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Sled Dog Watchdog's Blog

Mush this disgrace off the trail’

Whitehorse Star, Feb 6/15). Same letter in the Yukon News—Abolish the Quest (News, Feb 6,15).

Dogs, humans and mushing propaganda are on the run. The Yukon Quest International dog race is a prime example of exploitation. CBC North appears all too happy to promote and cheerlead for a race that has been exploiting, breeding, injuring, culling and killing dogs for 32 years. 32 years!

How many dogs are bred to produce just one competitive team? How many of those dogs end up dead at the hands of their owners, or discarded for others to “rescue” because they don’t make the cut?

Did I detect an audible increase in the volume of CBC media hype for this year’s Quest? Doesn’t the very well-staffed CBC Yukon have anyone to actually do some journalism work with respect to the mushing industry?

Or is it CBC’s mandate to…

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“This is one of the worst cases of CLASSIC passive cruelty currently existing in Canada.” (Courtesy of

These heroic ‘athletes’ should pull their own sleds! (Whitehorse Star, Feb 19, 2016).

The Yukon Quest international dog race is built on the exploitation of dogs known as “sled dogs”. 

Unknown numbers of dogs are bred in order to develop the perfect racing team. Tethering dogs, usually by chain is common practice in the mushing world, and is inhumane. 

Are dogs and puppies routinely being culled/killed out of the public eye, behind all the propaganda mush and hoopla?

Honesty, integrity and transparency are listed under the sub title “Core values” at the Yukon Quest organization’s web site. Go here: 

So why doesn’t this organization post the realities of the mushing world? The Quest organization should require mushers to publicly disclose their culling practices. Does the Quest not care what mushers do in their dog yards? 

Where is the “honesty,integrity and transparency” the Quest is referring to? Remember: former musher Frank Turner was aired on CBC some years ago and mentioned the culling of dogs in the mushing industry. It was all hush, hush afterwards.

The CBC has done a great job cheerleading, as I call it, for the mushing industry. Is it CBC’s mandate to promote and condone the Yukon Quest? As a public broadcaster, should its talking heads be taking a position on the Yukon Quest by expressing their favourable views towards exploiting dogs?

Is it above CBC to answer questions posed to them by the public? The silence has been deafening.

I find it appalling that society profits in some form or another from the use and abuse of dogs. Slavery comes to mind. Mushers should pull their own sleds, if they’re such great athletes.

Abolish the Yukon Quest! For the dogs!
Mike Grieco, 


RE: Want to run the Iditarod? You’ll need a lot of scratch (03/18/15) 

I cringed the instant I heard the lead in… National Public Radio’s Marketplace… going to the dogs. And there it came, another “poor musher” pitch on behalf the Iditarod. Of course I wouldn’t have expected “mushing correspondent” Emily Schwing to explore WHY sponsorship money is so hard to come by these days – but it is something worth considering. Maybe the Iditarod is dying off for a reason… and IT’S ABOUT TIME! 

The Iditarod is inherently cruel and abusive. When I think about the commercial sled dog industry, one thing comes to mind – CHAINS – tens of thousands of chains. Each chain attached to a dog spinning in circles, who, more than likely would prefer to run free in the yard and sleep warm in the house. If only we could ask them to counter the spin.

I have a neighbor who built a mega-kennel of 125 dogs behind my homestead. All night and day I hear their sporadic howls, through months of -40F followed by months of rain and relentless mosquitoes, the dogs hang out on their chains while their owner sits in a log mansion and blogs about the depth of the many holes they have excavated in his lot (Gaelach Mor Kennel Blog). 

This is one of the nicest kennels in the state, really. 

Kennels of this magnitude represent the upper echelon of the Iditarod, typically referred to as the “top ten.” In reference to the high costs of maintaining a kennel this large, Schwing reports that Jeff King cut his numbers down from “owning” over 100 dogs to “working with” thirty-five. 

