Sportsman's Daily


Iditarod Brought to Halt as Mistreated Dogs Refuse to Run

"I'm sure they're exhausted and sick of the whole thing," said Lisa Wathne, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

itidarod atheletes

Very few Iditarod "athletes" are fortunate enough to make the transition from racing. Julian Barnes, a spokesman for the Westminister Kennel Club said, "The Iditarod is excellent preparation for a show dog. You can log well over 2,000 miles going from one show to the next. The one downside is that even the most show-worthy dogs take a couple of years before they can compete at room temperature."

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (The Sportsman's Daily Wire Service) – The long-suffering dogs of the Iditarod have finally said “enough.” Word of two-time runner-up Ramy Brooks’s disqualification from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for abusing his dogs prompted scores of “four legged athletes” to stage a work stoppage until “conditions markedly approve.”

“I wouldn’t wish these conditions on a pit bull that killed and ate a family of four,” said Cesar Millan, the renowned “Dog Whisperer," who was flown into Anchorage to interpret and speak on behalf of the disgruntled dogs. “Causes of death during the last ten years have included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury, heart failure, and pneumonia. Now, these are rugged, well-trained athletes used to withstanding extreme conditions. Some will succumb. So it’s not necessarily the relentless physical abuse that we object to, it’s the psychological terrorism inflicted by the mushers (the dog sled drivers) that must be stopped. The dogs I’ve conversed are making a statement: enough is enough.”

Lisa Wathne, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, read a statement that was signed by several animal advocacy groups demanding an end to the “systematic psychological abuse.”

“When the cameras are rolling the dogs are shown spending down-time playing with pull toys and belly-sliding across the frozen tundra. But what you don’t see or hear are the mushers reducing once proud canines to whimpering house pets via a degrading series of insults you wouldn’t use on an incontinent cat that continues to pee on your new carpet. There are even documented occasions when mushers have threatened acts of man-on-dog sex in order to make their athletes perform. This kind of harassment is unacceptable at any workplace, whether it be an automotive plant or frozen, uninhabitable tundra.”

The Iditarod covers over 1,150 miles, spanning mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and windswept coastline. Temperatures often reach far below zero, with winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility. Each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher goes from start to finish in 10 to 17 days.

The 1975 Iditarod winner, Jerry Riley, was banned for life in 1990 after being accused of striking his dog with a snow hook (a large, sharp and heavy metal claw). Riley has since been an outspoken critic of the Iditarod’s critics.

“It used to be just you, your dogs and the Alaskan landscape, competing against the world’s best mushers and best trained dogs. Now you’ve got these groups looking over your shoulder anytime you do what any self-respecting football or basketball coach does to impose discipline. Now, no one expects Bobby Knight to whack one of his players across the snout with an iron pipe or chain him to a tree for five hours without so much as a milk bone biscuit, but it’s not easy motivating dogs to race in sub-freezing temperatures, across rugged terrain, for hours on end…particularly when they’d prefer to be sleeping at the foot of your bed, fetching a Frisbee on a weekend afternoon or mindlessly licking their own testicles. And now they’re putting all these crazy ideas into their heads – a work stoppage? What’s next? Demands for health benefits, a pension plan and sensitivity training?”

Race spokesman Chas St. George said, "We do need to show more care and compassion for these four-legged athletes. If one needs to hit or kick a dog to prod him to perform, that’s ok within understood limits. But the mind games some mushers play are unacceptable. If you tell a dog you’ll give him a treat if he rolls over, you give him a treat when he rolls over. But to promise a dog a treat and make him wait for two weeks after you’ve nearly killed him, that’s just not right. Unless of course it’s a really good treat – like letting him take a solid chunk out of your butt for putting him through two weeks of hell on ice to satisfy your perverse need for personal glorification.”

Frank Rizzo, whose family raises racing greyhounds, waxed philosophical about the controversy. “Would I subject my dogs to those conditions just to win a race? Maybe yes, maybe no, depends on who’s asking. But if Raul, our new trainer, turns out to be as worthless as his predecessor, he’ll be pulling a dogsled in Alaska before you can say mush.”

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