Anchorage. Alaska (RPRN) 03/24/09 — PETA sent a letter to Col. Audie Holloway, director of the Alaska State Troopers, urging him to launch a criminal investigation into the deaths of five dogs who ran in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to determine if four mushers should be charged under the state’s cruelty-to-animals law. Alaska State Statute 11.61.140 prohibits a person from knowingly inflicting “prolonged suffering on an animal.”
“At least 142 dogs have been run to death or have died from other causes in the Iditarod. There is no official count of dog deaths available for the race’s early years”. Sled Dog Action Coalition
According to news reports, Grasshopper and Dizzy, two dogs belonging to musher Lou Packer of Wasilla, apparently froze to death in high winds and sub-zero temperatures. Packer told reporters that he had felt ice under Dizzy’s fur. Two other dogs, Omen and Maynard, who were under the care of Rick Larson and Warren Palfrey, died of pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs). A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that after a 1,100-mile race, 81 percent of dogs had “abnormal accumulations” of debris in their lower airways. Race veterinarians have been unable to determine what caused the death of Victor, the first dog to die in this year’s Iditarod.
Dogs die every year in the grueling race, which is more than 1,150 miles long. Many dog deaths can be attributed to hypothermia, gastric ulcers, and “sled-dog myopathy”–another term for being run to death. The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine published an article about the Iditarod that revealed 61 percent of dogs who were studied exhibited an increased frequency of gastric erosions or ulcers after completing the race. Because of its inherent cruelty, the Iditarod has steadily lost sponsors over the years. Some of the companies that have dropped their sponsorship include Panasonic, Spectrum Brands, True Value Hardware, Safeway, Pizza Hut, Costco, BP Amoco, Maxwell House Brands, Sherwin Williams, and Rite Aid.
“The Iditarod is more than a thousand miles of torment for these dogs,” says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. “Every year, dogs suffer serious injuries and death. The five dogs who paid for this race with their lives deserve justice–and that means holding these mushers accountable under Alaska’s very clear cruelty-to-animals law.”
PETA’s letter to Col. Audie Holloway is available upon request. For more information about PETA’s work to protect animals, please visit PETA.org.
Desiree Acholla 757-622-7382
image top left: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images