This statement is completely untrue and she knows it. One can see for them self how many puppies (and yuppies) are at Jeff King’s kennel in this brief (45 sec) video, filmed by one of the thousands of tourists who visit it every year: Husky Homestead Tour – Holland America Line. 

Consider the economics. King charges $59 per person ($39 for children 12 and under) for a 2.5 hour kennel tour. He gives 3-4 tours a day, over a 130 day summer season, with people literally pouring in by the busload. Add in what they throw down for incidentals like photographs and souvenirs, and Jeff is probably raking in close to $10K per day from his tour business alone. 

So that accounts for the yuppie side of the equation…now what’s going on with all those puppies? A fairly common musher attitude is that summer is the time to “get busy.” A huge operation like that could produce upwards of 100 pups a year…and would have to in order to assure that there were enough available to keep the visitors happy. Maybe what Jeff meant was that he is only breeding 35 of his dogs these days – and the rest are selling like hotcakes.  

In a 2009 entry in Jeff King’s blog, he indicates he is selling off his “bumper crop” of dogs for prices ranging from $250 to $1250 (generally these have the added benefit of being cash transactions). That’s the cost of dog that shows potential. A well seasoned dog might go for $5K and a champion leader could fetch upwards of $20K. The value of the dog is largely based on the success of musher. A “junk” dog from a winning kennel is more valuable than a “good” dog from someone no one has ever heard of, giving Jeff a strong advantage in the industry. 

If Jeff King is downsizing his kennel, I seriously doubt it is because he can no longer keep pace financially. More than likely he’s just getting old. 

Jeff King however is not the average Iditarod musher – he is more like the 1% – and certainly an odd choice to interview about financial hardship. The income disparity between a mega-kennel like his versus the average Iditarod kennel is dramatic. Most kennels generate no income but rather have a host of expenses associated with maintaining them. What often begins as a romantic vision of Iditarod fame, so too often, ends in tragedy for the dogs. 

Cases like this pop up every year: Iditarod musher is overspent, overwhelmed and embarrassed or unwilling to seek assistance. They know they couldn’t give their dogs away if they tried so they latch onto the idea that somehow keeping them alive under such deplorable circumstances is a better alternative. The dogs wind up starving on their chains until someone finally gets brave enough to call in the authorities…often after having waited too long. Most offenders are portrayed as victims and are rarely prosecuted for their crimes. 

While individual mushers typically rally to assist with rescue operations, the Iditarod race committee offers nothing in the way of financial resources to support either failing or aspiring race participants. Which is odd, in a way, because the Iditarod is a charity with tax-exempt 501 status – even more bizarre given its ultra corporate nature.

That aside, it is clear from Iditarod tax documents, that, were they not a charity, they would likely be out of business. It works out well for them and their big corporate sponsors – like Exxon and Chrysler – who make tax deductible contributions to the race in exchange for an extraordinary amount of free advertising, also donated, by the Alaska Dispatch News (an invariable hub of Iditarod propaganda). 

There are many additional ways in which taxpayers are subsidizing the Iditarod. In 2012 the Iditarod asked the State of Alaska for $1 million dollars to fight sled dog advocates like myself. And though we are devoted and determined to improve conditions for the dogs, there are only a handful of us, operating with no budget, who actually speak out against the abuse. So the state only gave them $100K toward their plight, in addition to providing thousands of dollars a year to pay for trail grooming activities. 

On a municipal level the race is also being heavily subsidized. The City of Anchorage estimates its costs for hosting the event in excess of $75K per year. That money covers the cost of putting snow back onto the streets (that the city had already paid to remove) and providing additional police officers to barricade roads and direct traffic. 

The unincorporated community of Willow, where the official race start occurs most years, charges the Iditarod $6K for the use of its community center over Iditarod weekend, an event which attracts people from around the world. This amount of money would hardly cover costs associated with plowing out the parking lots, were those services not being donated as well. 

Then everyone in Willow, and in every town along the race route, is solicited to volunteer for the event, because the race wouldn’t happen without them. What thanks does Willow get for their hospitality? Try months of waiting for that payment. Typically the Iditarod settles up by the middle of the summer – when the next year’s race entry fees start filtering in – because they have NO MONEY! 

