June 27, 1999

Dear Ms. Gardner:

Thank you for your inquiry about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) appreciates your concern for the welfare of Iditarod dogs and your compassion for animals. We hope that you find the information below helpful. If you would like additional information, please contact us anytime.

What is the Iditarod?

Every March in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, dozens of dog-and-musher teams race approximately 1,150 miles from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska in pursuit of hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.

Competitors’ dogs run a distance roughly equal to thatbetween Los Angeles and Denver, or from New York City to Memphis, in 9 to 14 days. The current speed record is 9 days, 2 hours and 42 minutes, less than half the time it took to run the first Iditarod race in 1973.

Produced by the not-for-profit Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC) and sponsored by a host of mostly Alaska-based businesses, the event is promoted as a commemoration of Alaskan culture and heritage. The race is also considered a salute to an approximately 600-mile non-competitive mushing run that brought life-saving diptheria serum to Nome in 1925. This event comprised relay teams, most of which traveled less than 100 miles.

Today’s Iditarod, however, is an international media event featuring
mushers from several countries, many of whom compete in mush races and
breed large kennels of sled dogs for their livelihood. With the annual
cost of putting together a competitive Iditarod team estimated at up to
$60,000, very few native Alaskans are able to participate. Using high-tech equipment and backed by corporate donations, Iditarod mushers tout themselves as sports heroes while forcing their dogs to participate in a race that has witnessed dog deaths and injuries nearly every year since its inception.

Is the event inhumane for the dogs involved?

The HSUS opposes the Iditarod in its current form — or any other mushing event — in which heavy emphasis is placed on competition and entertainment and, yet, dog deaths and injuries are standard features.

The race forces the dogs to run too far and too fast, while dealing with frequently grueling trail and weather conditions, and exacts a severe, and sometimes fatal, toll on dogs’ physical and psychological systems. While the ITC has made some reforms in recent years — such as reducing the maximum size of dog teams from 20 to 16 for better musher control — race organizers continue to mass-market the race and hype the competition among mushers who are continually attempting to break speed records.

The HSUS is not opposed to non-competitive mushing or competitive
mushing events in which the welfare of dogs is not sacrificed for the
sake of entertainment.
The HSUS applauds the fun, exercise, and
companionship that dogs and their owners share when the activity does
not result in harm to the animal.

How many dogs have died in the Iditarod?

In most of the 27 Iditarod races, at least one dog death has occurred. The first race is reported to have resulted in the deaths of 15 to 19 dogs. In 1997, the Anchorage Daily News reported that “at least 107 [dogs] have died.” In the three years since that report, seven more dogs have died in the Iditarod, bringing the grand total of dogs who have died in the Iditarod to at least 114.

While there is no official count of dog deaths available for the race’s early years, 29 dogs have succumbed in the race during the last decade (1990-1999).

This year, musher Jeremy Gebauer’s five-year-old dog, Rodman, died after running 650 miles in the race. In 1998, Trim, a five-year-old sled dog in the team of musher Linda Joy, collapsed and died after more than 1,000 miles on the trail, while two other dogs, ages seven and one-and-a-half, collapsed during the race and died after its conclusion.

Official Iditarod press releases about gross necropsies on these dogs provided reasons for the deaths — “complications associated with acute pneumonia” for Rodman and “gastric ulcers, complicated by gastrointestinal blood loss” for Trim — without discussing whether the race might have caused these conditions or exacerbated them so much that they resulted in death. Race rules allow mushers to continue “unless it’s determined the death could have been avoided,” according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Other causes of death during the last decade have included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury from collision, heart failure, and pneumonia.

“Sudden death” and “exertional myopathy,” a condition in which a dog’s muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise,
have also been blamed. Noted by the Anchorage Daily News as the musher
who “led the transformation of the Iditarod from a leisurely 16-day race to a 10-day hotly contested event,” five-time Iditarod winner Rick Swenson was disqualified from the 1996 race after his dog died while he mushed his team through waist-deep overflow, a combination of water and frozen slush pooled on the surface of a frozen river. In 1985, a musher was disqualified after he kicked his dog and the animal died. The 1975nwinner, Jerry Riley, was banned for life in 1990 after being accused of striking a dog with a snow hook.

