How can you compare the awful things Michael Vick did with a race like the Iditarod, where the dogs are well-conditioned and trained for the event?
Tell me how this sounds to you.
From the Humane Society . . .
Iditarod dogs are raised outdoors, in harsh northern weather conditions, in dog yards where they often are tethered on short chains with as many as 200 other dogs — despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture opposes this as a primary method of confinement for dogs.
With Vick, we’re talking about 50 some-odd dogs.
Accurate records have not been kept, but estimates are that around 130 dogs have died during Iditarod competition. No records are available from the race’s early years.
From the Humane Society:
Causes of death during the last decade have included strangulation in towlines, internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, liver injury from collision, heart failure, and pneumonia. “Sudden death” and “exertional myopathy,” a condition in which a dog’s muscles and organs deteriorate during extreme or prolonged exercise, have also been blamed.
Noted by the Anchorage Daily News as the musher who “led the transformation of the Iditarod from a leisurely 16-day race to a 10-day hotly contested event,” five-time Iditarod winner Rick Swenson was disqualified from the 1996 race after a dog died while he mushed his team through waist-deep overflow, a combination of water and frozen slush pooled on the surface of a frozen river. In 1985, a musher was disqualified after he kicked his dog and the animal died. The 1975 winner, Jerry Riley, was banned for life in 1990 after being accused of striking a dog with a snow hook.
Many more, however, have been killed before they got to the race. The dog-killings reported in Vick’s indictment for dogs who wouldn’t fight? It’s a well-known practice among sled-dog trainers. It even has a name: “Culling.”
It’s the method by which weak pups and dogs are removed from the rest of the training group. The most widely used method is by shooting them in the head. But court documents show that one musher bludgeoned 14 dogs with an axe handle and buried two alive with the other carcasses. Musher John Cooper, in an article for the Anchorage Daily News magazine, admitted to getting rid of weak pups by putting them into a bag and tossing it in a creek. Another musher told that paper that the culling takes place when pups reach about 12 weeks old. Tom Classen, a retired Air Force Colonel and Alaska resident for 30 years, confirmed for USA Today columnist Jon Saraceno dog beatings, starvings and even skinnings — to make mittens.
From the Denver Post in 2006:
“Dan MacEachen, owner of the Krabloonik sled-dog center in Snowmass Village for 31 years, said several dogs have been shot with a .22-caliber rifle and buried in a pit where feces from about 250 dogs are deposited. The exact number of animals that have been shot is in dispute, but a former employee said it has been as many as 30 in one year.”
Now. I’m not a flaming animal rights activist. And I’m not trying to gloss over what Vick has done. I’m only saying that what happens in this race is just as wrong as what Vick and his cohorts did.
In some ways, it is worse, because it happens on a larger scale and is supported by major corporations in the north and, to some degree, by the media.
But not all media.
Jim Rome calls this the “annual I-killed-a-dog sled race. . . . I hope I never get to the place where beating dogs to death is a good sport.”
Saraceno, columnist for USA Today, says it is “no more than dog abuse.”