Finally, Iditarod entitlement would not be complete without some notable contributions from the federal government. When federal TARP dollars became available, the Bureau of Land Management allotted $800K to construct four little cabins along the race route that see one or two weeks of traffic per year. But the real pork is coming from the Pentagon, in the form of million dollar DARPA grants, to fund defense-related sled dog research. 

Many of the “winning” kennels participate in the DARPA research, in fact a kennel must be considered competitive to qualify. I’m sure the additional funding, and state of the art whatever-it-is-that-they’re-up-to, has its advantages both on and off the race course, further widening the gap between the big winners and the big losers. Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle, Jake Burkowitz, Rick Swenson, Zack Steer and Mike Santos are just few of the mushers who have cashed in on the DARPA dollars.  

So who in fact is the big loser in this whole equation? Not the Iditarod race director!!! Stan Hooley paid himself just shy of $113K in 2012. No, sadly, it is the dogs are that paying the highest price for the Iditarod. Many of them wind up chained to a stake for the their entire life, that is, if they are not lucky enough to be shot to the head. And that’s no joke. Pretty much all the major kennels have pits filled with dog shit and dead dogs hidden on the property and culling is the industry standard. The reason the Seavey dogs have such strong bloodlines is because they cull every single dog that isn’t fully committed to the pull and only breed the best.  

In that sense, it is true that these dogs are bred to run…but it is not true that ALL sled dogs love to run. I acquired an Iditarod survivor in fact that hated to run. Originally bred by Zach Steer, Topaz was sold to author Gary Paulsen who ran the Iditarod in the 1980’s and wrote a novel about it, only to make a brief return to mushing 20 years later. But shortly after re-entering the sport, Gary changed his tune. He left his 40 his dogs behind and returned to sailing around on his yacht.

On my only visit to Gary’s kennel, I was traumatized by witnessing the condition of this very desperate dog, covered with open sores from being dragged in his harness. He was so emaciated, sad and sick that he could hardly walk. I wound up taking him home. 

And that’s how it happens – some sucker winds up falling in love with a broken dog and both of their lives are changed forever. I too, wound up paying to pick up the pieces of another Iditarod kennel. After many months of rehabilitation, Topaz learned how to love and be loved, and how to behave like “normal” dog after what had obviously been a very traumatic life on a chain. He was thrilled with the idea of sleeping in a warm house and running free in the yard, but for the most part he never left my side. 

While Gary Paulsen should be held fully accountable for the terrible things he did to Topaz, it is only because of the Iditarod that he acquired a lot full of forty dogs. And it is only because of the media, and its relentless pro-Iditarod propaganda, that Gary was even mushing at all. He didn’t even make it to the first checkpoint, but I’m sure the all the free press leading up to that point made it well worth his investment. As for me, I got to spend an amazing three years caring for and paying for his reject dog, who turned out to be one of the most amazing animals I have ever known. 

I would be very surprised if Emily Schwing isn’t already aware of what goes on behind the “scenes” of the Iditarod (she should be because I’ve contacted her about this subject before) and is knowingly concealing the truth. Either way, she’s not doing her job. And neither is NPR. 

 Printed in the Alaska Dispatch News (03/19/15) 

‘Iditarod evolves into barbaric event fueled by greed, Outside money’

When are people going to wake up and recognize the Iditarod for the abusive event that it is? It’s hard to even characterize the absurdity of it all. Wyatt, a healthy 3-year-old dog on Lance Mackey’s team, dies abruptly for no apparent reason and Lance, who admits he is unable to even put booties on the feet of his remaining dogs without assistance, races on into temperatures lower than minus 45 degrees. And we are supposed to feel sorry for him? 

Meanwhile Brent Sass … in contention for a winning finish … is disqualified for confusing his iPad for an iPod? What’s really going on here? 

