- The Story: How I Became Embroiled in the Sled Dog Industry Controversy
- Is Chaining Dogs Humane?
- The Iditarod
- What is it?
- Prevalence of Lung Disease and Dysfunction Induced by the Iditarod
- Prevalence of Gastric Ulcers, Erosion, and Hemorrhaging Induced by the Iditarod
- Drugs Required to Prevent Racing-Induced Gastric Ulcers
- Iditarod Prohibits Drugs that Cause a Dog to “Perform or Attempt to Perform Beyond Its Natural Ability.” Really?
- Do Iditarod Dogs Feel Pain from the Various Pathologies Induced by the Race?
- Rhabdomyolysis Appears to be Another Common Pathology Among Dogs Racing the Iditarod
- Stomach Acid Suppression May Cause Other Pathologies
- Acid Suppressing Drugs Given to Iditarod Dogs—The Lesser of Two Evils?
- Iditarod Incentivizes Mass Production of Puppies?
- What Happens to the Puppies Who Don’t Make the Cut?
- “It is about the dogs!” (Quote from the Iditarod Website)
- Iditarod Marketing Image Not the Reality for Many Iditarod Dogs
- How Widespread is Abuse and Neglect in the Sled Dog Industry?
- The Thin White Line
- Deflection by Mushers when Their Industry is Criticized
- “Humane Mushing” – Is There Such a Thing?
- Dog Yearbook’s Position Statement on the Sled Dog Industry
- Final Words to Those on Both Sides of the Debate
- What You Can Do to Help Sled Dogs
“The dogsled should be practiced in such a way as to frame one of the most natural activities of the dog, to run, and only in a spirit of collaboration and not of exploitation. And the line is very thin between the two.” – Maxime Leclerc-Gingras, Manitou Mushers, Quebec, Canada.
The Story: How I Became Embroiled in the Sled Dog Industry Controversy
“Why are you supporting abuse and neglect in the name of sport?”
This was tweeted to me one day in late April 2017, in response to my own tweet about a new post on this blog by a musher—a post about his experience at the Copper Basin 300 (mile) sled dog race.
Since I spend a good portion of my time thinking about how I can help dogs with the Dog Yearbook blog, I was taken aback at such an accusation.
In a subsequent tweet, I was asked by the same person—Ashley Keith of Humane Mushing—to remove the race post from the blog. Supporting abuse and neglect are serious accusations, but so is removing a writer’s published work from the blog. So I had a lot to investigate and to think about before I could decide what to do.
At the start I will say…I am no one. I’m just a woman with a blog—a new blog that was launched only a month prior to this accusatory tweet. My blog is not a corporate sponsor of the Iditarod. Heck, it couldn’t be even if I wanted it to (I don’t) because it hasn’t generated any income yet. The point is…my blog and I are not big players or heavy hitters in anything—I am aware that what I write here about the sled dog industry will not likely have any impact on the industry itself. I’m a newcomer—a stranger to it. I didn’t even know what an Alaskan husky looked like 3 months ago! So this is it—just me responding to accusations of supporting abuse and neglect in the sled dog industry and my subsequent investigation into what was meant by this.
It should be noted that this has been an emotionally difficult experience as I like and respect the musher who wrote the race post for this blog. I believed then, and still do, that he will think deeply about these issues and do what he believes is in the best interest of his dogs in his newly-formed mushing venture (he just started his own kennel in March).
To remove the writings of a person I like and respect and who also happens to be a great writer—whose writing I wish to encourage—would be a very difficult thing to do as I would never choose lightly to remove a writer’s work after publication. Even though Dog Yearbook is about the dogs at the end of the day, it is also about respect for their human companions. I acknowledge we are all at different places and stages of our thinking and I may not agree with another person’s approach to animal husbandry, but it doesn’t mean I don’t respect them as a human being, despite our differences. Of course that doesn’t mean I respect owners who abuse and neglect their dogs, but simply that I recognize there’s a lot of gray between the black and white. This may be hard for some to understand, but I am convinced that there are many dog owners, some mushers included, who love their dogs, yet chain them. Not everyone truly believes chaining is bad for dogs. I address this subject in detail below.
As a dog owner, I am constantly learning how to improve my own husbandry practices, and I have made many mistakes along the way. I have done numerous things that, in retrospect, were not good for my dogs. We all do, I believe. None of us started out as the perfect pet parent, owner or guardian. And none of us will likely ever achieve perfection. But I believe we do need to keep trying to do better.
Talking to Involved Parties
In the course of looking into the sled dog industry I have corresponded with Ashley, who herself was involved in the sled dog industry for 19 years, both as a handler and as a musher with her own team, but is now a sled dog welfare activist. I also corresponded with a hobbyist musher who works with several kennels in the industry, plus, I was in contact with two people who used to be involved in sled dog rescue. I also visited two sled dog kennels in late May. Both are no-chain operations—one in Canada and the other in the U.S. One of the owners—Max Leclerc-Gingras of Manitou Mushers in Quebec, Canada—will be blogging on Dog Yearbook about his sled dog kennel and the philosophy that is the foundation of his and his wife’s treatment of their dogs.
The Issues: Why Remove the Sled Dog Posts from the Blog?
Two of the main issues fueling the request for me to remove the dog sledding race post were that the writer chains his dogs and that he aspires to race in the Iditarod (as well as the Yukon Quest—both extreme distance races). So I set out to learn more about these two issues in particular.
It’s important I state up front that after several weeks of looking into the sled dog industry as a whole I believe that many mushers genuinely love their dogs and that they believe they are practicing good animal husbandry of the dogs in their care. That being said, I don’t actually agree that some of the common husbandry practices are good for the dogs, like chaining/tethering, but I think many mushers and kennel owners themselves truly believe chaining is not inhumane, as I mentioned above. But it is clear that there are many more who simply don’t care much about the welfare of their dogs—see the section about abuse and neglect later in this post.
I’ve come to see that there are many levels of care in the industry—while chaining may be a common denominator among most in the industry, other aspects of sled dog husbandry may vary widely—ranging from a great deal of attention, exercise and positive interactions with humans…to unspeakable cruelty, in some cases, committed against dozens and even hundreds of dogs at a time. Ultimately, the treatment of sled dogs by their owners varies almost as widely as that of the general public. It seems that chaining/tethering sled dogs, however, may be far more common than with family dogs, on average. And when there’s a bad kennel owner—in this scenario a LOT of dogs suffer the consequences. In contrast when there’s a bad owner of a family dog—just one dog, or small number of family dogs, suffer. So one bad owner in the sled dog industry can translate to exponentially more suffering than one bad owner in the general population. I cover this more in the abuse and neglect section later in this post—it is not for the faint of heart.
