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The CBC is in need of another ‘tune-up’ By Whitehorse Star on February 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm

This letter was primarily motivated by a recent radio interview (Feb.1, 2013) conducted by CBC Whitehorse Mid-Day Café host Russ Knutson, in celebration of the Yukon Quest’s 30th anniversary.

Mr. Knutson had a jovial-sounding, half-hour pre-recorded session with ex-Quest musher Frank Turner and Whitehorse author/Quest evangelist John Firth.

It seems that on an annual basis, Mr. Knutson and some of his cohorts give generous airtime to people like Turner who have gained fame and fortune on the labours of their dogs, and in this case also to Mr. Firth.

In my opinion, he serves as a veritable propagandist for the Yukon Quest and for the dog mushing/racing industry.

In a manner I am quite used to seeing CBC employ, Knutson used a brief part of the interview to ask Turner and Firth for their opinions on Quest race opponents’ views (without getting into too many details) rather than directly asking the animal advocates themselves for their many specific concerns.

Apparently, the CBC believes this to be the best way to discount accusations of their failure to air both sides of the story.

I am also aware that “St. Francis of the Yukon” (Turner) served as the inspiration for the newly-elected president of the Humane Society Yukon (HSY; Dec. 21, 2012 Star story) after the man had heard the CBC interviewing Turner (about his wonderful ideas and suggestions for a more functional humane society?).

Pretty comfy situation for any dog musher or animal trapper to be able to call up the CBC (or vice-versa) and be given free rein to spout their garbage.

And then I see on CBC Northbeat’s coverage of the HSY election, Frank Turner, “front row centre.” (I was surprised he wasn’t elected as president, such is his local renown.)

I need to point out to the new HSY board, in case they are unaware, some of my knowledge of the relationship between the HSY and the mushing community.

About a year or so after the Mae Bachur shelter was opened, I learned as a new volunteer that a certain unnamed Quest musher had dropped off a couple of unsuccessful sled dogs.

Their names were Franklin and Preacher.

Staff and some other volunteers were upset because, it was conveyed to me, there was an “unwritten rule” from its inception that the shelter was not to be a convenient dumping ground for dog mushers, yet somehow two dogs got into the system.

The dogs, with various behaviour/socialization issues, spent a relatively long time at the shelter before being adopted by a local couple who mushed recreationally, and who took in other hard-to-adopt dogs.

At that time, I had not yet developed any strong views against the Yukon Quest or the mushing industry.

A few years later (around 2004/2005), alarms went off again after some staff, volunteers and HSY members/donors were up in arms over word of some new leased land behind the shelter being developed for/having a proposed use as, a yard for “outside dogs”.

This was again interpreted as being a place for mushers to ditch unwanted/surplus dogs.

This project seemed to have been mothballed by the HSY board after the outcry.

I then took a more active role advocating for sled dogs (“slave dogs”, as I now refer to them).

I was puzzled as to why the HSY has never, to my knowledge, spoken up against the Quest, what with its annual occurrence of dog suffering on a mass scale, and often, over three decades, dog deaths.

As a volunteer at Mae Bachur, I was told by some staff and other volunteers about general sled dog neglect by some owners, and even reports of gunshots from the vicinity of remote dog yards, with a limited capacity or lack of will for the HSY to conduct rescues.

Having said that, I am aware of a 2007 Yukon News story which mentions Frank Turner having been previously involved in the rescue of 17 dogs left to starve near Fish Lake.

I am not aware of the HSY having been notified about this, or if so, having had any role in asking Turner for help.

The only public rescue involving the HSY happened last February, in the rescue of 10 dogs from a Haines Junction-area musher.

Neverthless, it seems to me that the HSY has avoided public involvement in the “sled dog” fray, and has left that battle to one or two private citizens, acting without any public backing nor encouragement from the HSY.

Russ Knutson, were he to choose to act as a responsible and ethical journalist would, could have asked Turner and Firth about the actual official body count of Quest race dogs over 30 years – not something the Quest or its big supporters (the Quest would have shut down years ago without huge injections of cash from Tourism Yukon) want publicized.

Turner himself, prior to the 2007 Quest, brought up the culling issue to CBC (!).

That year’s race marshal stated in response that it was not the Quest’s business or concern what mushers did in their own dog yards. (Perhaps the CBC should delete this news story from its website.)

Not another peep out of Turner about culling, and the Quest, to this date, does not have a policy.