The Iditarod has evolved into a barbaric event fueled by greed and Outside money. Today’s race is a far cry from the days when a dog team was used for transportation and a musher kept only as many dogs as could comfortably fit in his cabin on a cold night. In no way is it commemorative of the heroic efforts of the 1925 serum run. And even though it doesn’t often make the news, there are in fact many intelligent people and reputable organizations throughout Alaska and North America who oppose the race. If you care about dogs you should join them. 

Maybe when Lance finishes this Iditarod, instead of heading to his warm cabin to recuperate, he should chain himself to Wyatt’s old house and really feel what it’s like to be a washed-up old dog that won’t make next year’s team. Then perhaps he can contemplate how to bring meaningful change to the future of his sport — if you could even call it that. 

 R.I.P. Wyatt …We know you ran your heart out. 

 — Laura Stine 

Maybe that has something to do with why Lance Mackey can’t keep his sponsors and can’t find an American company willing to pay for his dog food.  

Check out these sites for more information:,, and

The futility of dealing with the ‘Mother Corp.’ Letter published in Whitehorse Daily Star on April 21, 2011

On Oct. 16 of last year, CBC Yukon Airplay radio host Dave White aired an interview with the founder of the Humane Society Yukon (HSY), in response to a press release from her regarding criticism of the society by three members of the public (myself included). In the interview, the society founder used my name, the name of fellow animal advocate Mike Grieco, and the name of a B.C. resident, all of whom had written letters to the Star over the society’s euthanization of the dog named Hunter, which was carried out in the face of much internal dissent at the Mae Bachur Shelter. Apparently, excerpts from the interview were used as radio news pieces on CBC radio the next day. Mr. White and his producer(s) made absolutely no attempt to contact us for our responses.

Furthermore, on the web page where the interview sound clip is hosted, CBC calls the HSY founder “one of the staunchest advocates for animals in the territory,” and the people she was using the public airwaves to strike back at in the interview as “vocal animal rights activists who were doing more harm than good.”

Mike Grieco contacted CBC for an explanation and was given a bit of a run-around by them.

On Dec. 19, I filed a complaint with the CBC Ombudsman and was told that my concerns would be responded to by Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor in chief of CBC News, and John Agnew, managing director of CBC North. As no confirmation of my complaint was sent to me, I e-mailed a reminder to them on Jan. 17th of this year.

This was the response I received from Agnew on Jan. 18th:

“Please forgive my lack of promptness. As you can see by the datelines on the e-mails below, your letter concerning our coverage arrived at my desk on Dec. 20th. I was out of the office for part of the next two weeks on holidays, as were some of the staff in Whitehorse with whom I need to talk. As you may have heard, the new year started in Whitehorse with a burst pipe and a serious flood in the office. We are only now getting things back to being fully functional, and a good deal of our space is currently damaged and unsafe. All of this is a long way of saying that I haven’t been able to respond as promptly as I would have liked. Now that things have settled down, I will have a response to your letter soon.”

On Jan. 28th, Mike Grieco e-mailed Agnew with his input, including a question if CBC management in the south was aware of the number of times CBC Yukon/CBC North have been criticized in the letters section of Whitehorse papers, with no public responses from CBC. He received the following reply the same day:

“Dear Mr. Grieco, Thank you for your letter. Let me begin bv (sic) assuring you that I am well aware of letters to the editor commenting on CBC’s journalism and interviews. On the other matters you have raised, I am out of the office to day (sic) but I will look into your concerns upon my return Monday. You will get my response by the end of next week.”

On March 18th, Mike Grieco e-mailed Agnew as to why there was no response as yet, and I sent a reminder to Agnew on March 23rd.

Despite further recent prodding, other than a quick reply from Agnew in February defending CBC’s coverage of the Yukon Quest, that is the last we have heard from CBC, who have apparently decided it is better for them to not reply to us, as is their custom.

As to the specifics of my complaint, I had included what I saw as a juvenile prank by CBC employees whereby in the spring of 2008, I encountered a CBC reporter/editor who I knew personally, and one of CBC Yukon’s camera men returning from a reporting assignment in downtown Whitehorse. As soon as we saw each other, the camera man stopped and quickly removed his TV camera from its case, and took footage of me from across the street from the CBC building. I thought this was somewhat strange, but did not stop to ask why this was done, as I was late for an appointment.