Sled Dog Industry Controversy at a Flashpoint with the Recent Release of the Film Sled Dogs
I should mention the sled dog industry controversy is at a flashpoint now with the recent release of the film Sled Dogs—a film that exposes the dark side of the industry. While it’s caused outrage in the sled dog industry, with accusations of bias and misrepresentation, it is nonetheless, shining a light on some of the cruelty within the industry, based on what I’ve read about the film thus far, and seen in the trailer. As I mentioned above, from my own research and contacts there appears to be significant variability in the treatment of sled dogs in the industry. However, it does appear that cruelty is probably much more widespread than many people, including some in the industry, realize. I address this later in this post.
Is Chaining Dogs Humane?
To be honest, I don’t feel like I need to get a PhD in the pros and cons of chaining (tethering) a dog to a stake for most of his natural life to form a reasonably accurate opinion on whether this practice is humane or not. The most recent study on this, that I’m aware of, found it to be detrimental to the dogs (as might be expected). It might not be a rigorous study, but I think it’s at least worth noting.
But do we really need a study to tell us this?
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s use the definition of “humane” from thefreedictionary.com: “Characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion.” For those who believe it is humane (kind/merciful/compassionate) to chain animals of a particular species (dogs) for most of their natural lives—I would ask: do you apply this philosophy to all animals? Or just to the one species in your care? If not, then why dogs? What makes them so much better off being chained than any other species? How about cheetahs? Is it kind/merciful/compassionate to chain a cheetah for most of her natural life? How about elephants? Domestic cats? Horses? Wolves, which dogs are so closely related to? Is it beneficial to the wolf’s well-being to chain him to a stake for most of his natural life? Is it really for the chained animal’s well-being that another species chains him?
Humans invented bondage, and not in order to improve the welfare of those they bind. I don’t need studies to tell me that chaining an animal to a stake is not kind, merciful or compassionate, and not in the best interest of the animal. It seems by all accounts to be the most common form of confinement in the sled dog industry, as I mentioned previously. I guess I’m struggling to understand why chaining/tethering is so widely defended in the mushing industry.
I get it that sled dogs, at least some of them, are exercised regularly (particularly in-season), sometimes up to several hours a day. And to some degree, this has a stress-reducing effect, which may make chaining at least somewhat less disturbing than it is for dogs that are chained 24/7 with no exercise. But how has our own species gotten to a place where we think it’s in the best interest of another species to chain them to a post for most of their natural life? Defecating and urinating close to their sleeping area (in some photos of sled dog “farms” in winter you can see the entire circumference around the chained dog’s tether is yellow from urine)—movement restricted to that small area, pressure and jerking on the neck and trachea from the chain when the dog pulls and leaps about frantically (as chained sled dogs often do), lack of full, natural interactions with other dogs, limited contact with the humans they are emotionally attached to, lack of stimulation overall, and often exposed to wildlife. Is this the best that many sled dog kennel owners can do for the dogs in their care?
What is it?
The Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska is an annual event that takes place in March and covers over 1000 miles of some of the roughest terrain, including jagged mountain ranges, treacherous hills, frozen rivers, dense forest, desolate tundra, plus miles of windy coast. Further, there are long hours of darkness, temperatures sometimes as low as -40F (-40 C), and visibility is at times completely lost due to high winds, according to the Iditarod website.
The Iditarod further states that usually only about half the dogs make it to the end of the race. Some common reasons they say that dogs are “dropped” are illness, injury, fatigue and “attitude problems.” They fail to mention “pain” although it’s hard to imagine that wouldn’t lead to issues for being dropped during any extreme endurance race under extreme weather conditions in which most dogs studied have been found to have various pathologies that are associated with pain (more about this below). In fact, a significant portion of the dogs develop lung dysfunction and, historically, gastric ulcers, although it’s not known exactly how many drop out due to these issues. Of the four dogs that died during the 2017 Iditarod, two died from conditions that are associated with gastric ulcers. There could be any number of dogs that developed ulcers that we don’t know about because they were successfully treated and not reported. So, “historically” may or may not be accurate when describing the harm done to Iditarod dogs by gastric ulcers caused by the extreme endurance race.
Prevalence of Lung Disease and Dysfunction Induced by the Iditarod
The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published a study that found that, of 59 dogs who were examined 24 to 48 hours after completion of the Iditarod, 81 percent had “abnormal accumulations” of mucous or cellular debris in their lower airways. Moreover, the lung disease was classified as moderate to severe in nearly half of the dogs. The study authors concluded “Our findings support the hypothesis that strenuous exercise in cold environments can lead to lower airway disease and suggest that racing sled dogs may be a useful naturally occurring animal model of the analogous human disease.”¹
Furthermore, lung dysfunction may persist several months after the race is over. One study found that racing sled dogs had airway dysfunction “similar to “ski asthma”” despite 4 months of rest.² In other words, the Iditarod—which requires “strenuous exercise” over a prolonged period in a very cold environment—effectively induces lung dysfunction or disease in most of the dogs who participate, according to these studies and what we might infer from similar studies on other species.
Prevalence of Gastric Ulcers, Erosion, and Hemorrhaging Induced by the Iditarod
Gastric ulceration, erosion, and hemorrhaging are some of the main threats to the health of dogs who race in the Iditarod according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.³ Nearly half the 70 Iditarod dogs from the 2001 race that were studied, suffered from one of these conditions. In September, 2016, Alaska Dispatch News reported: “Davis made the discovery about the prevalence of ulcers in racing dogs after 10 years of performing exams on dogs running the Iditarod and other races. Davis’ prior studies have shown that exercise-induced stomach disease may affect 50 percent to 70 percent of the dogs that enter the race, a number far higher than is seen in non-racing dogs. Those that develop the condition are at risk of developing ulcers, a more serious progression of the illness.”
