Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

The Iditarod is a 1000 mile, 9 day dog sled race across Alaska. It is a tough competition, and has come under criticism over the years because of dogs dying along the way.

Some thoughts come to mind.

I am not against entering dogs in competitive events. Competitive events are fun for the dog and the owner. Competitive events can weed out the best dogs from the also-rans, and help select which dogs should be bred to which dogs in the future. And competitive events can demonstrate what dogs are capable for, and increase the value of those dogs to society.

I'm not so happy using animals in events if they are not being treated humanely. There used to be a horse event where horses died every year, especially as they raced downhill, breaking legs and having to be put down. To me, that seemed a bit much. It seemed that too many horses were dying each year in that event. Yet, as with any athletic competition, people and animals are going to get sports injuries, and yes, sometimes they are going to die. I just figure that it truly needs to be an "accident" why the animal died, not that the event was really too difficult and nothing that any normal person would think was fair. So, dogs have died on the Iditarod event. I noticed in the pictures of this years event that the dogs have jackets, and foot pads. It is also mentioned that a competitor dropped out over concern for his dogs. So, at this point, where I was not sure if I supported the event, I am hopeful that the event is being conducted humanely, and for now, I support it.

I am also struck by the general appearance of the dogs used. I compare them to the Huskies and Malamutes we see as pets. The competition dogs are mixes of a number of breeds, and whereas the pets we see on the streets are purebreds. There is no way our purebreds could do sled pulling events these days. They are pets, bred to look a certain way, with a certain amount of folklore about their past boosting their images. I think that the way we pure breed dogs today has become obsolete, and we need new ways of defining our breeds, and how we breed them. More on that later...

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