With the final teams crossing the finish line Saturday night, race officials say not a single dog died in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race — possibly a first in the event’s history, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
“To stand there and watch that last team come in, I’ll tell you, is the highlight of my veterinarian career,” chief race veterinarian Stuart Nelson said after the final musher crossed the finish line.
Last year’s race saw six dogs die — from fluid-filled lungs, hypothermia and, in one case, a rocky airplane ride — prompting People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to demand an investigation of the deaths.
Supporters say the sheer number of dogs — more than 1,100 started the 1,000-mile race this year — make a death inevitable over the two-week competition.
This year, Iditarod organizers increased scrutiny of rookies, calling for veterinarians and race officials to rate potential Iditarod contenders on their ability to care for themselves and their dogs. Four mushers were asked to complete additional races before competing in the main event.
On Saturday, top finishers said relatively good trail conditions, low temperatures and the lack of a major storm this year helped teams complete the race faster and healthier than in 2009, the Daily News said.
After last year’s high death count, the chief vet had appeared “on edge” at a mushers meeting before this year’s race, said musher Hugh Neff, who finished ninth. “He put out the word to all of us that the dogs were going to be checked more thoroughly and that after what happened last year, we needed to be more vigilant.”
Nelson said he can’t remember a year without any deaths since he became involved in the race in 1986. At least twice, there has only been one death: in 1994 and 1996.
The average number of deaths rose from about two a year in the 1990s to roughly three deaths a year as the field of mushers ballooned to 80 or 90 competitors around 2000, Nelson said.
“I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that this is a first,” he said of the zero deaths in 2010.
The achievement isn’t likely to end criticism of the race.
Margery Glickman of Miami, Fla., who founded the Sled Dog Action Coalition in 1999, says officials still aren’t doing enough to protect dogs.
“If it’s true that there have been no dog deaths, I hope that remains the case for however long this race is run and I hope that they make other improvements,” Glickman said Saturday. She says officials ought to require mushers to take mandatory rests at checkpoints and shorten the length of the race overall to reduce not only deaths but injuries and illness.
(Photo: from BBC’s Frozen Planet series)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 22nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2010, alaska, animals, death, deaths, dog, dogs, iditarod, iditarod trail sled dog race, margery glickman, mushers, mushing, news, no deaths, race, safety, sled dog action coalition, sled dogs, sleds, stuart nelson, veterinarian
Alaskan musher Lance Mackey has won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and set an Iditarod record for most consecutive wins.
Mackey, 39, of Fairbanks, completed the 1,049-mile Iditarod race in just under nine days. He was cheered across the finish line in Nome by family and friends, including his father, Dick Mackey, the 1978 Iditarod champion, CNN reported.
“You’ve done something that will never be repeated, son,” the senior Mackey said, hugging his son at the finish line.
Mackey could be heard on the broadcast microphones speaking to his dog team just before reaching the finish line on Nome’s Front Street, “Nice, nice. This is so cool. We’re almost there, guys. You did such a good job.”
Arriving in Nome at 2:59 p.m. local time, Mackey’s official time was 8 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 9 seconds.
Mackey, a throat cancer survivor who says he began racing “at birth,” was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame in February “for capturing multiple titles in two of the world’s longest sled dog races.”
More than 54 teams remained on the Iditarod trail headed toward Nome, including rookie Jamaican musher Newton Marshall, who was in 48th place. Marshall trained with Mackey this season in preparation for his first Iditarod run.
Fourteen of the original 71 teams that entered this year’s race have scratched en route.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, consecutive, dick mackey, dog, dogs, fourth, iditarod, lance mackey, musher, mushing, news, nome, race, record, sled, sports, trail, winner, wins
Here’s an interesting role reversal. Snausages, the dog snack, sponsored what it describes as the first man sled race earlier this month — one that let the humans pull the dogs for a change.
Four teams, each representing a pet related charity, competed in the March 2 race in Anchorage.