Are dogs injured in the race?

At various checkpoints throughout the race, mushers “drop” dogs from
the race when they are either sick, injured, or otherwise unable to continue running. Injuries and ailments that occur during the race include pulled tendons, sore muscles and joints, sore and cut paws, dehydration, heat stress, and diarrhea. Intestinal infections may occur when mushers feed their dogs food contaminated with the bacteria Salmonella; dog food dropped off and left outdoors in Alaskan villages during the race spoils when temperatures rise.

What about veterinary care in the race?

Most Iditarod veterinarians belong to the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association (ISDVMA), a group which sponsors the race and whose stated mission is “furthering the cause of the sport of mushing.”

When speaking to the press, Iditarod veterinarians and other officials
frequently make analogies between dogs that die during the Iditarod and
young, healthy human athletes who unexpectedly expire while participating in sports. These comparisons fail to illustrate that dogs, unlike human athletes, have no choice about their participation.

Furthermore, the dogs are unable to signal their discomfort or exhaustion to the mushers whom they are bred to obey, even at the expense of their own health and safety. When tied together with a running team, they risk being trampled if they stop running.

If the Boston Marathon suffered deaths at the same rate as the Iditarod (2.9
deaths per 1,000 participants), 290 human runners would have died
during the last 10 years. Iditarod veterinarians in media interviews dismiss the effects of the race’s conditions and length on the dogs. “If I took 800 dogs in my practice back home, and watched them for two weeks, between three and five of them would probably die” ISDVMA vice president Caroline
Griffiths told the Anchorage Daily News in 1997. The same newspaper
reported in 1998 that “vets say [the death rate of 2.9 dogs per year]
is consistent with what they might expect to see if they kept 1,000
dogs kenneled in one area for a couple weeks” and the Seattle Times
said that “race veterinarians counter that the mortality rate is about what one would expect in a population of more than 1,000 animals exercising 12 hours a day over two weeks.”

These assertions ignore the ITC’s own hype: “You can’t compare it to any other competitive event in the world! A race over 1,049 miles of the roughest…terrain Mother Nature has to offer. She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams.

Add to that the temperatures far below zero, winds that cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills, and you have the Iditarod.”

In 1998, ISDVMA president and veterinarian Peter Vanek said, “The stuff that you read about them running themselves to death, or keeling over, is crap.” In contrast, news reports document that sudden Iditarod dog deaths occur despite both appearances of good health until the moment of collapse and clearances through previous race checkpoints.

Iditarod officials often claim that the race’s speed or length cannot be blamed for dog deaths because the deaths sometimes occur in
back-of-the-pack teams or in the early part of the race. These statements fail to acknowledge that not all participating dogs are trained equally and, therefore, slower teams may be expending energy in amounts equal to or greater than those of the front-runners. Moreover, even back-of the-pack teams are moving at rates at which winners traveled just a few years ago.

What happens to Iditarod dogs off the trail?

Unfortunately, the remainder of the year may be bleak for many sled
dogs. The majority of these dogs do not experience lives most Americans would consider appropriate for companion animals. Instead, these dogs are often raised completely outdoors in harsh northern climates in large “dog yards,” where they are confined by tethers with up to 200 other dogs. While the tethers may allow them access to doghouses, they also purposely prevent them from interacting with other dogs.

For humane reasons, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits its licensed dog breeders from using tethering as a primary means of confinement. The HSUS also opposes tethering as a primary means of confinement for dogs.

Nevertheless, the ISDVMA “specifically recommends tethering as the preferred method of sled dog constraints and confinement” and one of Alaska’s two U.S. Senators, Frank Murkowksi, chastised the USDA for its position as similar to those of “radical groups that oppose dog mushing,” saying the USDA’s “implication that [tethering] is inhumane is disturbing to those involved in mushing.”

Those dogs or puppies who prove unable or unwilling to perform may be
killed, a practice known as “culling.” At least two of the 63 mushers who competed in the 1999 Iditarod have openly admitted to culling, according to articles published in the Anchorage Daily News.

