Heartbreaking footage and audio captured by a PETA eyewitness working in the industry within the last year reveals numerous stories of abuse.
Former Iditarod champion John Baker has competed in the race 22 times, raking in more than $600,000 at the expense of the dogs in his care. The kennel where he keeps the dogs is hellish; dozens of animals are tethered by metal chains on the snowy ground, with only broken boxes for shelter — if they’re lucky.
In a place where the wind chill can reach minus 19 degrees Fahrenheit, these dogs are separated from their social packs and pace endlessly, wearing circles in the icy ground.
The investigation discovered numerous tragic cases of neglected dogs suffering from physical and mental distress.
Former lead dog Snickers, once a celebrated champion, is now chained up outside in freezing conditions, isolated and suffering from painful arthritis with no veterinary care or comfort. Baker himself acknowledged on video that she was in a lot of pain and needed to be “put out of her misery.” The reason he hasn’t helped her? He can’t find a good place to bury her body.
Birch received a devastating spinal cord injury when she was just a puppy, leaving her hind legs paralyzed. She must drag her body across the icy ground to access her meager shelter. Baker refuses to seek veterinary attention for her because he is afraid people would assume they are too hard on the dogs.
In a different kennel owned by three-time Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey, dogs have raw and bleeding paw pads from the tough ice they are forced to pace on day after day. One dog named Captain had pus-filled wounds on his neck, caused by the friction of his collar as he circled on a leash. Again, no veterinary attention was provided for these painful ailments.
The Iditarod is an annual sled dog event that covers around 1,000 miles of unforgiving Alaskan terrain. Competitors, or “mushers,” push the teams of dogs for at least eight days in the effort to win the prize money.
While the mushers are hailed as heroes and treated like local celebrities, their dogs are a side note. Running 100 miles every day pulling heavy sleds through some of the roughest terrain and most brutal weather on the planet, it is them who do the hardest work.
The deaths, health issues, and suffering of these dogs during training and racing are well documented.
In this most recent exposé, Baker allowed a dog who was tied to a truck to be dragged for 500 meters along the icy ground as punishment for running too slowly during training. Similar treatment was doled out to a dog who stopped to defecate, with Baker saying it’s “better to have a dead dog than a dog who slows down the team.”
Lead dog Pilot, who helped Seavey reach victory in 2017, was excluded from the race the following year due to a tendon injury. He was rerun in 2019 and dropped for the same problem. Instead of getting medical attention, Pilot was abandoned back at the kennel.
The list of incidents goes on, but what’s clear is that the Iditarod — hailed as “The Last Great Race on Earth” — is, in fact, the cruelest race on earth.