Dog sledding

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:

After announcing that the
Humane Society of the U.S. would call a
boycott of Iditarod sponsors if any dogs
died during this year’s edition of the 1,163-
mile race from Anchorage to Nome, HSUS
vice president David Wills was embarrassed
when a six-year-old dog belonging to four-
time Iditarod winner and leading exponent of
humane dog care Susan Butcher died suddenly
of a heart attack on March 7. Butcher, who
backed the zero death goal, revolutionized
sled dog training by motivating her teams with
love instead of aggression; was instrumental
in forming a self-policing association of
dogsledders; outspokenly opposes breeding
large numbers of dogs to get a few fast ones;
and keeps 28 retired dogs as well as breeders
and dogs in training. After the death, she
gave her team a 24-hour rest, dropping out of
contention. She previously lost two dogs
when a moose charged her team in 1985, plus
another who died of a ruptured liver in 1987.

Sled dogs are rarely neutered,
partly because much of the money in sledding
comes from breeding winners and partly
because of the belief that neutered dogs aren’t
as competitive. Thus much of Alaska noticed
when Fairbanks veterinarian Mark May’s 14-
dog team, three of them neutered, performed
well in the recent Yukon Quest. May used the
press attention to promote neutering pets. He
participates in a neutering drive that the North
Star Borough Animal Shelter credits with cut-
ting euthanasias from 2,787 in 1989 to 1,329
in 1993.
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