Dogs are forced to run about 100 miles per day for up to two weeks with very little rest. Up to half of the dogs who start the race don’t finish due to exhaustion, illness, or injury, forcing the remaining ones to work even harder. They’re subjected to biting winds, blinding snowstorms, and subzero temperatures. Even though they wear snow booties, their feet still become bruised, bloodied, cut by ice, and just plain worn out because of the vast distances that they’re made to cover. Many of them pull muscles, incur stress fractures, or become sick with diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses, or bleeding stomach ulcers. According to one report, 81% of the dogs who managed to finish the race had lung damage, and another stated that the dogs used for the race had a 61% higher rate of stomach erosions or ulcers.

    In just the last decade, dogs have died from asphyxiation, heart attacks, trauma from being struck by a vehicle, freezing to death, and excess fluid in the lungs. Five dogs died during the 2017 Iditarod alone. One named Oshi died from aspiration pneumonia—which is the leading cause of death for dogs who don’t survive the race and can be caused from inhaling one’s own vomit—just a day after crossing the finish line in the 2019 race. Another named Blonde endured the same fate after the 2018 Iditarod. More than 150 dogs have died in the race since it began in 1973, not counting all those who died during the off-season or those who were shot or bludgeoned to death because they lacked the rare speed and stamina to make the grade. In 2017, a veteran musher alleged that trainers in the industry have killed hundreds of dogs who didn’t make the cut.
    Alaskan laws against cruelty to animals exempt dog-sledding practices both during the race and in the off-season. Almost invariably, dogs who survive the race spend their entire lives in substandard kennels, many of which aren’t inspected by any regulatory agency. Most kennel operators keep their dogs tethered on short chains or confined to inadequate spaces, where they’re denied even the opportunity to socialize with another dog. In late 2018 and early 2019, a PETA investigator who worked at kennels owned by former Iditarod champions found widespread neglect and suffering. Dogs were denied veterinary care for painful injuries, kept constantly chained next to dilapidated boxes and plastic barrels in the bitter cold, and forced to run even when they were exhausted and dehydrated. 
    Dog-sled racing is for people who want to win money at dogs’ expense. Dogs like to run—but not like this. No dogs would choose to run to their death. To learn more about PETA’s work to stop dog sledding and to make a donation to support our work, please go to 
    Thank you again for writing and for your concern for animals. 

    Katherine Nunez 
    Membership Correspondent
    PETA Foundation
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