Turner also acted as a consultant to the B.C. government’s Sled Dog Task Force (the Whistler sled dog slaughter).

The highlight of that body’s public snow-job was, to me, the illustrated method of the correct way to shoot a dog!

Anybody who has read Firth’s book Yukon Quest: the 1,000 mile dog race through the Yukon and Alaska should be shocked by the numerous references to dog suffering, and callous disregard by Quest mushers toward their dogs:

• “All our dogs have got the same damn name – you dumb sonofabitch” (Alaska musher Jon Gleason); and

• even a reference to the disillusionment and withdrawal of services by a race veterinarian because, to the Quest organization, “dog care” appears to be mere window dressing.

One could be led to think that the infliction of animal suffering and risk of death are the big attraction to hardcore Quest fans.

Another dog was killed this year for people’s entertainment. (How many dogs will be culled to make room for more canine “athletes”?

We’ve had another shameful display of yellow journalism by the publicly funded CBC.

(Some friendly advice to Yukoners: turn off the CBC; they are making you stupid.)

Another year of the Quest being promoted to Yukon school children, with the blessing of government and the Yukon education system.

Some $2.3 million of Yukon government money has been given to the Quest since 1999. That’s money that should have been used to benefit (not exploit) those who can’t speak for themselves (Yukon animals), or all the unfortunate people in Yukon who suffer without help.

In closing, amongst the 2013 Quest hoopla on the CBC, I was somewhat heartened to hear a quick news snippet about more Whitehorse people speaking up for the dogs and hope that should the Quest still be around in 2015, there will be a sizeable contingent of people at the race start protesting to shut down this barbaric race for good.

Terry Cumming

Please send protest emails, forward this alert widely and post it on Facebook.

Courtesy posting for Sled Dog Action Coalition,

Iditarod mushers drown innocent puppies.

Contact information, groups of email addresses and sample letter are below.

Iditarod dogs suffer horrendous cruelty every day of their lives. Please help these dogs by sending protest emails to the 2013 race supporters. Mushers have drowned, shot, bludgeoned and dragged many dogs to death. For example, Iditarod musher Dave Olesen drowned a litter of newborn puppies. Another musher got rid of unwanted puppies by tying them in a bag and tossing the bag in a creek. Mushers even have a saying about not breeding dogs unless they can drown them: “Those who cannot drown should not breed.”

Terrible things happen to dogs during the Iditarod. This includes: death, bloody diarrhea, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, kennel cough, broken bones, torn muscles and extreme stress. At least 142 dogs have died in the race, including four dogs who froze to death in the brutal cold.

Veterinary care during the Iditarod is poor. In the 2012 race, one of Lance Mackey’s male dogs ripped out all of his 16 toenails trying to get to a female who was in heat. This type of broken toenail is extremely painful. Mackey, a four-time Iditarod winner, said he was too stubborn to leave this dog at a checkpoint and veterinarians allowed Mackey to continue to race him. Imagine the agony the dog was forced to endure.

Here’s another example: Veterinarians have allowed dogs with kennel cough to race in the Iditarod even though dogs with this disease should be kept warm and given lots of rest. Strenuous exercise can cause lung damage, pneumonia and even death. To make matters worse, kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that normally lasts from 10 to 21 days.

Most Internet service providers allow people to send up to 40 email addresses at a time. For your convenience, email addresses for the 2013 Iditarod sponsors, promoters, and musher sponsors have been divided into groups of 40. Please email the first group first. Scroll down to find the sample letter. Under it you’ll find individual email addresses for race supporters. Email groups with semicolons are on The Sled Dog Action Coalition has documentation to prove what it says and will provide it upon request.

GROUP ONE OF FOUR:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

GROUP TWO OF FOUR:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

GROUP THREE OF FOUR:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

GROUP FOUR OF FOUR:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

SAMPLE LETTER (Please personalize)

Dear Iditarod Supporter:

Iditarod dogs suffer horrendous cruelty every day of their lives. Please end your organization’s support of this event. Mushers have drowned, shot, bludgeoned and dragged many dogs to death. For example, Iditarod musher Dave Olesen drowned a litter of newborn puppies. Another musher got rid of unwanted puppies by tying them in a bag and tossing the bag in a creek. Mushers even have a saying about not breeding dogs unless they can drown them: “Those who cannot drown should not breed.”

Terrible things happen to dogs during the Iditarod. This includes: death, bloody diarrhea, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, kennel cough, broken bones, torn muscles and extreme stress. At least 142 dogs have died in the race, including four dogs who froze to death in the brutal cold.

