Sled dogs are still not protected from animal cruelty laws in Alaska

Activists around the world have been outraged by the cruel Iditarod race in Alaska since its inception in 1973. The race was originally created to “save Alaskan sled dog culture and huskies” when snowmobiles started to take over, but it caused a lot of suffering and pain to the dogs who were forced to participate.

According to the LA Times, McGrath, Alaska resident Ted Almasy was horrified by what he saw during the first race. He said: “That first race (1973), from Anchorage to McGrath, all you could see along the trail was dog blood and dead dogs. That’s when I started with them. After every Iditarod we used to see dead dogs at the dump. You’d see those poor dogs, blood running down both sides.

Although this type of animal treatment is prohibited by Alaskan law, Sec. 11.61.140, sled dogs are currently excluded from all protections. The law states: “This section does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or training or to stock rodeos or contests.”

The Sled Dog Action Coalition reports that at least 154 dogs have died in the Iditarod since it began, but the true number is likely in the thousands. The number excludes dogs that died in the early years of racing and those that died in training or shortly after racing.

According to the Sled Dog Action Coalition, Paula Kislak, president of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, was interviewed in 2003 and said: “119 [dog deaths] is my understanding only in the more recent years of racing. It only takes into account deaths during the real time of the race. This does not take into account deaths that occurred before the race, during training and after the race, hours, days or weeks later, due to extreme exertion or injury.

Dogs are killed by hitting sleds, prolonged exercise, exposure, towline strangulation, and more. They start off as healthy animals and are so tough that their bodies can’t handle it. Alaska currently recognizes someone who commits acts of animal cruelty as one who “knowingly inflicts severe and prolonged physical pain or suffering on an animal”, or “causes the death of the animal or causes pain intense physical or prolonged suffering to the animal”.

Dogs forced into the Iditarod show are subject to animal cruelty by Alaksa’s own definition, but the state has continued to justify and allow it as an exception. People are speaking up, and the animal rescue site has even created a petition to protect Alaskan sled dogs.

The cruelty must stop now.

Sign this petition to end the cruel Iditarod sled dog race.

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Bette C. Alvarado