Defending Iditarod champ Lance Mackey is still in the lead. But as he nears the finish line in Nome, Iditarod opponents are criticizing the race as too hard on the dogs.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) opposes the race in its current form. They released a statement that reads in part,
The Iditarod forces the dogs to run too far and too fast in frequently grueling trail and weather conditions, and it exacts a severe, and sometimes fatal, toll on dogs’ physical and psychological systems.
The HSUS also points out that at least one sled dog dies each year during the Iditarod. Three dogs have died thus far during this year’s race.
While the race is billed as commemorating the use of sled dogs to bring lifesaving diptheria serum from Anchorage to the children of Nome in 1925, Iditarod co-founder Dorothy Page says half the run was done by train. The other half, according to Page, was done in relays, with no dog running over 100 miles.
Supporters counter that given the “extreme marathon” nature of the race, the injury and death rate is very low, and that the sled dogs are working dogs who are happiest when they’re active.