During the last several years, some competitive mushers, including Iditarod participants, have been indicted and/or convicted on animal cruelty charges. These situations typically occurred when mushers became financially unable to care properly for the dogs they had amassed.

How can the race continue without substantial changes to ensure a humane, death-free race?

The ITC, the mushers involved, and corporate sponsors of the race all play a role in perpetuating the existence of this race. Through several fundraising efforts, the ITC operates on a budget of approximately $2 million.

In 1995, when The HSUS requested that the Alaska attorney general investigate the Iditarod and enforce the Alaska animal cruelty statute against race organizers and participants, the attorney general declined to prosecute because the state’s law “provides a defense for causing suffering to an animal if the person’s conduct ‘conformed to accepted veterinary practice.’ ” In the same year, the state legalized a “mushing sweepstakes” as a means of generating revenue for the Iditarod.

Substantial marketing efforts are directed at children. The organization routinely markets to grade-school children through special areas of its website and kits sold to schoolteachers; dog deaths and injuries either go unmentioned or receive minimal discussion in these materials. At the same time, some Iditarod mushers lecture to thousands of elementary school children every year to promote themselves and the Iditarod.

Corporate supporters of the race include some of Alaska’s largest businesses, including banks, airlines, shopping malls, newspapers, and
radio stations. Major advertisers seeking a rugged, outdoorsy image for their products and services — including Land’s End clothing distributors, Cabela’s hunting supply business, and Iridium telecommunications company — also have sponsored or promoted the race.

In 1994, after one of Susan Butcher’s dogs died of “sudden death” during the race, the Iams and Timberland companies eliminated their race support.

To placate the race’s critics and retain sponsors, the ITC has made changes to signal its interest in producing a humane event: reducing the maximum size of mushing teams, tightening rules on dog abuse, issuing press releases when dogs die, and adding more veterinarians along the Trail. Indicating that the ITC needs to initiate further changes to ensure a death-free event, dogs continue to die in the Iditarod and mushers push even harder to break speed records.

A 1997 newspaper article on three-time winner Martin Buser, whose 1989 team experienced a dog death due to “internal hemorrhage,” said the musher “wants to accelerate the pace [of the race] even more” and “aims to
train and breed huskies that will sprint all the way.”

What can I do?

The Iditarod is a source of great pride for the people of Alaska and generates tourist revenue and publicity every year. Despite past sponsor withdrawals, the race continues to attract worldwide media attention. Voicing opinions, however, can help protect dogs forced to participate in the Iditarod by letting race organizers and financiers know that greater care should be exercised to effect a death-free race.

Actions that one can take to express concerns about the Iditarod’s
treatment of dogs are:

* Write to elected officials of Alaska, including the state’s governor, its U.S. senators and representative to Congress, and the mayors of
Anchorage and Nome.

* Write to corporate sponsors of the race and the individual mushers. During the 1999 race, this information was available on the official Iditarod website at http://www.iditarod.com.

* Write to Alaska tourism officials.

* Call your child’s teacher if he or she is teaching the Iditarod in class. Inform him or her about the threats dogs face when participating in the race. Contact the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, The HSUS’s youth education division, at (860) 434-8666 for classroom materials that help teach children kindness about humankind’s relationships with animals and the Earth.

* Do not purchase Iditarod memorabilia and discuss your concerns with merchants selling these items.

* Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or call television stations, including networks or local affiliates, when they broadcast a story on the event.

The HSUS thanks you for contacting us about this issue. If you would
like additional information, please write or call me at (301) 548-7789
anytime.

Sincerely yours,

Robert E. Blizard
Associate, Companion Animal Care

Posted via Talkway – http://www.talkway.com
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Is dog exploitation part of the CBC’s mandate? By Whitehorse Star on March 7, 2014

The Iditarod, like the Yukon Quest, is built on the exploitation and killing of dogs.

So why does the CBC continue to play fiddle for an industry that is built on the inhumane treatment of dogs?

CBC North: Can you not get enough of the humans using dogs? Propaganda-mush!

Why does the CBC continue to interview mushers and ex-mushers as if they are some sort of gift to dogs?

Does the CBC support/condone the inhumane treatment of dogs used as sled dogs?