Veterinary care during the Iditarod is poor. In the 2012 race, one of Lance Mackey’s male dogs ripped out all of his 16 toenails trying to get to a female who was in heat. This type of broken toenail is extremely painful. Mackey, a four-time Iditarod winner, said he was too stubborn to leave this dog at a checkpoint and veterinarians allowed Mackey to continue to race him. Imagine the agony the dog was forced to endure.

Here’s another example: Veterinarians have allowed dogs with kennel cough to race in the Iditarod even though dogs with this disease should be kept warm and given lots of rest. Strenuous exercise can cause lung damage, pneumonia and even death. To make matters worse, kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that normally lasts from 10 to 21 days.

Iditarod dogs endure brutal training. Jeanne Olson, who has been a veterinarian in Alaska since 1988, confirmed the brutality used by mushers training dogs for the Iditarod. She talked about dogs having cracked ribs, broken jaws or skulls from mushers using two-by-fours for punishment. In an article published by the University of Alaska, Dr. Olson said, “There are mushers out there whose philosophy is…that if that dog acts up I will hit that dog to the point where it would rather die than do what it did, ’cause the next time it is gonna die.'”

For more facts about Iditarod dog cruelties: Sled Dog Action Coalition,

Please end your organization’s association with this horrific race.



Konica Minolta USA

Allworx (Windstream)

Waste Management

Donlin Gold (Barrick/Novagold Resources Company)

K & L Distributors, Inc. (AB-Inbev distributor)

Chrysler Group LLC


Millennium & Copthorne Hotels

Wells Fargo & Company

Exxon Mobil Corporation

Anchorage Daily News (Mc Clatchy Company)

Providence Health System

Alaska Airlines (Alaska Air Group)

Peninsula Airways, Inc. (Pen Air)

Alaska Brewing Company

The City of Anchorage

The City of Nome

Horizon Lines

General Communication, Inc. (GCI)

Alcan Signs

Alaska Serigraphics


Northern Air Cargo

Beacon Occupational Health and Safety


Alaska Mining & Diving Supply, Inc.

Spenard Builders Supply

Craig Taylor Equipment Company

Life Med Alaska


Target Corporation Target Corporation

Microsoft Flight (Edelman)

Ralph Lauren Corporation

Diabetic Living (Meredith Corporation)

Carhartt, Inc.

Globus Family of Brands

Chicago Park District

Uhaul (Amerco)

Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals

Outside Magazine (Mariah Media)

Talk of the Nation (National Public Radio)

APCO International

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean

Discovery Communications, Inc.

Norwegian Cruise Line (Genting HK, Apollo Global Management, TGP Creative Capital)

Carnival Corporation

Scholastic Corporation

Silversea Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Forest Preserve District of Will County

Great Edmonds Chamber of Commerce

The Right Path for Washington County

Principal Media

Anne Z. Cooke and Steve Haggerty

Miami Herald

The Atlantic


Royal Canin (Mars Incorporated)

Canada Goose

NAPA Auto Parts

NEOS overshoe (Honeywell International)

Denny’s Corporation (restaurants)

Blockbuster (DISH Network L.L.C.)

Rick Steves’ Europe: Tours, Trip Planning, Travel Guides



Eukanuba (Procter & Gamble Company)

United States Coast Guard

Jiffy Lube International, Inc. and Shell Oil Company
Eagle Pack/WellPet (Berwind-White Coal Mining Company) (sponsor)


Touch ‘n Seal (Convenience Products, division of Clayton Corp.)

Batteries Plus LLC

Lupine Lighting Systems

Remington Technologies, LLC

Teck Resources Limited

Oomingmak (Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative)

Inlet Tower Hotel & Suites (The Packard Companies)

J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

Redpaw Feed

Usibelli Coal Mine

Grabber Hand Warmers

Wedgewood Resort (Fountainhead Hotels)

Bradley Reid & Associates


Intuition Boot Liners

Northern Outfitters

Trapper’s Creek Smoking Company

St. Elias Hospital

Geneva Woods Pharmacy, Inc.

CAC Plastics

Selwyn Resources, Ltd.

Wiggy’s Inc.

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation

American Dehydrated Foods, Inc.

Fly Denali, Inc.

Snug Harbor Seafoods

Alpine Creek Lodge LLC

Ryan Air

Specsavers Optical Superstores Ltd

Trident Seafoods

Anderes Oil, Inc.

