I predict you will get an e-mail in-box full of letters from horrified readers in response to the fluff piece on sled dog racing in the January 2007 issue, “Snow Kings: What drives dog sledders?” While it may be true that certain breeds love to run and pull, the translation of this into a competitive and goal-driven sport is nothing short of animal abuse for fun and profit. Every year, hundreds of dogs die or sustain debilitating injuries training for and participating in sled dog races in the United States and Canada, and this does not even address the many more “culled” by professional sledders because the dogs become injured or are not of competitive caliber.
The Iditarod is, of course, the most popular and well-publicized sled dog race. More than 130 dogs have died during Iditarod races, and many more die during the intensive training programs. More than half the dogs who start the race are unable to finish. During the race, four in five dogs develop lung damage, three in five develop stomach ulcers, and many others get broken bones and teeth, torn footpads, penile frostbite, and other ailments.
USA Today sports columnist Jon Saraceno called the Iditarod, “a travesty of grueling proportions,” and, “Ihurtadog.” Fox TV sportscaster Jim Rome called it, “I-killed-a-dog.” Orlando Sentinel sports columnist George Diaz said the race is “an illegal sweatshop for dogs.” The animal rights and welfare communities are unanimous in their opposition to competitive sled dog racing.
Yet you have chosen to publish an article that glorifies sled dog racing, thus promoting public acceptance while omitting full disclosure of the abusive aspects of this practice. I was disappointed to see this from DOG FANCY that I hardly knew what to think.