Or maybe they just don’t care what goes on to develop the perfect ego, pardon me, the perfect racing team.

Everyone you interviewed knows what the dog-use industry is built on.

Yet, once again, CBC has failed to show the realities of this industry. Why?

Please visit here for some insight on the Iditatrod: http://helpsleddogs.org/the-harsh-reality/abuse-in-iditarod-kennels/ .

CBC, again: Is it your mandate as a public broadcaster to support and promote the exploitation of dogs and other animals?

For the dogs!

Mike Grieco
Whitehorse

This ‘race’ uses the dogs as chattel slaves (Whitehorse Star, Feb 14, 2014). Abolish the Quest (Yukon News, Feb 14)

The Yukon Quest is built on the exploitation and killing of dogs, and is inhumane! Is this an “event” to be proud of? Of course not!

Being a ‘mediated’ world, the media continue to show preference to stories demonstrating human supremacy over animals by the exploitation and killing of non- humans.

At least the [Whitehorse] newspapers permit ongoing opinions/concerns with respect to non-humans and how they are treated/exploited.

Knowing what we know, how can anyone ethically support the Yukon Quest? Why do the Quest’s promoters turn a blind eye to these problems?

We cannot hide behind ignorance.

Are the Quest’s promoters in denial about the inherent cruelty in the dog mushing industry? Or do they simply not care? Would tourism in the Yukon suffer without the labour of the dogs?

I can’t seem to get anyone from the Tourism department nor the Quest office to answer these simple questions.

This race is all about people, not dogs. The dogs are chattel slaves: they are resources, property to be used for human entertainment, and can be killed and/or discarded when they are no longer useful.

When will we see an end to the spending of public money on this race? Stop the propaganda “mush!”

CBC North appears to have many resources at the ready to follow the Quest human race from start to finish.

And yet: why doesn’t the CBC follow the complete process required to build the perfect “dog team” (slavery, as I call it)?

Why don’t you, CBC, ask some tough questions for a change, instead of paying mindless tributes to the Yukon Quest every year?

It’s past time: the Yukon Quest needs to be abolished – shut down for good!

For the dogs!

Mike Grieco, Whitehorse

We’re to be ‘proud’ for protecting a bloodbath? (By Whitehorse Star on November 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm)

Slaughtering seals is cruel, inhumane and unethical. The European public has spoken loud and clear. For ethical reasons, they do not want what the seal industry is selling – the body parts of seals.Period!

Yukon MP Ryan Leef, on the iconic (?) CBC on Monday, said:“We are proud to protect a traditional, sustainable and historic way of life for Canadian sealers across this great country.” And all this makes the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seals annually ethical, Mr. Leaf?

Is it not inhumane to slaughter these animals? You cannot force the public in a democratic society to support what they don’t want to support. Get it?

This ban has sparked an interview, again on CBC, with a Dawson fashion designer who uses fur that belongs to wildlife for human desires – fashion. She said she does not use seal body parts in her business, and is not concerned that the fur industry will suffer from an import ban as well.

I am sure the fur industry, too, will some day become banned from exporting animal parts to the world. This fashion designer went on to say that fur is humanely harvested, and fur harvesters are stewards of the land, and fur is a green product.

She did not back this use of language with any logic. And I have become used to CBC North hosts not asking tough questions that deconstruct the ethics and language used by the animal use industries.

CBC: Is it your mandate to support, condone and glorify the exploitation and killing of non-humans? The public, not the animal, uses industries, and all its spokespeople will decide what they will or will not support when it comes to the well-being of sentient beings.

For the animals!

Mike Grieco
Yukon Wolves
Whitehorse

Ethics’ win over economics has made a historic statement (By Whitehorse Star on November 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm)

Congratulations to the European Union (EU) for banning all seal products because of the beyond description wholesale slaughter of between 325,000 and 500,000 baby harp seals off Canada’s east coast each year.

It’s about time that ethics got one over on economics, even though the hunt was never economically sustainable to begin with.

Another big pat on the back to the World Trade Organization for honouring their right to do so.

No country has a moral or legal obligation to take part in something it finds reprehensible.

