Five sled dogs die in 2009 Iditarod
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2009:
ANCHORAGE–Five dogs died during the 2009 Iditarod Trail Sled
Dog Race, the most in any year since 1997. The race runs 1,131
miles, from Wasilla to Nome.
“The first dog to die this year was 6-year-old Victor in the
team of North Pole musher Jeff Holt,” reported Craig Medred of the
Anchorage Daily News. Running 50th of 67 teams, Holt’s goal was to
just to finish. “The dogs were fresh and well rested when he left
the Rainy Pass checkpoint,” wrote Medred. “A veterinarian looked
the team over and said they looked great. A few miles down the
trail, Victor fell over and died.”
Maynard, age 5, ran in the team of veteran Yellowknife
musher Warren Palfrey, who finished 19th. At Safety, just 20 miles
from Nome, “Maynard reportedly looked fine,” Medred wrote. “Ten
miles farther, with the finish nearly in sight, he died.”
Omen, 8, running for 39th place musher Rick Larson of Sand
Coulee, Montana, also died from no apparent cause.
Dizzy and Grasshopper, running for physician Lou Packer,
apparently died of hypothermia, after Packer, third from last at
the halfway mark, ran into a blizzard that most of the field had
missed. Also hit by the blizzard, and fearing that her dog Cotton,
8, might be suffering from hypothermia, Kim Darst of Warren County,
New Jersey, dropped out to get veterinary help.
The deaths stoked PETA opposition to the Iditarod. The
Humane Society of the U.S., however, which campaigned against the
Iditarod in the early 1990s, no longer opposes it. “I would like to
see the Iditarod celebrate the history and culture of the event and
not be just a timed event, but they’re trying to make it as safe as
they can for both the animals and humans,” HSUS western region
director Dave Pauli told Associated Press writer Rachel D’Oro.
“We’re definitely reformists and not abolitionists on an event like
this,” Pauli said.
At least 146 dogs have died during the 35 runnings of the
Iditarod. About a third of the deaths have been from undetermined
causes, some of them possibly involving inbred heart defects known
to occur among huskies. Many of the rest have resulted from
collisions with snow machines, other vehicles, and wildlife.
Iditarod chief veterinarian Stuart Nelson Jr. in the
mid-1990s hoped that the Iditarod safety rules could be improved to
eliminate dog deaths, he told Medred.
But the odds are heavily against that happening. Huskies
typically live about 10 years: 3,650 days. The 67 teams competing
in 2009 included more than 1,200 dogs, who spent an average of about
two weeks on the trail: 16,884 days. Expected deaths among any
random cohort of huskies over 16,884 days would be 4.6, which rounds
off to five.