Drugs Required to Prevent Racing-Induced Gastric Ulcers
Based on Davis’s studies, many (or all?) Iditarod dogs are now administered acid suppressing drugs to prevent stomach ulcers or other gastric diseases induced by the extreme endurance race (the Iditarod). Yes, in the characteristic hubris of humans who think they can outwit the body’s innate wisdom, mushers now drug their dogs to suppress gastric acid secretion, presumably in order to be more competitive. But the timing of administering the drugs is essential to their effectiveness—they have to be given at a certain time relative to an exercise bout, relative to snacking and relative to the dogs’ next meal. Imagine how difficult it must be for mushers under the extreme weather and physical conditions they are battling, with little sleep, to get the administration of these drugs timed just right to avoid gastric disease. In my opinion, if these mushers truly cared about the welfare of their dogs, they would not force them to do an activity that causes organ and tissue damage and/or disease in most of the dogs participating in the activity. Super easy answer to avoiding the gastric and lung disease experienced by most dogs running in extreme endurance races—don’t participate in extreme endurance races.
Iditarod Prohibits Drugs that Cause a Dog to “Perform or Attempt to Perform Beyond Its Natural Ability.” Really?
The Iditarod rule book states under Rule 39 – Drug Use: “No other drugs or other artificial means may be used to drive a dog or cause a dog to perform or attempt to perform beyond its natural ability.” For the life of me I can’t figure out why they don’t think acid-suppressing drugs don’t fall into this category. Obviously, the dogs are performing beyond their natural ability when their stomach acid is artificially suppressed in order to prevent their body’s natural pathological response to extreme endurance exercise. If they were NOT drugged, some would not be able to perform as well as they do, as the excess gastric acid production would in some cases cause them to become ill or die, and thus not be able to continue performing at the same level, or at all.
One study of Iditarod racing dogs from 1994-2006 confirmed that gastric ulcers and other conditions commonly associated with excess gastric acid, caused the deaths of 11 of the 23 dogs studied. That’s not all though—the study found the following prevalent lesions in the 23 dead Iditarod dogs: “…rhabdomyolysis (n = 15), enteritis (10), gastritis (10), aspiration pneumonia (8), and gastric ulceration (8). All dogs with aspiration pneumonia had concurrent gastric mucosal lesions.”⁴ It’s important to note that vomiting is one of the most common symptoms of gastritis and gastric ulcers, and so excess gastric acid may be an underlying cause of the Iditarod dogs who died of aspiration pneumonia—a lung infection often caused by inhaling vomit. Remember, the Iditarod states it prohibits drugs that “drive a dog or cause a dog to perform or attempt to perform beyond its natural ability.” For these Iditarod dogs who died from gastric ulcers and associated conditions—if they were given the acid-suppressing drugs that the Iditarod allows, do you suppose they might have been able to perform better—without having developed gastritis and gastric ulcers? A living dog can certainly perform better than a dead dog, so I’ll go out on a limb and hypothesize that the dogs who died of gastric-associated conditions in, or shortly after, the Iditarod, would have likely performed better with the drugs. Ergo, the drugs likely do drive some dogs to perform beyond their natural ability.
Rhabdomyolysis Appears to be Another Common Pathology Among Dogs Racing the Iditarod
It’s important to note that many of the necropsied Iditarod dogs had rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is the rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle that leads to the release of a muscle protein called myoglobin, into the blood. This often causes kidney damage and may cause kidney failure. Exertional rhabdomyolysis is caused by overexertion and is common among sled dogs—it is yet another pathology caused by racing the Iditarod.
Do Iditarod Dogs Feel Pain from the Various Pathologies Induced by the Race?
Pain is one of the common symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. Remember—the Iditarod does not list “pain” as one of the reasons dogs are dropped from the race. But pain is a common symptom of both the gastric issues discussed in the study of necropsied Iditarod dogs, and a common symptom of rhabdomyolysis. Since the majority of the necropsied Iditarod dogs in the study had evidence of one or more of these conditions, it’s likely they may have experienced pain. So it’s not a huge leap to surmise that some dogs may be dropped from the race due behaviors caused by pain. According to a report on the Iditarod website, Brent Sass’s entire dog team refused to continue racing about 10 days into the 2016 race. I have to wonder if pain was a factor—he was reportedly in position to place in the top 3 and was driving his dogs aggressively to keep up with the Seaveys who were in the lead. He admits that his competitiveness got the best of him to the point where he wasn’t attentive to his dogs’ needs. How often does this happen, I wonder? And at what cost to the dogs?
I also wonder—how many dogs complete the race in pain? Many dogs in general are able to effectively mask pain, and, with the mushers’ incentivized to rank high or even just complete the race, I wonder if many Iditarod dogs experience pain during the race, despite the veterinary checkpoints and despite having a human present with them during all their waking hours. Is every musher spending sufficient time at every veterinary checkpoint in the race for the vet to ascertain that none of the dogs is in pain? The Iditarod website states on it’s education page for children, “As the dogs travel down the trail they are checked at each checkpoint by the volunteer Vets.” Really? The checkpoint layover time for each musher at each checkpoint that is posted elsewhere on the Iditarod website conflicts with this statement. There are several layover times for many mushers that are 1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc. Is 5 minutes sufficient time for a vet to check the entire dog team—even a quick check called a “HAW&L?” (H=Heart & Hydration. A=Attitude & Appetite. W=Weight. L=Lungs.) It’s pretty obvious that not all mushers are staying long enough at every checkpoint for their dogs to be sufficiently checked by the checkpoint vet.
Two dogs died 9 days into the 2017 Iditarod race—one from aspiration pneumonia and the other from fluid on the lungs according to their necropsies. I wonder if these conditions might have been caused by gastric ulcers, which are indeed painful. I guess I don’t understand how two dogs can just drop dead 9 days into the race without their mushers or any of the checkpoint vets having noticed something might be wrong. There are roughly a dozen possible symptoms of aspiration pneumonia–how come no one noticed something was wrong?
While the dogs’ owners and mushers are presumably concerned about the welfare of their dogs in administering acid-suppressing drugs to prevent the gastric problems discussed here, one has to wonder how much they are incentivized to drug their dogs out of competitiveness. How bad do they want to win? Or to at least, to rank high? Surely no one believes that owners and mushers enter their dogs in an extreme endurance race under incredibly harsh conditions (terrain, weather) for the welfare of the dogs? It seems to be in spite of the welfare of the dogs. Yes, sled dogs LOVE to run, but they can run on trails all over the planet without an extreme endurance race, lung disease, inflamed intestines, inflamed stomach, gastric ulceration, gastric erosion, gastric hemorrhaging, aspirating stomach contents into their lungs, rapid muscle breakdown that may cause kidney damage, or acid suppressing drugs and their side effects being part of that experience.