No country can be forced to buy something its citizens don’t want, need and find disgusting. These are sovereign countries, and they can purchase or refuse to purchase anything they want.

Not sure why the CBC or Ryan “Window Dressing” Leef and the government try to incorporate the Inuit into the yearly genocide off the East Coast.

The Inuit don’t take part in that slaughter of baby harp seals.

That hunt is the reason for the EU ban, not some Ma and Pa operations selling some ringed, bearded, hooded, and harbour seals in the Far North.

It’s unfortunate that they lose that income from this ban, but they had nothing to do with it nor the reasoning for it.

The EU is not going to reverse a ban based on the East Coast’s annual slaughter supported by all of Europe to compensate for a few northern communities.

The Inuit do take harp seals as adults. And, according to reports by the North American Marine Mammal Commission, the only reason they do kill them is for dog food.

They are not killing three-week-old baby harp seals for a few grams of white fur, nor selling petrified penises to aphrodisiac snake oil salesmen in China.

The only plant that even provides this product was, until last week, in Dildo, Nfld. and Labrador. I kid you not.

There are no indigenous people involved in the cause for the EU ban nor any other ban involving seals. Seal bans are a result of the East Coast slaughter of babies.

Even Greenland has a ban on Canadian seal products for moral reasons – and their people are perhaps the most traditional hunters on this planet. Denmark also.

Our biggest trading partner, the U.S., has had a 100-per-cent ban for years.

Russia has even outlawed it, and countries like Taiwan.

Thousands of pelts rot in warehouses as I type this, and have for years.

The slaughter off the East Coast is a make-work project for political stroking. It loses money every year, and can’t even pay for the costs incurred.

Now, someone might ask, “Well, what do the indigenous people of Newfoundland think about this hunt and do they take part?”

No, they don’t, because they are extinct.

The Beothuks were wiped out by the Europeans. In fact, they had a bounty put on their heads, much like the bounty their descendants now place on the seals.

So congrats again to the sovereign people of Europe. A historical statement was made. The first of its kind.

Maybe even an evolutionary moment.

Kevin Sinclair
Whitehorse

If this cruelty was exposed, trapping would be banished (Whitehorse Star, Dec 6, 2013)

Re: “Veteran trapper leery about compulsory signs” (Whitehorse Star, Nov. 29).

So a trapper laments making signage mandatory on traplines. You would think one was imposing something cruel toward humans who set traps for one reason, and one reason only – to kill wildlife!

And according to the article, Frank Johnstone doesn’t like the idea of having to place signage on his traplines because it would hurt business. And the article went on to say, “because as soon as a wolf saw such a sign, it would be gone.”

A proposal for mandatory signage was put forward by members of the public because dogs and other “non-target” animals have been victims of the trapping (something I have been saying for years).

And it appears to me, judging by this article, Frank Johnstone and Graham Van Tighem of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board are not only making light of this fact, they seem to find it amusing, too.

If this is the case, perhaps these men could explain to the public exactly what is so entertaining about non-humans which become victims of traps.

Remember: Frank Johnstone, back in January 2008, had a wolf skull delivered to my home by a friend of his for apparently educational reasons.

It took several letters to the editor and one news article thanks to the Star’s reporter, Chuck Tobin – “Man wants answers behind skull inserted in his mailbox”, Star, Feb. 6, 2008.

Mr. Johnstone was named in this article but declined to comment until more than three weeks after his wolf skull “gift” ended up in my mailbox.

And back in the day, Johnstone said he would not allow me to visit his deathline – pardon me, trapline – with a camera or computer.

Flash forward: the trapping industry is to me like laboratories that experiment on animals – very secretive.

And if members of the public really knew and documented what went on in this cruel industry, trapping would be abolished for good. As it should be!

And if trapping is so humane and wonderful, the trappers have nothing to hide – no pun intended. Right?

Perhaps Environment Yukon could disclose its list of non-target or “junk” animals due to the results of using body-crushing conibear traps, leg-hold traps and strangulation snares.

Imagine: trapped and killed sentient beings referred to as junk? Truly appalling!

Save animals from horrific injuries and ultimately death – lets abolish trapping altogether! It’s the humane, ethical thing to do.

For the animals!

