The August Foundation for Alaska’s Racing Dogs, an organization dedicated to finding homes for retired Alaska huskies, is calling on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to do more to ensure the event’s true athletes get a chance to enjoy life after competition.
The request comes at a time when the state’s trademarked “Last Great Race” is in discussions with mushers about how to improve sled-dog care beyond the two weeks it takes to traverse 1,000 miles of northern wilderness.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,200 dogs participate in the race every year. Hundreds more train for the event, but don’t make it to the start line for various reasons. How many are retired each year is unknown.
Though sled dogs live well into their teens, most Iditarod dogs have athletic careers that last for only four to six years. As a result, they are destined to live most of their lives away from competition – if they live.
When an Iditarod dog’s racing days are over, the August Fund said in a media release, “a majority of mushers do right by their dogs by welcoming them into their homes” or placing the dogs with family, friends, fans or organizations that help the dogs find retirement homes.
But that is not always the case.
“Others drop them on already over-burdened local shelters, or worse dispatch them with a bullet or blow to the head,” the release said.