The Snausages Man Sled Race was no Iditarod;the human teams only had to cover 75 yards. The winning team received a $5,000 donation to their charity. The second, third and fourth teams each raised $1,000.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 8th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alaska, anchorage, animals, charity, dog sled, dogs, fundraiser, funny, humans, man sled, man sled race, mushers, pets, pull, pulling sleds, race, role reversal, sled, snausages, video
More than 3,000 people poured into Raynham Park over the weekend for the final day of live greyhound racing at the 69-year-old park, its last day in Massachusetts and, possibly, its last day in all of New England.
The end of greyhound racing in in Massachusetts is the result of a public referendum — 56 percent of voters favored banning the so-called sport — and part of a national trend driven by a mix of animal-rights concerns and declining track attendance, according to the Boston Globe.
Raynham Park staged its final race Saturday night.
Live dog racing has also ceased in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and, temporarily at least, Rhode Island. It continues at 23 tracks in seven states, 13 of them in Florida, according to the anti-dog racing organization GREY2K USA, which formed in 2001. At that time there were 49 tracks in 15 states.
“I just thank Massachusetts voters for giving greyhounds a second chance,’’ Christine A. Dorchak, president of GREY2K USA. “We have finally reached this wonderful day.’’
Many of the dogs, maintained by a network of kennels, will move on to race in other states, but several hundred will be looking for new homes. Raynham is working with GREY2K and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center to aid their adoption.
“People who voted to end dog racing should step forward now and take a dog home,’’ Dorchak said. “This is the happy ending we all worked for, and these dogs make wonderful pets.’’
For the first six months of 2010, the track will remain open for simulcasting, where patrons bet on horse and dog races from across the country shown live on closed-circuit televisions.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 28th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animal rights, animal welfare, betting, closings, closures, dog, dog racing, end, final, gambling, grey2kusa, greyhound, greyhounds, last, massachusetts, race, racing, raynham park, track
Three-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey may have to mush without marijuana in next year’s race.
Iditarod Trail Committee officials have announced plans to test mushers for drugs and alcohol in March. Officials haven’t decided who will get tested, or when, where and how it will be done. “It might be random. It might be a group of mushers at a specific checkpoint,” said Stan Hooley, executive director of the committee.
Alaska law allows for personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, provided the use occurs at home. In addition, Mackey, as a throat cancer survivor, has a medical marijuana card that entitles him to use the drug legally for medical purposes.
Mackey admits marijuana has helped him stay awake and focused through the 1,100-mile race, but he insists it doesn’t give him an edge.
“It isn’t the reason I’ve won three years in a row,” Mackey told the Anchorage Daily News. ”I think it’s a little bit ridiculous,” he said of the new policy. ”It is a dog race, not a human race. It doesn’t affect the outcome of the race.”
While Iditarod dogs have long been tested for a lengthy list of prohibited substances, the humans they are pulling — despite the Iditarod having had an informal drug and alcohol policy since 1984 — never have.
Mackey doesn’t blame the Iditarod board for creating the new policy, but he contends he is being targeted by other mushers jealous of his three straight Iditarod titles.
Despite his medical marijuana clearance, Mackey said he will not pursue a therapeutic use exemption; instead, he’ll just abstain for a while.
“I’m going to pee in their little cup,” he said. “And laugh in their face.”
Posted by John Woestendiek December 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, alcohol, champion, dogs, drug, drugs, edge, exemption, iditarod, lance mackey, law, mackey, marijuana, medical, mush, mushing, policy, prohibited, race, sled dogs, sports, substances, test, tested, testing, tests, therapeutic, throat cancer, trail committee
A sixth dog in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race has died — this one on a flight to Nome.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the dog, a two year-old female on he team of musher Alan Peck, died during a turbulent flight from Shaktoolik to Nome.
The musher had scratched in Shaktoolik, and officials were picking up the dog team Monday. Race spokesman Chas St. George says the airplane encountered significant turbulence during the flight that forced the pilot to land in Golovin, where it was discovered that one of the dogs, name Cirque, had died.
