Iditarod: Racing Dogs to Death
You likely know that dogs love to run around, and if you have one, maybe you two even race each other in the snow! But there’s a huge difference between having fun in the snow with your dog and the deadly race known as the Iditarod.
What Is the Iditarod?
The Iditarod is a dogsled race that takes place every March. Dogsled drivers, or “mushers,” use teams of dogs to pull their sleds from Anchorage to Nome, which are cities in Alaska. The mushers compete for money and other prizes.
By the Numbers
- The race is about 1,000 miles long. That’s like running from Memphis, Tennessee, to New York City.
- About half the dogs who start the race don’t finish because of sickness, injury, or exhaustion. These are called “dropped dogs,” and they’re left at checkpoints.
- Since 1973, more than 150 dogs have died during the Iditarod.
- Aspiration pneumonia, likely caused by inhaling their own vomit, is the leading cause of death for dogs who don’t survive the
- The Iditarod’s official rules call some dog deaths during the race “unpreventable hazards.”
- The race takes eight to 14 days.
- Dogs are forced to run about 100 miles a day.
- The sled teams are usually made up of 15 dogs, and they pull about 400 pounds.
- Dogs endure temperatures as low as 60 degrees below zero.
- Dogs are required to have a total of only 40 hours of rest during the entire race.
During the Race
The Iditarod treats dogs like machines. They’re forced to race in bitterly cold wind and snowstorms and on dangerous ice. They’ve died from things like heart attacks, pneumonia, internal bleeding, being hit by cars and snowmobiles, and being buried in snow, just to name a few. Many wear booties, but that doesn’t prevent their paws from being cut or bruised or becoming raw. If you really love your dogs, you’d never put them through something like this. For mushers, it’s all about money, not about the dogs’ welfare.
Behind the Scenes
Think about how you feel after you run a long distance—it’s hard to breathe, right? Because dogs in the Iditarod have to run so far, 80 percent of those who actually finish the race get lung problems.
Even though there are so many dogs waiting for homes in shelters, thousands of them are bred for dogsled racing each year, far more than can be used in races. The ones who don’t measure up (sometimes for something as trivial as having the wrong color paw pads), as well as those who are too old to race, have been shot, drowned, or abandoned. The ones who are forced to race will most likely be chained up their entire lives, sometimes with only a barrel or a flimsy doghouse for shelter, when they’re not competing.
Never Support Dogsled Races
Think about 5Ks or races that you might run during field day or gym class. They’re about having fun and being a good sport! That’s why the Iditarod is so messed up. Dogs shouldn’t be dying for a dangerous race that they’re not choosing to run in, just so that a musher can win a prize.