Fish Creek Company

Akiak Native Community

Valley Chiropractic Clinic

Yummy Chummies (Arctic Paws, LLC)

Great Alaska Lumberjack Show (Lumberjack Sports International)

A.L. Mitchell & Associates

Mahays Riverboat Service

Susitna River Lodging

Michele’s Café (Café Michele)

Mountain High Pizza Pie

Latitude 62 Lodge

Alaska Floats & Skis

Wild Rose B and B

Talkeetna Aero

Sky Trekking Alaska

Crystal Creek Lodge

Dr. Kipp Erickson

Tangle River Inn

Petro Marine Services

Icicle Seafoods, Inc.

Buffalo Peak Outfitters

Triple Creek Ranch

Tiger Scientific

Diversified Systems Resources

Ground Effect Media

Ibex Outdoor Clothing LLC

Alaskan Heritage Memorial Chapel and Crematory

Surface Works Countertops

Alaska Frontier North Pawn & Loan

Kaladi Brothers

Ferguson Enterprises Inc.

Manitoba Mukluks

Ace Air Cargo

Scurion Lamps

Live Large design

Sterling Auction & Realty Services

Bering Air

Cook Inlet Aquaculture Assn

Famous Dave’s BBQ

Shemin Nurseries, Inc.

No Room (NR4E) LLC

Kenai Veterinary Hospital

Kasilof Enterprises

Accupoint Inc.

Northwest Passages, Inc.

Alaska Industrial Hardware


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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

‘The existing document is fine’
Richard Mostyn, Yukon News

The Yukon Quest International Association has apologized.

It recently barred somebody from its annual general meeting for inexplicable reasons.

Now, in light of the controversy, it is apparently examining its constitution.

While this sounds reassuring, it is unnecessary and could cause more problems than it solves.

First, some history.

The dog-and-people show, which receives more than $300,000 in government funding every year, recently lost its executive director and was also recruiting a few new directors. It asked people to attend its annual general meeting.

So we did.

Sports reporter Tom Patrick took the time to attend the meeting – to see what happened. He was met at the door by outgoing executive director Georgina Leslie, who denied him entry unless he forked over $42 for a membership.

The meetings are fully open to the public, she said. Anyone can attend after they pay.

It’s always been this way, she said.

Patrick refused. The meeting went on without us.

There are several problems here, not the least of which was the Yukon Quest’s assumption a pay-to-attend approach to its annual meetings was OK.

Imagine the precedent this sets – suddenly the affairs of any nonprofit society could become revenue generators – a means to make more cash to sustain the organization. You want to see the financials, or observe the election? It’s gonna cost you.

Or, much more likely, the fee becomes an easy way to prevent snoops from nosing around a wealthy organization’s affairs.

Also, the way this particular event played out speaks volumes about the Quest.

This is a Yukon society that receives substantial government support – that is, the public pays for a huge chunk of its annual operation. As such, any citizen interested in observing its procedural business should be welcome to do so.

But the modern Quest is not all that interested in locals.

Instead, its officials run it like a exclusive club, accepting the government cash as if it were simply a fee for international tourism marketing services rendered.

It shouldn’t be like this.

And, according to the Quest’s constitution, it isn’t.

In fact, it clearly states all meetings are open to all, except people who don’t behave.

But at its most recent annual general meeting, officials clearly didn’t want any onlookers.

A skittish executive decided, in an odd twist of logic, that a membership meeting meant nonmembers were to be excluded.

“The interpretation of our constitution was made to the best of our ability,” Quest president Al Doherty said in his letter of apology (see below).


But remember, this organization is responsible for managing a huge chunk of government money. We hope they punch above their weight when handling the cash.

In the end, the group was successful in blocking observers from their recent meeting. We’ll never really know what happened there, but the organization has pledged to make its minutes and results of the gathering available. That is an imperfect fix, but it’s the best that can be expected in the circumstances.

And the leadership will review the wording of its constitution to “prevent further confusion.”

We’re curious to see how this plays out.

Such a review could be used to ensure undesirables, such as reporters, were kept from future meetings, without question.

But we doubt that will happen. We’re an optimistic bunch.

Nevertheless, we urge the Quest to save itself some time and simply affirm its existing constitution, which, despite Leslie’s wonky interpretation, is very clear, simple and concise.

“All meetings of the membership shall be open to the public and no person shall be excluded, except for improper conduct.”

