the more it frankly pissed me off.
In almost all of the races dogs routinely die. In 1997, the Anchorage Daily News reported that "at least 107 dogs have died." Causes of death in the last 10 years have included strangulation, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by the sled, liver injury, heart failure, and pneumonia. This does not include the animals that died after the race. The committee doesn't release information about dogs that die after the race. Nor do they keep records about animals injured during the race. Some injuries and disorders that occur during the race include spinal injuries, bone fractures, cut paws, ruptured tendons, torn muscles, sore joints, dehydration, stress and diarrhea. Hey; didn't we just lock a guy up for this kind of abuse. Most of these dogs receive little or no veterinary care because there is none readily available. Mushers, the drivers, raise lots of dogs to get a few to compete. What do you think happens to the rest of them?
In many kennels, dogs spend their entire lives tethered on short chains to their dog house. In 1997 the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service determined that the permanent tethering of dogs, as the primary means of enclosure, was inhumane and not in the animals best interests. The permanent chaining of dogs is prohibited in all cases where federal laws apply, but again, federal law does not apply here. At the end of the day, these dogs are prisoners with no chance of parole.
Here's the kicker--the race is turning big profits and this years purse was $500,000--the largest ever--and the Humane Society of the United States says, "With the annual cost of putting together a competitive team estimated at $60,000, very few native Alaskans are able to participate." I wonder did Michael Vick read the sport page this morning. Lance Mackey killed 2 dogs today and got a "Warm Welcome." Vick probably got warm coffee.
As always, I want someone else's opinion on this.