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Mackey wins third Iditarod

Lance Mackey crossed the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race at 11:38 a.m. today (Alaska time) to capture his third straight victory in the 1,100-mile race, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

“It’s done,” he said. “It’s amazing, absolutely amazing.”

The race was marred by the deaths of two more dogs. In addition to a dog on musher Jeff Holt’s team that died last week, two dogs on the team of rookie Lou Packer of Wasilla apparently froze to death. Packer scratched after being found Monday 22 miles past the Iditarod checkpoint by searchers in a plane.

Mackey became the third musher to win three Iditarods in a row, joining Montanan Doug Swingley and the late Susan Butcher.

Mackey had a huge lead after leaving White Mountain, 77 miles from the finish line in Nome. In White Mountain, he received a hug of congratulations from his mother, and turned to his dogs, according to the Associated Press.

“They’re superstars,” he told her.

Only Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker were anywhere close to Mackey, but they were still hours behind Mackey, ahead of a storm that trapped other mushers farther back on the trail.

Thirteen mushers, including four-time champions Jeff King and Martin Buser, were holed up at the checkpoint in Shaktoolik, stopped by 40 mile-per-hour winds and a wind chill driving temperatures to more than 50 below. Temperatures were expected to be even colder Tuesday night.

Sixty-seven teams began the race more than a week ago in Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage. Nine teams have either scratched or been withdrawn.


Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time March 19, 2009 at 8:51 am

Two dogs froze to death?? I wonder what other atrocities occurred during this cruel annual event. It is outright dog abuse.

Comment from SledDogAction
Time March 19, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Three dogs have died thus far in the 2009 Iditarod. Two dogs were on the team of Dr. Lou Packer. Dr. Packer told the Anchorage Daily News he believes the two dogs froze to death in the brutally cold winds. For the dogs, the Iditarod is a bottomless pit of suffering. What happens to the dogs during the race includes death, paralysis, frostbite (where it hurts the most!), bleeding ulcers, bloody diarrhea, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and tendons and sprains. At least 139 dogs have died in the race. No one knows how many dogs die after this tortuous ordeal or during training. For more facts about the Iditarod, visit the Sled Dog Action Coalition website, http://www.helpsleddogs.org .

On average, 53 percent of the dogs who start the race do not make it across the finish line. According to a report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, of those who do finish, 81 percent have lung damage. A report published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine said that 61 percent of the dogs who complete the Iditarod have ulcers versus zero percent pre-race.

Iditarod dog kennels are puppy mills. Mushers breed large numbers of dogs and routinely kill unwanted ones, including puppies. Many dogs who are permanently disabled in the Iditarod, or who are unwanted for any reason, including those who have outlived their usefulness, are killed with a shot to the head, dragged, drowned or clubbed to death. “Dogs are clubbed with baseball bats and if they don’t pull are dragged to death in harnesses……” wrote former Iditarod dog handler Mike Cranford in an article for Alaska’s Bush Blade Newspaper.

Dog beatings and whippings are common. During the 2007 Iditarod, eyewitnesses
reported that musher Ramy Brooks kicked, punched and beat his dogs with a ski pole and a chain. Jim Welch says in his book Speed Mushing Manual, “Nagging a dog team is cruel and ineffective…A training device such as a whip is not cruel at all but is effective.” “It is a common training device in use among dog mushers…”

Jon Saraceno wrote in his March 3, 2000 column in USA Today, “He [Colonel Tom
Classen] confirmed dog beatings and far worse. Like starving dogs to maintain their most advantageous racing weight. Skinning them to make mittens.. Or dragging them to their death.”

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.

Most Iditarod dogs are forced to live at the end of a chain when they aren’t hauling people around. It has been reported that dogs who don’t make the main team are never taken off-chain. Chained dogs have been attacked by wolves, bears and other animals. Old and arthritic dogs suffer terrible pain in the blistering cold.

Margery Glickman
Sled Dog Action Coalition, http://www.helpsleddogs.org