Mike Grieco, Whitehorse

Take note, you wolf-killers: dogs have killed more kids (By Whitehorse Star on December 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm)

One would think that when you have the beyond-partial local CBC radio station as your de facto lawyer that you would use the time spent with them wisely.

The first thing that might have benefited Mr. Clayton Thomas was to admit he knows very little about that which he kills but simply views the animal as some bizarre means to an end.

It gets tiresome after a while, like it’s some kind of default special knowledge; ergo, they know something nobody else knows because they are said to be trappers and hunters.

This does not give them any kind of insight on the animals they kill. It’s ridiculous and totally false, and nothing proves it more than this supposedly knowledgeable individual.

Raised in Teslin, they say. So? And that means?

Nothing, that’s what.

He does not get any points for having omnipotent knowledge of wolves because he’s from Teslin, or knows how to kill one.

Whoever the judge is, I hope he will at least consider the facts concerning wolves and not folklore and nursery rhymes, or he might want to build his next house out of brick.

Fact of the matter is, and always has been, is that one’s child is in more danger from the family pet than he or she is by any wolf.

Not one death of a human has ever been recorded by a wolf in Yukon. That’s what always rings so loud and clear in many, if not all, of these cases.

The elephant in the room is always the ignorance and stupidity of all these so-called “trappers/hunters” caught in the act of or charged with breaking the law.

I have many friends who are hunters, for the record, and all of them feel the same way about Thomas’ actions as I do.

You can’t use safety as a defence when safety was not an issue, which is supported by over 300 years of documentation and evidence.

You can’t just declare something which is a fact a non-fact because you need a fact to be false to get the benefit of the doubt.

To do so is an admission of guilt. End of story.

Kevin Sinclair
Whitehorse

P.S. About 35 children have been killed by dogs since 1982. No children have ever been killed by a wolf.

Shot bear was taken unfair advantage of. By Whitehorse Star on May 29, 2013

Re: “Shooting of bear hurt a lot of people” (Star, May 24).

The legal destruction of yet another bear is a deadly indication of “wildlife management” gone wrong!

Is the Department of Environment truly serious about addressing human/wildlife conflicts with respect to bears?

If so, why are they issuing permits to kill/destroy (they call it “harvest”) bears soon after and prior to hibernation? Is this ethical?

How is killing when you don’t need to kill, respecting wildlife?

Regardless of one’s opinion/position on hunting (killing) , these bears have been habituated to humans who showed no threat to them.

The person who killed this animal took full advantage of this situation and destroyed his life.

Bears and other wildlife need and deserve protection from humans. And humans need to lose the right to kill them if the department truly backs its words with respect to protecting wildlife. Being hypocritical is killing wildlife.

Guns don’t kill wildlife; people kill wildlife, with guns!

Mike Grieco
Whitehorse

Let video tape tell the true story By Whitehorse Star on May 31, 2013

Re: “MLAs protest Alaska-set show’s Yukon namesake” (Star, April 26).

This is an open letter to independent MLA Darius Elias and Environment Minister Currie Dixon.

Trapping animals is cruel and inhumane by nature – no matter if it’s done in Alaska, Yukon or some other planet.

Other than the fact that traps are not selective – as they can and do pose the same cruel and sad fate to “non-target” animals.

How exactly do trappers in Yukon end the life of victims of the trapping industry after potentially being restrained for days by strangulation snares or leghold traps? If their lives are not ended by gunshot, then how? Are they not clubbed to death?

Do trappers step/stomp on the victim’s neck or head? How, then? Inquiring minds want to know.

Or, are you deliberately trying to mislead the public that trapping wild animals in Yukon is not cruel and inhumane by nature?

Perhaps you could have real Yukon trappers permit full video footage on their traplines – and the public can decide for themselves exactly what the trapping industry is built on.

Mike Grieco
Whitehorse

http://www.change.org/petitions/dogs-are-they-really-man-s-best-friend-stop-dog-sledding-stop-animal-abuse?utm_campaign=petition_lonely&utm_medium=email&utm_source=guides

Canada is really a disgusting place when it comes to canine slavery. Please boycott/do not patronize ALL sled dog tours.

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