St. George says the dogs were in good condition when loaded onto the plane. A necropsy has been scheduled.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 24th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alan peck, cirque, deaths, died, dog, dogs, flight, iditarod, iditarod trail, musher, nome, race, shaktoolik, six, sixth, sled
PETA has asked Alaskan law enforcement officials to launch a criminal investigation into the deaths of five dogs who ran in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to determine if four mushers should be charged under the state’s cruelty-to-animals law.
The PETA letter cites Alaska State Statute 11.61.140, which prohibits a person from knowingly inflicting “prolonged suffering on an animal.”
According to news reports, Grasshopper and Dizzy, both belonging to musher Lou Packer of Wasilla, apparently froze to death in high winds and sub-zero temperatures. Two other dogs, Omen and Maynard, who were under the care of mushers Rick Larson and Warren Palfrey, died of pulmonary edema, or excess fluid in the lungs. Race veterinarians have been unable to determine what caused the death of Victor, the first dog to die in this year’s Iditarod.
A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that after a 1,100-mile race, 81 percent of dogs had “abnormal accumulations” of debris in their lower airways. PETA also cites a Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine article about the Iditarod that revealed 61 percent of dogs who were studied exhibited an increased frequency of gastric erosions or ulcers after completing the race.
“The Iditarod is more than a thousand miles of torment for these dogs,” says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. “Every year, dogs suffer serious injuries and death. The five dogs who paid for this race with their lives deserve justice — and that means holding these mushers accountable under Alaska’s very clear cruelty-to-animals law.”
PETA’s letter was sent to the director of Alaska’s State Troopers. A spokeswoman for the troopers said the state law PETA cites in asking for the investigation does not generally apply to accepted dog mushing contests.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 24th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, animal cruelty, animal rights, animal welfare, charges, criminal, deaths, died, dogs, five, iditarod, investigation, people for the ethical treatment of animals, peta, race, sled dog, state troopers
The Iditarod death toll has risen to five.
With 20 mushers still on the 1,000-mile trail from Willow to Nome, the Anchorage Daily News reports two more dog deaths have surfaced: A 5-year-old male named Maynard in the team of Warren Palfrey died less than 20 miles from Nome late Thursday., and an 8-year-old male named Omen in the team of Rick Larson died between Elim and White Mountain.
Iditarod officials said necropsies would be conducted in an effort to determine the cause of death.
Palrey finished 19th, one spot behind four-time champion Martin Buser, late Thursday. On Friday, Larson was still in White Mountain, about 75 miles from Nome, in 39th place.
Earlier in the race, two dogs in the team of Lou Packer died and a 6-year-old dog in the team of North Pole musher Jeff Holt died between the checkpoints of Rainy Pass and Rohn.
“Two dogs died in the name of sport this week, and this time it wasn’t Michael Vick’s fault.”
So begins an Associated Press commentary by national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg that recounts the final hours of Dizzy and Grasshopper, two members of musher Lou Packer’s team. The two were among three dogs that died in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
“Listen to race supporters and they’ll tell you that, unlike Vick’s dogs, the 5-year-old huskies died doing what they loved. Read the official Iditarod Web site and you’ll find out that sled dogs are pampered and loved by their masters…”
On the other hand, Dahlberg wrote, “They don’t have a problem with chaining up big packs of dogs and running them to within an inch of their life for sport. They accept the fact that the Iditarod is a part of the state’s heritage, and its biggest sporting event. A lot of us in the Lower 48, though, just don’t get it.”
He goes on to ask the question on the minds of many animal right activists: “How many dog deaths are reasonable? How many more must die before the fun is finally sucked out of the sport?”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, animals, arthritis, associated press, barbara hodges, column, columnist, commentary, damage, deaths, dogs, exxon mobil corp., health, humane, humane society, iditarod, lungs, race, sled dogs, sponsors, sports, stress, tradition, ulcers, wells fargo
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, doug swingley, finish line, iditarod, lance mackey, nome, race, sled dog, susan butcher, third, three, winner, wins