A competition that exploits animals to the point of pushing them beyond their limits and sentences those who are considered humans’ oldest companions to a life of confinement, suffering and death, cannot be considered a sport event and cannot be funded! Sponsoring the Iditarod race means promoting animal cruelty and abuse.

In the last years, several companies agreed to drop their sponsorships and cut ties with this cruel event. Most notably, ExxonMobil, a major supporter that was giving USD$250,000 to the race annually, joined by Alaska Airlines, Chrysler, Coca-Cola, Jack Daniel’s, Wells Fargo, Millennium Hotels and Resorts, and dozens of other companies.

During this year’s race, nearly 250 dogs were pulled off the trail because of exhaustion, illness, or injury. Two dogs went missing, a musher was apparently forced to drop out after dogs were found in poor condition, and before the race even began, multiple dogs were attacked and one was killed during training.  Additionally, the Iditarod Trail Committee shamefully decided to fine mushers who took dogs inside to protect them during a dangerous storm that could have caused them to freeze to death.

Following the recent events and considering the extreme cruelty behind the competition, and in support of PETA’s letters (read: PETA’s letter 1PETA’s letter 2), OIPA calls on the President and CEO of Formula One Group – Mr. Stefano Domenicali – to demand Liberty Media, owner of Formula 1, to finally sever ties with the Iditarod and stop financing this deathly dog sled race. The association of Formula 1 to this competition may affect negatively company’s reputation and the promotion of animal cruelty is something that Liberty should be ashamed of in a world increasingly concerned about animal welfare.

Read the letter (Italian)

What is the Iditarod?

The Iditarod is an annual long-distance sled dog race organized in early March in Alaska. The trail starts from the city of Anchorage, runs from Willow up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska.

Mushers and their team of 12 to 16 dogs, of which at least five must be on the towline at the finish line to be ranked, must cover over thousand-mile distance in about two weeks coping with the most extreme weather conditions: blizzards, whiteouts, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds.

The Iditarod trail was originally a mail route used to deliver an emergency supply of diphtheria serum to the city of Nome back in 1925, and then it became a competition to test the best sled dog teams and mushers in 1973.

Today, it is a highly competitive race that does entertain people and give fame and money to participants exploiting animals and causing them suffering and death.

What is behind the Iditarod? …Animal cruelty and abuse

Dogs are forced to race against their will – they can’t choose! – and are continuously pushed beyond their limits and capabilities before, during and after the intense competition, that means for a lifetime. A life made of suffering and death.

Training starts in the late summer or early fall and intensifies in the period between November and March. Competitive teams manage to run 2,000 miles (3,200 km) before the race, and when there is no snow, mushers train dogs using wheeled carts or other all-terrain vehicles.

Dogs “employed” in the race suffer lung damage, pull muscles, incur stress fractures, develop pneumonia, or become sick with intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers. Three independent studies have shown that 81 percent of the dogs who survive the Iditarod have lung damage, 61 percent exhibit an increased frequency of gastric erosions or ulcers, and many others develop airway dysfunction similar to ski asthma in humans that can persist for months.

Sled dogs are commercially bred for the industry, and spend their lives outside in kennels, isolated, unable to socialize and tethered on chains in subfreezing temperature. They are chained when they do not compete and at checkpoints during the race.

A  US PETA investigator worked at two dog kennels owned by former Iditarod champions and found widespread neglect and suffering. Dogs were denied veterinary care for painful injuries, kept constantly chained next to dilapidated boxes and plastic barrels in the bitter cold and biting wind, and forced to run even when they were exhausted and dehydrated.

Requirement for mushers to qualify for the Iditarod is quite simple. It is enough to participate in three smaller races prior the event. Mushers are allowed to lease dogs to participate in the race and are not required to take written exams to determine their knowledge of mushing, the dogs they race, or if they have canine first aid competence. Dogs that become exhausted or injured during the race may be carried in the sled’s “basket” to the next “dog-drop” site and dumped here as no more useful for the musher. Reasons for dropping dogs are numerous and the more common ones are attitude problems, fatigue, illness, “immaturity”, injury, being “in heat,” lack of speed and musher strategy.

More than 150 dogs have died running the Iditarod, only according to the numbers officially reported, which averages more than three dog deaths per year. Not counting all those who died immediately after the race or during training, in the off-season while chained up outside, or those who were shot or bludgeoned to death because they were not fast enough or fit enough. The main cause of death for dogs in the Iditarod is aspiration pneumonia caused by inhaling their own vomit.

Mushers should keep a veterinary diary on the trail and are required to have it signed by a veterinarian at each checkpoint, but in some occasions, some have been accused and convicted of animal neglect, and dog abuse by the Iditarod Trail Committee. The same Committee that this year shamefully decided to fine mushers who took dogs inside to protect them during a dangerous storm that could have caused them to freeze to death.

What are the alternatives?

Similar races are done with willing human participants – some run or ski the trail or use snowmobiles. There’s zero athleticism in forcing dogs to pull a sled until they collapse from exhaustion or die by inhaling their own vomit. If these mushers want to prove they’re an endurance athlete, they should run the 1,000 miles themselves, and leave the dogs out of it.

These dogs deserve a better life

(Information and photos: @PETA UK)


Today OIPA and PETA UK were at the #ItalianGP in Monza to make people aware of the cruelty behind the #Iditarod race. Why there? Because Liberty Media, which is the owner of Formula 1 does sponsor this deathly competition! An occasion to raise awereness and ask to cut ties with animal abuse.