And they need not run extreme distances to be happy. There are a lot of happy sled dogs that run shorter distances.
Stomach Acid Suppression May Cause Other Pathologies
Furthermore, suppressing stomach acid can cause harm in and of itself. Stomach acid is the first line of defense against pathogenic bacteria and other microbes that enter through the mouth. If you suppress that defense, there is a greater chance of pathogen-induced illness—this is why c. difficile infections (in humans) are sometimes induced by proton pump inhibitors (stomach acid suppressant drugs—one of the main types used on sled dogs). Secondly, stomach acid is essential to protein digestion—it induces the activation of pepsinogen—an enzyme that begins the process of protein digestion, and it also triggers the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, including proteases that digest protein. If gastric acid is suppressed to a level below what the stomach normally produces in order to begin the digestive process, then protein digestion could become impaired. Put simply, the acid suppressing drugs given to Iditarod dogs to prevent extreme exercise-induced gastric ulcers, might impair protein digestion.
A 2016 study using human volunteers found that gut permeability increased 3-fold in healthy volunteers who engaged in heavy exercise. There seem to be other studies linking heavy exercise with gut permeability and this, coupled with undigested or incompletely digested proteins (which may result from gastric acid suppression), has the potential to lead to intact proteins or peptides crossing the gut barrier and triggering food allergies.
The medical literature demonstrates there is risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency in humans who use the same acid suppressant commonly given to sled dogs—omeprazole—since stomach acid is required for the proper absorption of B12—an essential nutrient required for proper red blood cell formation, brain and nervous system function, and DNA synthesis. These are just a few of the potential problems with suppression of gastric acid. Side effects listed specifically for animals are “…lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, blood changes, urinary tract infections, protein in the urine, or nervous system disorders.” Although Omeprazole is generally considered to be “well tolerated” in animals, there are not a lot of studies on its use in dogs compared to its use in humans, or even its use in (laboratory) mice. If mushers are using drugs to suppress Iditarod dogs’ stomach acid during training as well as during racing this likely increases the chances of adverse effects.
Are there any long-term studies on the effects of frequent or extended use of acid suppressing drugs in racing sled dogs? If not, then the Iditarod dogs who are administered the drugs during training and racing are effectively experimental guinea pigs with the long-term outcome of the drug use, unknown. While those dogs that have been on the drugs for years may not be overtly dropping like flies, the dogs’ owners may not be associating the ailments or deaths that have occurred since starting the drug, with long-term effects of chronic use of those drugs. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to know what the long-term effects of acid suppressing drugs are on racing sled dogs before the drugs are administered?
Acid Suppressing Drugs Given to Iditarod Dogs—The Lesser of Two Evils?
All that being said, the drugs may be the lesser of two evils—the effects of not using the drugs appear to be worse than the effects of using the drugs. At least in the short term. So I’m not suggesting that mushers stop using the drugs. Rather I’m suggesting they don’t put their dogs in a situation where they 1) have a high probability of being harmed in the first place by participating in an activity that induces damage to and/or disease of, organs and tissue of most participants, and 2) have the potential to be harmed by the “side” effects of the drugs given to prevent the pathology induced by the activity. Lastly, if they do use the drugs, then at least be aware of the potential harmful effects.
Iditarod Incentivizes Mass Puppy Production?
73 dog teams were entered in the 2017 Iditarod—in scanning a number of them, all but one appear to have had 16 dogs on the team. This means that 1168 +/- dogs participated. (Mushers are allowed to start with 16 dogs and must finish with 5.) These Iditarod dogs are considered to be the cream of the crop—the top super athletes of the dog world. You can’t just breed any ol’ litter of Alaskan huskies (or a few other breeds) and expect them to all be Iditarod-worthy super athletes. So, how many puppies are produced in order to create these elite athletes?
In a comment on “Iditarod nightmare”—a November 2016 article on craigmedred.com— Kiersten Lippmann, a breeder of working dogs, wrote that about 10% of a sled dog litter would be suited to run an extreme endurance race like the Iditarod, but only in a litter of pups from dogs that were already selected for this purpose.
She notes that there’s the odd exception of a “super litter” wherein more than 10% would be suitable elite athletes. If this is accurate, or even in the neighborhood, it means that it would require producing roughly 11,680 puppies in order to create enough Iditarod-worthy dogs to run the race for one year. Even if her calculation is not accurate, we’re still talking about thousands of puppies produced to fulfill the dream that a small percent will be Iditarod-worthy. It’s important to note that this also includes all those dog teams that do not qualify. In other words, for all the teams that try to qualify over the years but do not, they also must produce or procure a number of pups to get those elite super athletes in hopes of qualifying.
It should be noted that several Iditarod dogs race in more than one Iditarod, so obviously the amount of pups required to produce the Iditarod-worthy super athletes, would vary from year to year. But simply based on the number that participate annually, we can see that it requires producing a lot of puppies.
What Happens to the Puppies Who Don’t Make the Cut?
This is a million dollar question that has multiple answers, I’m sure. Surely they are not all culled (killed) as was often done in the industry in general the not so distant past? But are some? And if so, how are they killed? According to the Vancouver Humane Society in a recent article: “Sled dogs in B.C. can be legally shot when a “herd” is “culled.” We don’t think this is an acceptable form of euthanasia (which is defined as a “gentle and easy death”). A lethal injection, administered by a veterinarian, should be used only with sick or injured animals for whom treatment is not an option.”
I don’t know what happens to the puppies who don’t make the cut to become Iditarod super athletes and I don’t think anyone does except the Iditarod participants themselves and the kennel owners. It is difficult to afford to keep a group of dogs you cannot “use,” so what do you do with them? Some are given (dumped?) on rescues and shelters (mentioned in the Vancouver Humane Society article referenced above), some adopted out, and others? Does the Iditarod management make any attempt to find out? This is something I think the sponsors and supporters of the Iditarod should be asking about, no? Especially in light of how widespread abuse and neglect in the industry appears to be, as discussed below.
