Iditarod Facts 2015
An Animal Rights Article from


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
March 2015

The dogs in the Iditarod are forced to run an average of more than 100 miles per day. The biting winds, blinding snowstorms, subzero temperatures, and treacherous ice take a toll on the animals, whose feet can become cut, bruised, and worn by the vast distances of frozen terrain they must cover.

The official Iditarod rules require only that the dogs be provided with a total of 40 hours of rest—even though the race can take up to two weeks. Most states have laws that prohibit overdriving or overworking animals, but Alaska does not.

At least 23 dogs used in the Iditarod have died since just 2004, including:

  • 5-year-old Dorado, who was asphyxiated after being buried in snow
  • 3-year-old Kate, who was allegedly beaten and kicked by her musher because she sat down and refused to get up
  • 3-year-old Thong, who apparently died of acute pneumonia
  • 6-year-old Snickers, who died from an acute hemorrhage caused by a gastric ulcer

According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 81 percent of the dogs who do manage to finish have lung damage. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules blithely acknowledges that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.”

More abuse and neglect take place off the trail. The vast majority of dogs used in sledding are kept on short chains with only overturned barrels or dilapidated doghouses for shelter. Dogs who aren’t fast runners—or who simply don’t want to run all out all day—are treated like defective equipment. Some simply are abandoned and left to starve. Others have been beaten and bludgeoned. The “lucky” ones are left at already overburdened animal shelters.

“Every Iditarod means a lifetime of suffering for dogs who may be literally run to death,” says PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch.

“PETA is calling for this dangerous, cruel race to be canceled permanently, before one more dog suffers a catastrophic breakdown on the trail.”

PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.”

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