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Dogs at the Start of the Yukon Quest



The kind folks at the Sled Dog Watchdog Coalition took the above photos at the start of the Yukon Quest this year and sent them to me. All of my posts–and certainly all of the venom in the pro-mushing comments–in my opinion, don’t have a fraction of the power of these photos. I am sickened by the thought that these magnificent, trusting creatures, who thought they had a best friend in their "master," were forced, and sometimes even beaten (as in the well-documented case of disqualified Iditarod musher, Ramy Brooks), into running an obscene distance. And all for a chance for their "master" to achieve the financial benefit and/or "glory" that comes with victory. Three dogs died during the Yukon Quest, and three dogs died during the Iditarod this year. More will die as a result of injuries and illness sustained during the races.

Please visit the Sled Dog Watchdog Coalition and the Sled Dog Action Coalition for more realities of mushing.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Anonymusher #

    The sled dogs are on what are called "drop chains" where they are hooked while they are waiting to be harnessed. They are not chained there for long periods of time. They ride in "dog boxes" (built-in crates) in the truck and then are hooked to the drop chains. Then they are harnessed. Then they are hooked to the sled. Then they run.

    The dogs in the pictures do look shy but there are MANY pictures that show dogs that are quite the opposite. I was at a sled dog race last month where there were several hundred "dog trucks" with sled dogs on drop lines on each one of them. Some of the dogs were shy and crouched under their truck like the ones pictured. The others bounced up and down and greeted strangers with glee! It's called personality, some dogs on a team are shy, others outgoing.

    It would be interesting to see the the reactions of the dogs pictured above when they saw their harnesses. At the race I mentioned, even the timid dogs forgot their shyness and were focused on running down the trail when hookup began. They were unconcerned with their musher or anyone else. In the starting chute they have to have at least one volunteer per pair of dogs to hold the team back until it is their turn to go.

    As an aside, those opposed to the Iditarod who are going on about Ramy Brooks have missed the obvious: HE WAS DISQUALIFIED FOR HIS ABUSE! He will NOT recieve prize money! He will NOT be listed as an official finisher! He will have trouble getting sponsors (he's lost one already)! His story is out – he may be permanently BARRED from entering the Iditarod and other sled dog races! That's the POINT – that kind of abuse is NOT tolerated in the Iditarod, which goes against what the Sled Dog Action Coalition (who, by the way, claim not to be opposed to mushing in general) says. Maybe that's why they have NO mention of the Ramy Brooks incedent on their website.

    March 27, 2007
  2. Anonymusher makes a valid point in that Ramy Brooks isn't the issue. He writes, "that kind of abuse is NOT tolerated in the Iditarod." That's correct, that kind of abuse isn't tolerated (at least not this year by Ramy Brooks). But a different, more insidious kind is. The definition of abuse and cruelty is the real issue. The race, on the face of it, meaning the facts of what it is and what occurs and who is involved, is abusive and cruel.

    Iditarod supporters merely have a different definition of abuse. Theirs has an extreme starting point, meaning, it's only abuse if you beat them with a stick. A moral, ethical argument doesn't play that game. The concept of the race is abusive. Period. And no one, NO ONE can make ANY argument that it is necessary for ANYTHING. Killing without necessity is morally unjustifiable, and using and abusing dogs for your own potential financial or EGO gain, is most certainly unjustifiable.

    We have no business using the dogs. The Iditarod doesn't serve the needs of the dogs, it serves the needs of the people.

    March 27, 2007
  3. Anonymusher #

    Here are some pictures that illustrate my earlier points:

    A dog truck:

    Dogs on a drop line NOT acting shy:

    Musher and dog:

    Now, back to the definition of abuse. Here is how the Iditarod defines it: “Cruel or inhumane treatment involves any action or inaction, which causes preventable pain or suffering to a dog.” Extreme? I don’t think so. The concept of the race would not seem so abusive to you if you would actually take the time to meet some sled dogs and run them. Check out the listing on

    People are trying to find ways to prevent dog deaths during the Iditarod. Nobody wants it to happen. That’s why the Snickers Memorial Fund on was started. Have you made a donation yet?

    March 27, 2007
  4. Is that all a joke? You're going to allow dog abusers to define abuse? And you want me to give to the Snickers Fund?

    There is one, GUARANTEED WAY to prevent dog deaths during the Iditarod, and that's by shutting down the Iditarod, which is what I would like to happen. I don't accept any other solution, as I don't believe we have a right to use the dogs for our purposes.

    March 27, 2007
  5. Anonymusher #

    So basically what you are saying is that, to make your point, you won't support something that might help prevent dog deaths? What part of the Iditarod Trail Committee's definition of abuse is unacceptable to you? Would you rather it read "any action or inaction involving human contact with dogs"?

    Again, I request that you meet some sled dogs and run them. I know you don’t believe that humans should use animals but perhaps (and I never thought I would say this) you should read what the Sled Dog Watchdog Coalition, a group you often refer to, has to say about mushing on :

    "Advocacy on behalf of sled dogs is not a campaign against recreational mushing, nor is it a campaign against competitive mushing in general. Both can be fun and healthy pursuits for canines and humans."

    The Sled Dog Action Coalition takes a similar stance:

    By the way, what are mushers supposed to do with all their dogs if sled dog races are shut down?

    March 27, 2007
  6. I will not support a fund started to prevent dog deaths when there is a much easier, less expensive solution. That is not an effective investment; it's a waste of money.

    More than 50% of my days are in the service of nonprofits. I serve on boards, do strategic planning and board development, and fundraise. The Snickers fund in no way supports any of my philanthropic parameters.

    I do not support mushing for profit. If you want to play with your dog and let her stop when she wants to, and go as fast as she wants to, that's fine.

    I do not believe in breeding dogs. When the races are shut down, people who really care about the dogs will adopt them and give them fabulous lives. Some will go to sanctuaries. My hope is that they will all be cared for by responsible people. And dogs who are born in the wild will stay there, living their natural lives.

    I don't need to see any photos, I don't need to meet any mushers or dogs, and I certainly don't need to go to Alaska (I will continue to boycott until there is no Iditarod and Yukon Quest). My position is a moral one, like my position to not use animals for food or clothing. My greyhounds are vegans and thriving. I will raise children, if I ever have or adopt any, to respect sentient beings. That respect will come in the only form such respect can come in: the abolition of the use of animals.

    Have a peaceful day.

    March 27, 2007
  7. Anonymusher #

    I do not consider the Snickers fund a waste of money. There's no chance sled dog races will be shut down when there are dozens of new ones popping up every year. Maybe a few will be cancelled due to lack of snow but many of the newer races are of the dryland variety.

    There are very few mushers in the sport for the money. I cannot understand your refusal to consider meeting real sled dogs or even look at pictures. You would not have to go to Alaska, there are mushers all over the world. I'm sure there are some in your area who would gladly show you how to run a team. It's hard to stay opposed to mushing when the animals are clearly having fun. Is that why you do not want to mush?

    Personally, I wish there were enough people willing to adopt every sled dog in the world. Not because that's going to happen (it's not) but because they could provide homes and exercise for thousands of shelter dogs who are much worse off than racing sled dogs.

    May all of your days be peaceful too.

    March 27, 2007

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