“It is about the dogs!” (Quote from the Iditarod Website)
“Visit an Iditarod kennel for any period of time and you will feel the warm affection that exists between the mushers and their canine athletes.” (http://iditarod.com/edu/it-is-about-the-dogs-iditarod-sled-dogs-ready-to-run/)
How about this Iditarod kennel? Is this what the Iditarod means when they say “It is about the dogs!”? https://www.change.org/p/chris-hladick-revoke-the-nonprofit-corporation-status-of-crazy-dog-kennels-and-canine-reacue-in-alaska (Click on some of the links on this page for additional photos of “warm affection.”)
Here are some more Iditarod kennels. Can you see the “warm affection” exhibited here? Do these images and videos show that “It is about the dogs!”
By the time you read this, some of these photos or videos may have been removed from their respective websites or social media. What many of these images show are mass warehousing of chained dogs (dog farms essentially), with no apparent mental stimuli, often dilapidated housing and rusty water buckets, often muddy or icy terrain. Most of the videos show row upon row of dogs frantically excited and barking, running the circumference of their small space as their necks are jerked by their short chain, while kennel workers walk through the dog yard to feed them or collect some of them for sledding. How is all this considered to be “warm affection” and “about the dogs!” by the Iditarod?
Of course, these images do not show all Iditarod kennels. But the Iditarod might consider their words carefully before making sweeping generalizations about how great Iditarod kennels are per se. In the section on abuse and neglect below, you will read about an Iditarod kennel that made mittens and fur ruffs out of their own dogs that they killed. How is that “about the dogs!”?
Iditarod Marketing Image Not the Reality for Many Iditarod Dogs
As you can see, the marketing image presented by the Iditarod is the polar opposite of the reality suffered by many Iditarod dogs. How about some transparency? How about letting Iditarod sponsors and supporters, and the public at large, see what ALL Iditarod kennels look like? The entire kennel—not just the ‘up front for public view’ kennel that some operations have, but the full kennel. At least then they could make more informed decisions about where to put their sponsorship and support money. If many of them saw the dogs in these conditions, would they continue to support the Iditarod?
“It must be admitted that nobody needs to “dog-sled” anymore. Also, since you only do sledding for fun, even if it’s done commercially, nothing, but nothing should be sacrificed to protect the dogs. As with all activities with animals, it is necessary to not let our personal interests take over, it is easy to get carried away, to seek to go too far, too fast. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that the dog did not ask for this sport.” – Maxime Leclerc-Gingras, Manitou Mushers, Quebec, Canada.
How Widespread is Abuse and Neglect in the Sled Dog Industry?
The more I look into abuse and neglect in the sled dog industry, the more it appears to be a widespread problem—not just “a few bad apples” as some in the industry would like us to think. Or maybe that’s what they truly believe themselves because they honestly aren’t aware of the breadth and depth of cruelty in the industry. It doesn’t take a lot to find case after case of reported abuse and neglect by doing a google search or by talking to people involved in sled dog rescue, or looking at Humane Society websites. According to Humane Society International, cases of abused sled dogs are reported throughout Canada regularly. Since many sled dog kennels are in remote rural areas, one must wonder how many more cases of abuse and neglect go unreported. One former sled dog rescuer I talked to told me she believes the reported cases are a drop in the bucket.
A Hundred Sled Dogs Tied to Posts in the Forest and Left to Die
I reached out to someone in Canada whom I’ve been acquainted with for over a decade and who used to do sled dog rescue. One of the first sled dog rescue cases she became involved in was a seizure case where a sled dog kennel owner tied a hundred sled dogs out in the woods and left them to die, as the sled dog touring season was over and the dogs were no longer needed. This may be worse than the famous Whistler case wherein 56 dogs were shot or their throats slit by an employee of a sled dog tour operation in Quebec, Canada in 2010, due to a downturn in business. This is euphemistically called a “cull.”
My friend reports that that the dogs in this seizure were grossly underweight and starving, dehydrating, left to fend off attacks from wildlife, and some of them were pregnant and ready to whelp. Some had open wounds and scars, some were dead on their chains and other dead dogs were in a pile.
Many were so weak they had to be carried out of the woods, and many were “horribly sick.” She said their stomachs were full of rocks and dirt and they had many health issues. Please take a moment to contemplate this…if this had been done to a different species—human beings for instance—this would be a scene from a concentration camp or gulag.
She took in 13 of these dogs, including one pregnant female who was blind from malnutrition, and then whelped 5 puppies in my friend’s care. Another dog had severe mange, and another was emotionally shut down. Her job was to restore them to health and rehabilitate them to make them adoptable. Despite their horrific treatment she said “but yet these dogs remained sweet and shy. Not a single fight with all these dogs in my place, plus my 5 own dogs!”
She was involved in another sled dog abandonment case before this one – she said the situation was basically the same, except that significantly more dogs were involved. The dogs were in the same condition as described above. This case is not on public record as those involved were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
We’re talking about several hundred dogs in about a one year period in a relatively small geographical region. How many more sled dogs are out there that have suffered like this and died because no one found them? Here’s another case of 100 starving and “severely neglected” sled dogs in Colorado. The dogs were seized after an animal control officer said they saw “dead dogs at the kennel hidden inside bags of dog food…”
These are some of the larger sled dog abandonment and seizure cases that I’m aware of. There are many more smaller-scale cases that are reported regularly throughout North America. Here’s a recent sled dog case for instance, from Thunder Bay District Humane Society in Ontario, Canada: “On February 8th, 2017 Our two OSPCA Agents, the Thunder Bay District Humane Society, and Want a Pet Rescue rescued 12 dogs from the Long Lac Greenstone area. When the 12 dogs entered our shelter, they were unable to walk, were barely breathing, and were extremely emaciated. These 12 are emotionally, physically, and mentally bruised.”
Despite Horrific Treatment the Sled Dogs “Remained So Sweet it was Shocking”
My friend estimates she had been involved in about 15 sled dog seizures or abandonment cases and she believes these were a drop in the bucket, as many abandoned sled dogs are not likely to be found, as mentioned above. Even with all the abuse—the beatings, the neglect, the piles of dead sled dogs, she writes “All the dogs remained so sweet it was shocking.”
In all her experience in rescue of many different kinds of dogs, she writes “Sled dogs have suffered the worst neglect I have ever been involved with, and often sever abuse. I think more neglect than puppy mill dogs and other seizures I have been involved with over the years and it’s unbelievable how sweet these dogs remain.” This is not from someone who hates mushers, on the contrary, she told me that she believes a lot of mushers love their dogs. She just happens to have dealt with the victims of the worst of the worst in the industry.
