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Is the Iditarod Fair To Dogs?

Critics say Alaska's 1,160-mile dogsled race is inhumane

YES MY family has been running sled dogs since 1963, and the Iditarod sleddog race since its inception in 1973. My father and grandfather have completed the race many times. Now I am 18, and this month I will compete in my first Iditarod race.

I have devoted the last three years to my dogs and this race, which will attract over 10,000 spectators, 2,000 volunteers, 75 teams, 40 veterinarians, and 20 teachers, who will go along the trail and participate in chat rooms with schoolchildren around the nation.

Of course it would be inhumane to subject a golden retriever or similar house-pet dog to a journey of more than 1,000 miles in as little as nine days. But Alaskan huskies are different; they're bred and trained for the task.

It's in the competitors' own interests to see that their dogs get the best food and veterinary attention in the world--and they do.

Annually, we spend a quarter million dollars on dog food, vaccinations, and kennel supplies for our 60 dogs, while the top prize for the Iditarod is $60,000. So obviously the draw is not the money, but the love of the dogs.

To pay for this expensive vacation, my family conducts tours in the summer, bringing visitors from all over the world into our kennel, showing them where and how the dogs are kept and taking them for a ride.

We clearly have nothing to hide, and are very proud of our state sport and the way our dogs are treated. I welcome anyone who is truly interested to come to our kennel or to the Iditarod, and form your own educated opinion.

--DANNY SEAVEY, 18 Seward, Alaska

NO The Iditarod may have been founded to commemorate a great event, but there is nothing great about the way it is run now. In the famous 1925 medicine delivery to Nome that the race honors, a railway was used for part of the journey, and the rest was covered by a relay team of dogsleds, so that each team traveled only about 100 miles. Dogs in today's race run over 1,000 miles to the finish line.

These animals suffer back strain, injured paws, pneumonia, heart failure, and other stress-related injuries. Dogs also die of strangulation or are run over by sleds if they are not able to stay on their feet. Veterinary care during the race is largely inadequate. There simply aren't enough vets present to give each sled dog a thorough exam at the checkpoints.

Dogs begin their suffering long before they leave the starting line. Sled dogs in training are usually chained on short tethers and exposed to the heat or the cold. Parasites are also a problem, because many dogs live in their own waste. They undergo strenuous training, which also causes many of their injuries; and the dogs that do not run fast enough are killed. This is also a common way to deal with dogs that are too old to run.

As a dog lover and an animal activist, I am appalled by everything about the Iditarod. It creates such competition among the racers that they will remorselessly abuse their dogs to win the prize money. These dogs do not choose to suffer in this race; they are the victims of exploitation and abuse.

--DIANE MAYDOSZ, 16 Norfolk, Virginia
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Title Annotation:opposing views on Alaska's 1,160-mile dogsled race
Author:MAYDOSZ, DIANNE
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Mar 5, 2001
Words:569
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