“Yes, volvulus is extremely painful. It is the twisting of the intestines, which partially or completely shuts off the blood supply to the affected area. I cannot stress enough that the individual is in agony from start to finish. It may take several hours before infarction (the damage caused by the lack of blood supply) occurs. Furthermore, death is not quick; it is drawn out, usually due to shock. The fact that this dog died of the condition meant that he had to suffer through the entire process of incredible pain and then shock.”

– Veterinarian Nedim C. Buyukmihci, DVM, email to the Sled Dog Action Coalition on Feb. 9, 2013

Sled dog dies in Yukon Quest race

Dog belonging to Alaskan Jake Berkowitz died from severe bowel obstruction

CBC News

Posted: Feb 8, 2013 12:09 PM CST

Last Updated: Feb 8, 2013 2:53 PM CST

A dog has died on the Yukon Quest trail, race officials announced Thursday.

The dog, named General, belonged to musher Jake Berkowitz’s team. It died while being transported to Whitehorse by a race veterinarian.

In a news release, Yukon Quest head veterinarian Kathleen McGill said a necropsy in Whitehorse had found the cause of death to be “a condition called intestinal volvulus with bowel infarction.”

She said blood and tissue samples would be sent to a lab for further analysis and the results from those tests are expected in in four to six weeks.

Berkowitz, a musher from Big Lake, Alaska, is in third position behind Hugh Neff and Allen Moore, also of Alaska.

Frank Turner, a veteran musher and Quest winner, said the dog’s death is sure to affect the mushers and fans of the race. “Obviously this is the most devastating thing that can happen,” he said.

Turner said the animal’s death is sure to trigger opponents of the race but he said the standard for animal care has never been higher.

“Anybody that has got serious questions, and thinks the care of the dogs is not paramount, in my opinion has not really gone out their way to verify that,” he said. “When you’re competing at this level, your success is totally based on the care of your dogs.”

Three dogs on three different teams died during the 2007 race. One dog died in the 2010 race, and another in 2011.

1999 Yukon Quest By Whitehorse Star on February 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm

John Schandelmeier joked during the mushers’ banquet in Fairbanks before the Yukon Quest that he’d be carrying medical gear on top of his sled.

His team was injured after a string of horrible accidents while training for the Quest.

“It just happens that I had 10 years’ worth of bad accidents in one year,” Schandelmeier said in an interview.

Earlier this winter, Schandelmeier and his team were hit by a truck, injuring two dogs. The second accident saw a pair of dogs die when his team crashed through ice.

The week before the race, Schandelmeier had two more accidents. The most recent was while driving to Fairbanks from his home in Paxson, Alaska, and his dog truck collided with another vehicle.

“(The other driver) hit us and he went into the ditch and we didn’t. So we had to stop and wait three hours for him until we could get some help and get him out of the ditch,” said Schandelmeier, adding that he nor any of the dogs were hurt.

The bad luck struck again several days before the Quest began on Feb. 13. He was on his final run with a full team when the two-time Quest champion and his team were attacked by a moose, injuring several dogs.

Sepp Hermann also had a tragic encounter while training for the Quest. A grizzly bear attacked and killed eight dogs last November.

The Alaskan musher from Goldstream Valley considered dropping out from the Quest, but an outpouring of support encouraged him to stay in. He picked up dogs from different kennels and put a team together.

Early in the race, Hermann said his new crew weren’t working well together. But after a few days, they began to gel.

This year’s race didn’t start very smoothly for musher Wayne Curtis, of Wasilla, Alaska.

The beginning of the race in Fairbanks was a little disorganized this year. When Curtis got to the start line, he thought he had two minutes to wait until he left. He went to check his dogs and the 10-second countdown to leave started.

Curtis managed to rush back and hop on the sled before his wife, Chris, (who was sitting on the back of the sled) could get off, and they both started to leave together.

When his wife tried to jump off, she accidentally knocked down her husband. Wayne Curtis grabbed the snow hook line on the sled and was dragged several metres until people in the crowd stopped his dogs.

Curtis and his wife were embarrassed but not hurt.

Sometimes, mushers have to make sacrifices.

German sprint mushing champion Petra Noelle, racing a long-distance event for the first time, is learning to live without the necessities. At one point along the trail, she took her hairspray out of the sled and left it behind at the checkpoint.

Many Quest mushers discovered the meat in their food bags spoiled at checkpoints in Central and Circle, Alaska.

According to Quest head veterinarian Richard Long, the problem stemmed from a food drop done several weeks ago, before the race started.

