Two dogs die during 'despicable' 1,000-mile sled race

By John Mercury March 13, 2024

Two dogs have died during Alaska’s annual 1,000-mile dog sled competition – prompting fresh calls for the race to be banned.

The Iditarod is held every March and features dog sled drivers – known as mushers – and their canine teams travel across mountain ranges, a frozen river and sea ice, often in treacherous weather conditions.

The race starts on the first Saturday of the month and takes around 10 days to travel the route from Anchorage to Nome.

This year a two-year-old male called Bog collapsed just 200 feet (61 metres) from one of the race’s checkpoints and later died despite receiving CPR from a vet.

A second dog, George, four, collapsed around 629 miles into the contest and also died despite attempts to revive him.

Mats Pettersson, from Sweden, makes the corner onto Cordova Street during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ceremonial start in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday, March 2, 2024. (Bob Hallinen/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
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The race takes place every March. Pic: AP

The dogs were part of separate teams. Their mushers, Issac Teaford and Hunter Keefe, both voluntarily withdrew from the race.

Their deaths have prompted animal welfare organisation PETA to call for the event, which is the world’s longest sled dog race, to be banned.

Its senior vice president Colleen O’Brien said: “The death count keeps climbing for dogs who are forced to run until their bodies break down, all so the human winner can get a trophy while the dogs get an icy grave.

“PETA is calling for this despicable race to end.”

The campaign group claims more than 150 dogs have died in the Iditarod since it was first held in 1973.

Official data on the number of canine casualties has never been released.

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FILE - Volunteers help raise the Iditarod finishers banner at the burled arch finish line in Nome, Alaska, March 16, 2015. Two dogs from separate teams have died while competing in the 2024 Iditarod, and the first deaths during the race across Alaska since 2019 has prompted the call to end the race from an animal rights group. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
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The 1,000-mile race finishes in the city of Nome. Pic: AP

The last dog to die during the competition was a five-year-old female called Oshi back in 2019. After the race, vets found signs of pneumonia.

In the lead-up to this year’s event, five dogs died and eight were injured after teams were accidentally hit with snowmobiles during training runs.

Since the beginning of this year race five out of the 38 starting mushers have left the competition.

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