If there are any heroes in this story, it is this woman and all those in rescue who themselves suffer serious emotional trauma from dealing with dogs so severely damaged by the worst of human depravity. I would not be surprised if they often deal with various degrees of PTSD from these experiences. Both of the women I corresponded with in regards to their rescue work with sled dogs expressed how extremely difficult it was to bring up these memories even though years have passed since they worked with rescuing and rehabbing these dogs.
Iditarod Kennel Made Mittens and Parka Ruffs Out of their Sled Dogs
If the large-scale and other abandonment and abuse cases weren’t enough, former Iditarod kennel worker Ashley Keith recently told me “An Iditarod kennel I worked at made mittens and parka ruffs out of their dogs.” The dogs they killed were not old; they simply weren’t good runners. She doesn’t know how the Iditarod kennel killed those particular dogs but stated that this kennel sometimes shot their dogs in order to “cull” them. Again I must ask—is this what the Iditarod means when they say on their website “Visit an Iditarod kennel for any period of time and you will feel the warm affection that exists between the mushers and their canine athletes.”? The only warmth felt at this Iditarod kennel, apparently, are by the kennel owner’s hands and face—kept warm by the fur of his own dogs that he killed.
The Thin White Line
Let me explain what I mean by this because it has different connotations for different people. This is alludes to “the thin blue line” also known as the “blue wall of silence,” in the United States, referring to good cops who, due to a sense of brotherhood, community or “us against them” mentality, don’t speak out or act out against bad cops—cops who engage in brutality, theft, fraud, etc. “White” is in reference to snow in the sled dog context—snow being symbolic of the dog sledding industry.
Is There a “Thin White Line” in the Sled Dog Industry?
There appears to me that there may be a “thin white line” in the sled dog industry in that many mushers, handlers and kennel owners who genuinely care about dogs don’t seem to be speaking out commensurately with the depth and breadth of suffering by dogs in the name of their industry, perpetrated by other mushers, handlers and kennel owners. Or worse, they don’t seem to be acting to prevent abuse and neglect or to help the sled dogs who are victims of it. Where is the outcry that one would expect from people in the industry who genuinely love dogs? I find this baffling. Is it that most mushers just don’t know what’s going on in their neighbors’ kennels? Or are they turning a blind eye?
Why does it seem that it’s always rescue organizations who have to take on the trauma, expense, time and effort to remove, house, feed, provide veterinary care for, and rehabilitate sled dogs who are abused and neglected?
I’ve been told about abuse by certain kennel owners from others who witnessed it or who have heard reports about certain kennels… the kennel workers see all! But for whatever reason, these folks who are aware of abuse and neglect or have seen it with their own eyes, are doing nothing about it. How widespread is this?
Thankfully, some are speaking out and exposing abuse and neglect by others in the industry. Here’s a recent case of a former kennel worker exposing a kennel owner who not only has sled dogs but also rescue dogs, some of whom are, or have been, in terrible condition, or died from neglect at this kennel according to the former kennel worker.
Some in the Industry Do Help Needy Sled Dogs, But it Appears to be a Drop in the Bucket
To be fair, there are some mushers and kennel owners who take in rescued sled dogs and make them a part of their team or simply care for them as non-racing dogs. But they appear to be quite a minority as far as I can tell. At the same time the regular reports of abuse and neglect keep coming into the humane societies and other rescue organizations. There appear to be hundreds, if not thousands of sled dogs abused, abandoned and neglected every year in North America. Their abusive owners benefit from the promotion and marketing of the dog sledding industry by the good people in the industry…and vice versa. They all benefit from the Iditarod marketing and all other promotions of sled dog racing and tours—these get people excited about supporting extreme endurance races like the Iditarod and about doing dog sledding tours—many kennels sustain themselves on tourist dollars. So, indirectly, many sled dogs suffer as a result of the marketing and promotion of the industry by the well-intentioned. But intentions don’t reduce the suffering, unfortunately.
Will You Demand Better, or Close Ranks With the Worst Among You?
In reference to the newly released Sled Dogs film, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, writes, “A film like Sled Dogs will test mushers: do they acknowledge the worst among them, and will they strive to demand better or close ranks with the undeserving? Similarly, the rest of us might be careful with stereotypes. There is little doubt that dogs are the center of the universe for many mushers—a fact that deserves consideration, just the same as their dogs deserve lives founded on compassion.”
I want to say to you good people in the industry—mushers, kennel owners, handlers—the dogs that suffer—they await you. They await your (good) will…to stand up and do something to alleviate their suffering. Will you help them? Or will you remain silent and inactive—will you close ranks with those in the industry who abuse and neglect—will you form a thin white line?
Deflection by Mushers When Their Industry is Criticized
One common behavior I’ve noticed among quite a few mushers and others in the sled dog industry is that so often when their industry is criticized they try to deflect the criticism away from themselves by countering with how poorly some family dogs are cared for. “They’re fat, they don’t get enough exercise, they’re crated, they live indoors mostly,” etc. etc. There is no doubt that there are many family dogs who are not well cared for, but deflecting criticism away from the sled dog industry when it is criticized does nothing to help their cause. It just makes the mushers and kennel owners look more defensive. We can certainly talk about the care of family dogs…in another discussion. This discussion is about the treatment of sled dogs.
“Humane Mushing” – Is There Such a Thing?
Oui! Yes…I believe there is and I have recently had the pleasure of visiting what I would consider to be a humane mushing operation, based on the definition discussed above: “Characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion.” I realize this definition is open to interpretation, but, it’s a starting point. At the very least, I think this characterizes mushers/owners who place the well-being of the dogs in their care above their personal desire to race and above profits from tourism. And who frequently analyze their husbandry practices while constantly striving to improve them for the benefit of the dogs in their care.
A Humane, No-Chain Sled Dog Kennel in Quebec, Canada
I recently traveled to Manitou, Quebec, Canada—a few hours north of Montreal—to meet with Maxime Leclerc-Gingras and Anne-Marie Charest, owners and operators of Manitou Mushers. A friend and I visited with them for 5 hours, touring their kennel, taking a 5 km walk with some of the dogs and discussing all things “sled dog.” I have to say that Max and Anne-Marie are two of the most wonderful, warm-hearted people I’ve ever met. And I am without a doubt that they do everything in their power to provide their dogs with all they believe is necessary to keep them healthy and happy.