Mushers pre-pack their food, and Quest officials are responsible for delivering it to checkpoints along the trail. Soldiers from Fort Wainwright were delivering the meat to the checkpoints when mechanical problems forced the delivery truck into a warm garage for repairs. When the meat was discovered in the back, it was moved outside – but not before it partially thawed out.

Many mushers – including front-runners Kris Swanguarin, Frank Turner, Peter Butteri and Thomas Tetz – were among mushers to find spoiled meat in their food bag.

“It’s really bad, and I complained,” said Tetz, of Tagish. “All of my meat is frozen and melted together.”

The Angel Creek Lodge, the first official checkpoint along the Quest trail, wasn’t a very heavenly place to stay this year.

An Alaska state liquor rule that doesn’t allow people to sleep in bars, and no designated sleeping area by Quest officials, surprised many mushers who didn’t have a warm place to rest overnight.

The checkpoint is merely one isolated lodge with a few cabins. In past years, the place was famous for cramming everybody into the small restaurant/bar, including people trying to sleep anywhere – on the floors and under the pool tables.

This year, the staff weren’t permitting the mushers nor handlers to sleep in the lodge because of the new rule. Any musher seen trying to doze off would be awakened with a tap on the shoulder. At least one musher told a staff member to “F—k off” after being constantly awakened.

There are a few cabins at the lodge but they were all rented out. In other years, the Quest has had a cabin for mushers to sleep and dry out their clothes, but there wasn’t one available this year for unknown reasons.

With no designated sleeping area, race rules state that people aren’t allowed to sleep in lodges and must sleep outside on their sleds. It is considered receiving “outside assistance”, and self-suffienciency is a fundamental principle of the Yukon Quest. Mushers spent the night out on their sleds or attempting to stay awake.

Hallucinations are common for mushers in the Quest because of physical exhaustion and a lack of sleep. But not too many hallucinations are X-rated.

Dawson City musher Peter Ledwidge was riding trails between Central and Circle when his team of dogs changed into, uhmm, a part of the female anatomy. “The best part,” he specified.

He also saw a plane flying over his head, coming in for a landing.

I worked in a kennel that belonged to an Iditarod musher. So here’s what I have to say. Often dog care is left to the kennel workers or dog handlers. We are paid very little- whatever the minimum wage is with no benefits usually. In general, mushers don’t have enough workers. Keep in mind that they have lots and lots of dogs and most of our work is during very cold weather. What this all boils down into being is that most of the dogs aren’t well taken care of. Understand that the mushers know about all the bad stuff that goes down. Lots of times the musher is part of it.

I’ve seen kennel workers beat dogs. I’ve seen kennel workers not feed dogs they don’t like or not give them water. I’ve seen kennel workers kill dogs. If a dog is sick, most workers are too busy to notice or don’t report it. When a virus spreads through the kennel, most mushers don’t want to pay for the vets- especially if the dogs have a low rank- I’ll explain that later. Mushers sometimes kill the dogs they don’t want or they leave it to us. There are dead dogs under the ground where tourists walk in some kennels.

Dogs have rankings. The ones who race good have the highest rank and it goes down from there. The dogs with the highest rank get the best care. (Some people would still call that awful- the dogs are chained.) The dogs with low rank stay on the chain. Like I said mushers make sure that the high ranked dogs get the most attention. But if they are good at running they are made to run thousands of miles before the Iditarod even begins. And yes, dogs die from it.

Sometimes the mushers take the dogs on training runs. Otherwise, it’s the dog handlers who do it. We usually run the puppies who might have promise of racing good as an adult. I’ve heard stories from ones who say they’ve beaten the dogs when they’re out on the trail.

The kennels churn out puppies as fast as a factory manufactures bolts or screwdrivers. There is always more stock coming in from breeding. Or, if a musher needs a better racer, it can be bought, borrowed or leased.

The mushers running businesses that give kennel tours are entertainers or showmen. Make no mistake. This is all a business. No love. Just business. The less money spent on the dogs, the more profit the musher pockets.

‘John’ – December 5, 2006

‘Dog’s beating left me appalled, sick and shocked’ (Whitehorse Star, Feb. 23/2011).

Ed. note: some readers may find this letter’s graphic details of the violence committed against an Alaskan sled dog disturbing.

It is around one year ago today as I write this, fewer than two weeks before the legendary 2011 Iditarod race start, that, as a dog handler at a private kennel location in Alaska, I witnessed the extremely violent beating of an Iditarod racing dog by one of the racing industry’s most high-profile top 10 mushers. Be assured the beating was clearly not within an “acceptable range” of “discipline”.

