An Open Letter to Iditarod Supporters
An Animal Rights Article from


Bonnie J. Wagner-Westbrook
January 2011

Dear Iditarod Supporter:

We were fortunate to have visited two locations housing/training Iditarod dogs during a lovely trip to Alaska about four years ago. We were immediately impressed with these beautiful and dedicated dogs. We were also unaware of the suffering identified by a caring group whose goal it is to end their suffering.

We have learned the following. For the dogs, the 1,000 mile Iditarod dog sled race is a bottomless pit of suffering:

  • Wind-chill factors as low as minus 50 F, battered by hurricane force winds
  • Runs over slippery ice, down steep gorges with drops of hundreds of feet, and through icy water
  • Little or no rest
  • They suffer death, paralysis, frostbite, bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains
  • Substantially decreased numbers of antibodies in their systems so that their bodies can't fight off infections
  • Foxtails (frequently found in the straw they sleep on) detach and stick to a dog's fur, entering a dog's body through the skin, nose, ears, paws, and eyes. Once they enter, they're like a barbed fishhook. A foxtail can go anywhere inside a dog. They have been found inside the brain, anal glands, eyes, ears, jowls, feet, spinal cord and lungs.
  • Foxtail seeds can be life-threatening to dogs.
  • Dog beatings, starvation, dragging and whippings are common, as reported in USA Today.
  • During the race, veterinarians do not give the dogs physical exams at every checkpoint. Mushers speed through many checkpoints, so the dogs get the briefest visual checks, if that. Instead of pulling sick dogs from the race, veterinarians frequently give them massive doses of antibiotics to keep them running.
  • During training runs, Iditarod dogs have been killed by moose, snow machines, and various motor vehicles, including a semi tractor and an ATV. They have died from drowning, heart attacks and being strangled in harnesses. Dogs have also been injured while training. They have been gashed, quilled by porcupines, bitten in dog fights, and had broken bones, and torn muscles and tendons.
  • At least 142 dogs have died in the Iditarod, including two dogs on a doctor's team who froze to death in the brutally cold winds. Most dog deaths and injuries during training aren't even reported.

Please end your organization's association with this horrific race.  

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