One of the many things that stood out to me in Max and Anne-Marie’s husbandry program is that they are constantly self-analyzing—asking themselves if they are meeting their dogs’ needs and thinking about what they can do to improve things. They keep written logs of individual dogs—their needs, their activities, their progress in various areas. They also have a written code of ethics as guidelines for the ethical treatment of their dogs, based on the provincial code of practice of the province of British Columbia. The BC code of ethics was created in 2012, prompted by the Whistler massacre mentioned previously. Manitou Mushers’ code is in French. To read it in English, if you are in Chrome, right-click the page and select “Translate to English” in the popup menu. (Other browsers have different ways to translate pages.)
Max and Anne-Marie also have a well-developed “Sanitary and exercise protocol” that outlines the needs of the dogs in terms of their healthcare and overall physical and mental well-being. This is posted on their kennel for the public to see and serves as guidelines for their dog care.
It should be noted that they have 33 dogs at the moment, including 4 recent puppies. This is a relatively small kennel, which, in my opinion, is necessary in order to give each dog the care required for optimal physical and mental health. It also allows for much more human attention for each dog. A dog’s detachment from pack members, including humans, is usually involuntary. In the large dog farms that chain their dogs, each dog gets limited time interacting with the humans they are attached to (hence the exaggerated greetings you might see in such conditions), and they are not allowed to interact with other dogs in a natural manner, which they instinctively wish to do—they are limited by their chains and at best can only touch the nose of another dog. This prohibits the full panoply of dog body language and interactions, thus limiting their control over their interactions with others. This may be one of the reasons that chained dogs exhibit signs of stress that are far less common in dogs that are not chained. In contrast, at Manitou, most dogs are paired with another in the pens so they are able to interact with another dog naturally. Each dog also spends several hours a day with a handful of other dogs in Manitou’s dog park, which is a large fenced area that encompasses the pens. They also have more time interacting with their human family than is possible at larger kennels.
I feel it must be acknowledged that Manitou Mushers is not perfect and does not claim to be. They are, in fact, very humble. This is one of several reasons that I believe they serve as excellent role models for humane mushing and husbandry practices. Indeed it is their constant self-questioning that makes them such good caregivers—are we doing the best we can? How can we improve the pens, the schedule, the cognitive training? How can we help this dog’s behavioral issue? Or that dog’s need for more exercise?
Another thing that I think makes Manitou Mushers stand out, is that the vast majority of their dogs are “disqualified” dogs from other kennels. Meaning, these dogs are not qualified for the big races. Manitou has, in fact, had only 3 litters of puppies in 15 years. This is a low number of litters for a sled dog kennel, but it is by design. They are not in the business of producing new sled dogs. They are in the business of caring for sled dogs, designing a program that optimizes the well-being of the dogs, and strengthening the human-dog bond by several means, including facilitating the innate desire for running that is typical of these dogs. That’s where the sledding comes in. Most of their dogs are Alaskan Huskies, by the way. A breed I was not even aware of 3 or 4 months ago. But one I’ve come to love. Among other things, they are some of the most stunningly beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen.
I am happy to announce that Max will be writing some blog posts for Dog Yearbook so you will have a chance to learn more about how a humane sled dog kennel operates. In fact, don’t wait—Manitou has their own blog here. Go read it! It’s interesting, thought-provoking, and has some great photos of their dogs, their kennel, and their land. Again, you will have to use your browser to translate to English if you cannot read French. Dog Yearbook will be publishing Max’s posts in both English and French.
Another No-Chain Kennel, in Vermont USA
A few days after I visited Manitou Mushers in late May, 2017, I visited another no-chain sled dog kennel in Eden, Vermont, USA—Eden Dog Sledding. This kennel, I believe, has perhaps one of the best infrastructures for the well-being of the dogs. They have huge pens—about 5-6 of them, each with multiple dogs in it. The smallest pen has about 5 dogs and the largest about 8-10 dogs. Some of the pens are very long—I’m not good at estimating length, but I’d say their largest pens are perhaps about 1/2 the length of a football field. Here’s a satellite view of them so you can see for yourself: http://bit.ly/2t4wJdV. Plenty of space for the dogs to run and play. They also have heated water pails. Water freezes in winter in northern climates. So heated pails are important. Especially if the dogs are running a lot—this increases their requirement for hydration, which can be given as warm broth, but heated pails allow them to drink freely when they are thirsty.
Another nice feature of their infrastructure is that most of the pens are attached to a large barn/lodge/living space. The owner—Jim Blair—lives in an apartment on the second floor. One of the dog pens has an outdoor staircase leading to his living quarters. The dogs can freely go up and down the stairs, and spend time on the balcony, if they wish. Downstairs is the lodge where there are several couches and stuffed chairs; the dogs are let into this area at times, and go straight for the couches and chairs. It appears sled dogs are just “dogs” after all—not some separate type of creature who prefers sleeping on hard surfaces outdoors. When given the opportunity—most of them prefer soft comfy cushions to rest on, just like family pets.
Another great feature of Eden’s infrastructure is an elaborate trail system on their 140-acre property, designed specifically for dog sledding. Obviously, this all took some initial investment and time to design and build. This is not something that every kennel could emulate. But at the very least, it demonstrates what the possibilities are when there is sufficient land and the desire to create an infrastructure wherein the dogs are able to move freely—even run—in very large pens, and have easy access to an adjoining trail system.
It should be noted that this system does require more work than chaining dogs in rows (warehousing, essentially)—not all dogs get along and so they must be monitored regularly. Just as with humans, some groups of dogs get along well for a while, and then don’t. So the owner must at times move some dogs between pens to achieve harmony. Manitou’s dogs are mostly 2 per pen so it’s a bit less of an issue, but they, too, must monitor the dogs to ensure they are getting along with their pen-mate.
Dog Yearbook’s Position Statement on the Sled Dog Industry
If you recall, at the beginning of this story, I was asked to remove a musher’s race post from this blog. Some of the main reasons were that he chains his dogs and that he aspires to race in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest (extreme endurance races). I was also asked to present a position statement on the sled dog industry.