Indeed, the scene left me appalled, sick and shocked.

After viewing an individual sled dog repeatedly booted with full force, the male person doing the beating jumping back and forth like a pendulum with his full body weight to gain full momentum and impact.

He then alternated his beating technique with full-ranging, hard and fast, closed-fist punches like a piston to the dog as it was held by its harness splayed onto the ground.

He then staggeringly lifted the dog by the harness with two arms above waist height, then slammed the dog into the ground with full force, again repeatedly, all of this repeatedly.

The other dogs harnessed into the team were barking loudly and excitedly, jumping and running around frenzied in their harnesses.

The attack was sustained, continuing for several minutes perhaps over four minutes, within view at least, until the all-terrain vehicle I was a passenger on turned a curve on the converging trails, and the scene disappeared from view.

This particular dog was just under 10 days out from commencing racing in the long distance Iditarod race. It was later seen to have survived the attack, although bloodied as a result.

Personally, I have never witnessed such a violent attack on a living creature before. The image of that explosion of anger and physical force of one man on a smaller animal is burnt to my memory.

Now, a year on, I look back at last year’s cover page article in a prominent Alaskan news publication, “Surviving the Iditarod”, and the irony of my experience is deep.

The article illustrating the harsh climatic conditions of the endurance race which threatens the dogs’ health and lives, and the conscious, detailed and careful measures taken by vets, mushers and the Iditarod organization to ensure each racing dog has the greatest chance of arriving at Nome humanely treated and alive.

It is not the beating itself that has created a persistent unease for me, disturbing enough as it is.

But the stone-walled, silent denial that followed engenders my persistent need to have a voice for that dog and others that may endure the same abuse away from public scrutiny.

The other witnesses of this attack are two young people, too scared or too stupid when requested to assist me and provide testimony to the Alaskan state trooper, who I notified about the attack. The young people explained to me, “They are not my dogs,” and “I am spineless.”

There was a kennel inspection whereby no person was located on-site to be interviewed by the same state trooper.

Despite that, further investigations based on my account of the attack could not be carried out without the testimony of a second witness in accordance to state law in Alaska.

Animal welfare agencies, the Alaska SPCA and the [City of Alaska Municipality – Note: original letter was unclear regarding this geographic reference, letter writer may have intended ‘City of Anchorage’ instead] were not in a position of authority to provide me with assistance.

Two months after the attack, and after many failed attempts to communicate directly with the Iditarod committee, I contacted PETA U.S.A. for assistance.

In response, the Iditarod committee stated, “The Iditarod is an event, not an enforcement agency,” and Mush With Pride and the state troopers were referred to as more appropriate organizations.

Mush With Pride is an immensely valuable organization developed by sled dog racing industry representatives to self-promote and educate mushers on the wellbeing of sled racing dogs.

In an early phone conversation with Mush With Pride, it was explained that intentional dog abuse is not addressed within their bylaws or objectives; (they) “assume all mushers intend to provide adequate care of their dogs.”

My written requests to add direct abuse to their policy of education have been met with more silence.

The impasse of the situation is of dire consequences to the wellbeing of racing sled dogs in Alaska.

The intention of the state animal protection law, which relies on the strength of several witnesses to stand up to dog abuse, is evidently prone to fail due to “whistle blowers syndrome”.

There is apparently no alternative Alaskan organization willing to acknowledge or openly address intentional sled dog abuse.

Witnesses are easily rendered silent in the face of high-profile employers, and witnesses are dead-ended by the law, yet the relevant race event organizations continue to promote this high-profile, abusive musher throughout “The Greatest Race on Earth”.

That said, where does any hope for responsibility and reform of this behaviour lie? Who is responsible?

Names are used to over-simplify and dust down complex issues into politics, polarization and denial, yet if labels are used as they have been, so be it.

I went to Alaska from Australia last year as an Iditarod race and sled dog enthusiast, and I was labelled an “activist” by the Iditarod committee.

I actively oppose sled dog abuse in any form. I actively promote the recognition of abuse and misconduct. I actively promote the need for re-education and reform in the high-profile arena of sled dog racing and commercial sled dog mushing in Alaska.

I speak for those dogs unable to voice their own needs, and those Alaskans and Yukoners who wish to be informed.

Recent news has emerged from Canada regarding the large-scale slaughter of commercial sled dogs near Whistler, B.C.

