Iditarod Dog Death Raises Ire of Animal Rights Activists

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PETA announced today that it is calling for cruelty-to-animals charges against the individuals involved in the death of an Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race canine.

Fairbanks musher Paige Drobny left his 4-year-old dog, Dorado, behind at a checkpoint last Monday, according to The Anchorage Daily News (you can see a pic of Dorado on that page). This is known as “dropping,” and happens often during the races.

Last Friday, Iditarod officials discovered the dog’s body. They concluded that Dorado suffocated in a snowdrift during strong winds that struck Unalakleet, a village on the western Alaska coast.

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In reaction, Jeff Mackay of PETA wrote:

It is unlikely that he would have died if he had been given adequate protection from the extreme weather as did most of the other “dropped” dogs. At least 20 dogs used in the 1,000-plus-mile Iditarod have died just since 2005. On average, more than half the dogs who start the race don’t make it across the finish line, and 81 percent of those who do finish sustain lung damage.

Drobny’s husband, Cody Strathe, has been posting at the couple’s Facebook site for their Squid Acres Kennel. On March 13 he wrote: “We sadly were informed today by ITC that our dear boy Dorado, who was dropped Monday for nothing more than a sore shoulder, was found deceased while in their care. Heavy winds and drifting snow were blamed. We are awaiting the results the official necropsy. Words can not describe our feelings on this and he will be greatly missed.”

Later, the necropsy did indeed confirm that the dog died of asphyxiation.

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ITC stands for the Iditarod Trail Committee. It’s a 501 C (3) organization supported by sponsors, members and volunteers.

It therefore remains unclear what individual(s) neglected to care for Dorado after Drobny left him at the checkpoint.

Given the past Iditarod dog deaths and injuries, it’s unlikely this matter will go to court.

Nome District Attorney John Earthman told USA Today that no decision has been made on whether to pursue charges.

“I believe I recognize their issue, which I believe is that somebody committed criminal negligence by leaving this dog out in the winter weather in western Alaska,” he said. “Whether someone can be successfully prosecuted for that, you know, I couldn’t tell you. That remains to be seen.”

Photo: Frank Kovalchek/Wikimedia Commons