After much researching and thinking about chaining and the Iditarod, as well as the sled dog industry as a whole, I decided to remove all the posts from the blogger. This was a difficult decision and I agonized over it for weeks before I came to the decision. I still like and respect the musher and sincerely believe he loves his dogs. But at the end of the day, I can’t support chaining nor extreme endurance races like the Iditarod.
So my position statement, as owner and editor of the Dog Yearbook blog is simple: I support humane mushing, which, to my mind, does not include chaining or extreme endurance races. That said, I do not have a specific list for myself of what I think “humane” does and does not include. For me, it’s more about the comprehensive husbandry practices plus the infrastructure, combined. One kennel might be stronger in one of these areas than another, but I might still consider both to be humane because of the aggregate humane components of their program and infrastructure.
That is the best I can do in terms of a definition of humane mushing for myself, at this point.
Final Words to Those on Both Sides of the Debate
Finally, a word to both sides in the sled dog debate. Again, I’m really no-one—just one woman with a blog, and I understand that it’s unlikely that this post will influence the way those on either side of this debate think. But here goes anyway:
Mushers/kennel owners: Please consider re-evaluating your husbandry practices and infrastructure regularly. Is there something that can be changed that would improve the physical and mental health of your dogs? (ALL of us dog owners should do the same, whether we have a kennel or a family dog—myself included.)
And please consider helping the many sled dogs who suffer abuse and neglect in the name of your industry. Don’t turn a blind eye to their suffering.
They await you.
Sled dog welfare activists: Please realize that switching from chaining to penning overnight is not realistic. There has to be some transition period, if such laws are passed. If kennels are forced to change their confinement structure overnight, how many dogs might die as a result because the kennels cannot afford to change immediately or don’t have the necessary help to formulate a plan for the transition? Both Max of Manitou Mushers and Jim Blair of Eden Dog Sledding expressed concern about this—it takes time and finances to make this transition. Let’s be sure that dogs aren’t needlessly killed/culled or dumped on shelters and rescues en masse as a result of laws that may not allow sufficient time for change.
Secondly, consider helping kennels that do want to transition from chaining to penning (they do exist) and that want to improve their husbandry practices in other areas as well. While not all kennel owners desire to improve their practices or infrastructure, some do. Why not try to approach them with a spirit of collaboration rather than confrontation? Why not work up a chain-to-pen transition plan that could serve as a basic foundation and that could be customized as needed, depending on kennel size, finances, and on other variables involved? This type of collaboration seems to have worked well for The Coalition to Unchain Dogs (now called Beyond Fences), albeit their work with owners of chained dogs in underserved communities is a bit different. Nonetheless, regardless of the community, many people are more open to change when approached with a spirit of collaboration rather than confrontation.
Finally, how about working with interested kennel owners and mushers in the industry to create a set of humane practice guidelines that others in the industry can use as a guide?
Dog Lovers—What You Can Do to Help Sled Dogs
Here are some ways you can help sled dogs.
- Don’t do dog sledding tours unless you are absolutely certain the kennel you patronize practices humane mushing and husbandry. If you choose to engage in sled dog tourism, be sure to thoroughly vet the sled dog kennel you patronize very carefully before handing over your money. If you have read this blog post and agree that chaining and extreme endurance racing are not humane, don’t patronize kennels that participate in these things. (Unfortunately, most do chain.) Not all kennels that pen rather than chain their dogs are humane either, so be sure to get as much information about their overall husbandry practices as possible. Also be aware that some kennels have a “public” face and a “private” face. Ashley Keith worked at a kennel where they had a “public” 40-dog kennel that the tourists were shown, and a private 200-dog kennel that was kept out of the sight of the tourists. Be thorough in vetting sled dog kennels—don’t support cruel and inhumane practices.
- Here are some sled dog action alerts where you can sign petitions and take other actions, including putting public pressure on Iditarod sponsors to end their sponsorship: http://www.humanemushing.com/action-alerts
- Here are more actions to take on the Sled Dog Action Coalition website: http://helpsleddogs.org/write-to-iditarod-sponsors-and-supporters/
- Support reputable rescue organizations that rescue, rehab and rehome sled dogs. Victoria Humane Society often rescues, rehabs and rehomes sled dogs. https://www.victoriahumanesociety.com – this is the only organization that has so far been recommended to me. I’m sure there are many more.
- Share this post. Help others understand some of the issues by sharing this post, and sharing future sled dog posts on this blog, written by humane mushers. The best way for me to help sled dogs, I believe, is by publishing the writings of sled dog owners who practice humane husbandry and are willing to share what they are doing…and who want to dialog with others on how to improve things with openness of heart and mind.
If you know of any further actions that can be taken to help sled dogs, please post suggestions in the comments below or contact me directly on the contact page. I will add more suggestions from readers. Let’s all do what we can to improve the lives of sled dogs—mushers, kennel owners and handlers, animal welfare activists, and dog lovers. Each one of us has the power to make life better for those sled dogs who need a better life. Let’s get started!
“We are all mammals, we breathe the same air, drink the same water, respect life, respect it.” – Maxime Leclerc-Gingras, Manitou Mushers, Quebec, Canada.
¹ Davis MS, McKiernan B, McCullough S, Nelson S Jr, Mandsager RE, Willard M, Dorsey K. (2002). Racing Alaskan sled dogs as a model of “ski asthma.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 166(6):878-82. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12231501
² Davis M., Williamson K, McKenzie E, Royer C, Payton M, Nelson S. (2005). Effect of training and rest on respiratory mechanical properties in racing sled dogs. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37(2):337-41. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692332
³ Davis MS1, Willard MD, Nelson SL, Mandsager RE, McKiernan BS, Mansell JK, Lehenbauer TW. (2003). Prevalence of gastric lesions in racing Alaskan sled dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 17(3):311-4. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12774971
⁴ Dennis MM, Nelson SN, Cantor GH, Mosier DA, Blake JE, Basaraba RJ. (2008). Assessment of necropsy findings in sled dogs that died during Iditarod Trail sled dog races: 23 cases (1994-2006). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 232(4):564-73. doi: 10.2460/javma.232.4.564. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18279094
Matthew Ragen © 123RF.com, iStock.com/PepoJ, iStock.com/ogre64, iStock.com/ smpering
With Dog Yearbook, she aspires to play a role in building a vibrant international dog lovers’ community – a space for celebrating the lives and journeys of our beloved companions, a space for learning, and a space for helping dogs in need. 🙂