Consider the cultural and economic value and continued promotion around the world of the Iditarod and other sled dog races within Alaska, and the proud and compassionate nature I witnessed that regular Alaskans have for their pet animals.

Given this, perhaps it is time to pursue, at the least, an open discussion on the ethics and performance of mushers away from the major events, in a progressive, honest manner in Alaska.

For all is not as it seems in the Alaskan sled dog racing industry.

Some of those truly enduring, heroic dogs continue to survive for sport, culture and industry.

Let it be with humane treatment and integrity, if only because, as desired and promoted by the Alaskan sled dog racing and mushing community, the world is watching.

So should Alaskans [and Yukoners be watching].

Jane Stevens,









Travel Yukon (… better yet, DON’T TRAVEL YUKON – Avoid it!)

Alaska Brewing Company

K&L Distributors

Latitude Wireless



TransCanada [Pipelines] – also sponsor of Rush Limbaugh HATE RADIO

Whitehorse Daily Star

Air North – Yukon dog abusers’ Airline

Alpine Lodge

City of Fairbanks

City of Whitehorse

CKRW The Rush (Whitehorse Radio Station)

High Country Inn

Kinross Fort Knox

Lotteries Yukon (gambling with dogs’ lives)

Lynden Transport

Trademark Screen Printing, Embroidery, Silk Screening – Fairbanks

Whitehorse Motors (Ford)

Fifth Avenue Design & Graphics

Alpine Aviation Yukon

Apocalypse Design – Fairbanks

Canadian Tire – Whitehorse

Everts Air Cargo

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital – Denali Center

Fraserway RV

Fred Meyer

HughesNet Alaska

Fell-Hawk Placers

Manitoulin Transport

North Star Computing

Northrim Bank

Northern Alaska Tour Company


Orion’s Belt School of Self Defence

Skookum Asphalt – Whitehorse

Tait’s Custom Trailers

Warbelow’s Air Adventures

White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad



Alaska State Parks / Snow TRAC

Alaska Army National Guard

Bureau of Land Management

Canadian Rangers – Minister of National Defence

City of Dawson

City of Fairbanks

City of Whitehorse

Fairbanks North Star Borough

Government of Yukon

Kwanlin Dun First Nation

Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation

National Park Service

Selkirk First Nation

Village of Carmacks


Alaska Tent & Tarp

Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre

Finning Tractor


Horst Expediting and Remote Operations

Klondike Business Solutions

Lithia Chevrolet Cadillac of Fairbanks

Peterson Technology Solutions

Pleasant Valley Store

Polar Group


Spenard Builders Supply

Spirit of Alaska FCU

Super Save Propane and Fence Rentals

Summit Logistics

Taiga Ventures

Total North Communications

Usibelli Coal Mine

Wells Fargo

Wright Air Service

Alaska Coffee Roasting Co.

Alaska Pacific Leasing

Arctic Construction Ltd.

Arctic Star Printing

Aurora Animal Clinic

Bob Eley

Cheryl Bradley, CPA

Chocolate Claim – Whitehorse

Cold Spot Feeds


Denali Industrial Supply

Denali State Bank

Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau

Fairbanks Host Lions

Fluid Management Technologies Inc.

Horizon Services


Jill Pollack & Co.

Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke

Klondike Visitor Association

Kluane Freight Lines

Leslie Management Consulting


Municipality of Skagway

National Car Rental

Northern Power Sports

Northerm Windows & Doors – Whitehorse

North Haven Communities

Outside the Cube

Pro Music

Quality Sales

Rockwell Engineering & Construction

Samson True Value Hardware


Santa’s Stiches

Selkirk Grocery

Smallwood Creek

Sourdough Fuel

Taiga Ventures

UAF/CTC Culinary Arts


Westmark Hotels

White Spruce Trailers

Yukon Denture Clinic

Yukon Pump – Whitehorse

Alaska Aero Fuel

Alaska Rubber & Rigging

Alsco-American Linens


Arctic Fire & Safety

Aurora Geosciences Ltd.

Dimond Fence Company

Ivory Jack’s

LuLu’s Bread & Bagels

Nuway Crushing Ltd. – Whitehorse

Meadia Solutions

Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters – Whitehorse

Powerhouse Signs

Vend Alaska/C&A Distributors

Injured sled dog, Aklavik NWT sled dog race, Winter of 2006/2007 [Photo submitted]

Injured sled dog, Aklavik NWT sled dog race, Winter of 2006/2007 [Photo submitted]