Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Iditarod takes a black eye

Like the Tour de France last year, this year's Iditarod ended with a great story. A five-time also ran and cancer survivor named Lance won the rugged 1,100 mile race convincingly, becoming the first Yukon Quest (another 1,000 mile race from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fairbanks, AK held two weeks earlier) - Iditarod doubler as well as the first father-brother combination winner. His dad won in 1978 and half brother did it in 1983. All three Mackey's did it on their 6th try wearing bib number 13. Great stuff for a great story.

The elation lasted for a day or so until a dark cloud of animal abuse accusations arose, centering around Ramy Brooks who is from another well-known Alaskan mushing family. First, on the last day of the race one of Brook's dogs died. Per Iditarod rules he was not given a finish time until the necropsy was completed. That cost him three places from 12th to 15th and several thousand dollars. Press releases indicated that Brooks was crestfallen at the loss of his dog. A necropsy by Iditarod veterinarians indicated no signs of abuse on the dead dog.

Then the story got worse and the ensuing controversy has all but overshadowed Mackey's remarkable double. Brooks was initially disqualified for hitting his dogs with a flexible trail marker--approximately 1 inch wide and a quarter inch thick--because the dogs balked at an icy crossing. However, witnesses report that Brooks allegedly strike his dogs with his fists, feet, and a ski pole.

There is already a strong anti-mushing push from groups like PETA and help (, who are so anti-mushing that any and all types of sled dog racing should be banned--in addition to sled dog tours. Some extremists, who apparently believe that all dogs should be pampered indoor pooches sitting on the couch eating potato chips with their cholesterol clogged and adipose addled owners, are even against recreational mushing. This case just adds to their hystrionics.

The Iditarod's last finishers have completed the course and the case is under further investigation.
Meanwhile, two sets of inspections (the Iditarod and Brooks) did not reveal bruising or physical injury to Brooks' dogs, and the animals "appear to be in good health."

The public reaction is strong, ranging from disappointment to defense of Brooks, to call for a criminal charges and a lifetime ban

Brooks is well respected for his community service with mental health and with outreach to children, which makes this even harder. However, the Iditarod is likely to come down upon him pretty hard, espcially if the witnesses accounts hold up. He could get a ban for one to several years, and the Iditarod, feeling pressure from the public and from sponsors could conceivably ban him for life.

I say let the investigation continue and may the Iditarod be fair with Brooks. He's paid a heavy price already, and if additional sanctions are needed, let's just be fair. I don't think that he is an animal abuser, but he certainly crossed the line. That said, I am adamantly opposed to the anti-mushing movement. They do nothing but carp and whine. If they want to do something the should pony up some money to ensure animal care protocols are met and to fund research to improve animal care evaluate the health impacts to dogs. They should also put up and contribute by adopting some sled dogs who don't make the cut for teams.


Anonymous M. B. said...

I have a response to the comment you made:
"Some extremists, who apparently believe that all dogs should be pampered indoor pooches sitting on the couch eating potato chips with their cholesterol clogged and adipose addled owners, are even against recreational mushing."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Do you know what we "extremists" want? We want dogs to be outside and have the freedom to exercise, and especially NOT be trapped indoors all day as if they were in jail.
Some small toy dogs don't need the same room as larger dogs, but it's downright cruel to keep large dogs inside all day, or in some confined space, or on a short leash.
This is sadly the case for many many dogs... their spirit crushed due to humans forcing them to conform to their living standards fit into a 'human comfort zone'.

And this is what the mushers do... keep them confined until race season... all summer being jailed. And what have they done wrong?

It's sickening!

2:13 AM  

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