Is CBC allowed to film members of the public on the street for no apparent reason without their consent? No answer from CBC!

I also questioned Agnew about the advisability of the CBC TV reporter assigned to the infamous “Trevor case” being the spouse of the City of Whitehorse lawyer who had run up a bill into the mid- five figures, in the City’s Quixotic attempt to kill this unfortunate HSY dog (with a history of abuse), who was being defended by one HSY board member and a “pro bono” lawyer. The City lawyer, mayor and bylaw manager should have been grilled mercilessly by reporters in this regard, but apparently CBC saw this case as a big joke and used it to provide fodder for the knuckle-draggers who hang out at the CBC North news online message board.

The obvious question which was never asked of the City by CBC was: “Why are you spending so many taxpayer dollars to kill this dog when you have not attempted to do so in previous alleged biting incidents?”

I also asked what the budget allocation by CBC was for its Yukon Quest race promotion and asked what that would be worth in terms of dollars if the Quest had to pay for it.

In a somewhat related manner, I was contacted via email by CBC Radio Vancouver the day the story of the Whistler sled dog massacre broke, to arrange for a live interview on the morning show the next day. When I talked to the producer, I told her that I had had a longtime problem with CBC North and CBC Yukon serving as propagandists for the dog mushing industry but would agree to be interviewed anyway.

Shortly after, I was told that the situation had changed, and they would just do a quick interview over the telephone, which would be aired the next day. Not surprisingly to me, CBC produced the piece along the lines of “the crazy animal rights person says this, what do you have to say about his statements, O wise and wonderful sled dog tour operator?” The operator received a friendly and relaxed live interview by morning show host Rick Cluff.

To put a long story short, I am sick of dealing with this shoddy, arrogant, unaccountable and vindictive news organization which is a big waste of my time and energy.

I had previously sent copies of some of the e-mail communication with CBC to the editor of the Whitehorse Star, who I thank as being possibly the last remaining journalist in the Yukon who hasn’t been neutered by “political correctness” and who is very fair in airing public dissent in the letters page of the Star.

Conversely, CBC Yukon and CBC North, who purport to welcome input from their audience, only like to have sunshine blown up their collective “you-know-whats”.

CBC likes to dig for dirt wherever they can find it, but cannot take it when their own feet are put to the fire.

Terry Cumming
Regina, SK

Mush this disgrace off the trail’

Whitehorse Star, Feb 6/15). Same letter in the Yukon News—Abolish the Quest (News, Feb 6,15).

Dogs, humans and mushing propaganda are on the run. The Yukon Quest International dog race is a prime example of exploitation. CBC North appears all too happy to promote and cheerlead for a race that has been exploiting, breeding, injuring, culling and killing dogs for 32 years. 32 years!

How many dogs are bred to produce just one competitive team? How many of those dogs end up dead at the hands of their owners, or discarded for others to “rescue” because they don’t make the cut?

Did I detect an audible increase in the volume of CBC media hype for this year’s Quest? Doesn’t the very well-staffed CBC Yukon have anyone to actually do some journalism work with respect to the mushing industry?

Or is it CBC’s mandate to show preference to stories demonstrating human supremacy over animals? At least the local papers permit alternate views to be heard.

Are school kids being indoctrinated when told about the Yukon Quest? Is it really “good for the kids”, CBC?

This race is all about people, not dogs. The dogs are chattel slaves: they are resources, property to be used for human entertainment then discarded when they are no longer useful. It is past time to abolish the Quest – shut down for good!

Mike Grieco,

Also: CKRW cut me off this am on Trader Time program for defending the dogs in the Yukon Quset.

For the dogs!

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 that between 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 1975 winner, 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

* 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

Sincerely yours,

Robert E. Blizard
Associate, Companion Animal Care

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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: .

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

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

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

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