Family picks up sled dog racing as a hobby – fails on understanding dogs

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When families look for a new hobby, it typically means they pick up boating or bike riding or hiking or golf or camping or something along these lines. It is not the case for one Wisconsin family, who decided to dip into sled dog racing.

One particular quote in the Washington Times article deserves a Wacky Statement of the Week Award. The dad in the story says – “These dogs live to race, and they’re like part of our family.” BUT, it is immediately noted that he went on to add that he believes canines should live outside. So does he force any of his human family members to live outside?

Dogs suffer and die in sled dog racing and the dogs are typically forced to live outside – tied to a tiny wooden dog house on a short tether. It’s not a hobby. It’s a cruel activity.


PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

Sled Dog Racing: A new level of misinformation out of the Idiot-rod

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No, that is not a spelling error. I call the Iditarod race – the Idiot-rod. I do this to bring more attention to the plight of the dogs.

But what I read this morning, in an article about the event, took stunning to a whole new level. The piece ran on the Daily Barometer website, out of Oregon. It ran under the unfortunate headline – “Science behind the Last Great Race on Earth.”

I realize this phrase is what the race organizers use to promote the race. But in reality, there is nothing great about putting the lives of dogs at risk to win a prize. It’s not right or moral in greyhound racing and it’s not right or moral in sled dog racing.

And then placing the word “science” in the headline is inappropriate, without noting that applying science would mean the event would be banned forever.

But it gets worse. The writer goes from this:

Temperatures are lower than zero degrees, winds can hinder any visibility and the dangers of traveling through long hours of darkness are constant.

To this:

The dogs are happy in the colder temperature because they are so well insulated. The cool helps them not to get overheated. If the temperature rises to 15 degrees, like it has this year, it is tough on the dogs, according to Craig.

Craig is Morrie Craig, a professor of toxicology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University – and author of the book – “The Care of the Racing Greyhound: A Guide for the Trainers, Breeders and Veterinarians.”

What Craig, who is there to drug test the dogs, should be doing is speaking out for the full ban of dog racing – greyhound and sled dog. But getting back to the quote above, I find it hard to believe that someone would suggest that dogs would be better off with temperatures below 15 degrees.

And put this quote together with the one above it, and we have a wide conflict in terms. And does Craig know these dogs typically live much of their lives tethered on a short chain to small dog house? Never – ever – should dogs be forced to live this way – period!

The article reports he is testing for 300 types of drugs. This fact alone doesn’t say much for the past history of this event. Is it so bad that a full 300 drugs are on the list he’s looking for?

And at one point, Craig is quoted as saying:

“One simply cannot ask me how many teams we have caught. Every major sporting event as long as it’s been around has always tested for drugs. We leave it private as to how many we catch and the penalties because this is a non-profit group of racers, and we aim to maintain the integrity of the race.”

Whaaat??? So it maintains the integrity of the race to keep it a secret how many teams are cheating and putting the health of their dogs at risk? And where in the hell does Craig get the notion that every major sporting event has always tested for drugs, going back to the beginning of any major sport?

I think, as a journalist, I would have asked him to provide proof of his statement.

And then it reported that the temperature could drop to 30-below zero. Where is the concern for the dogs in this temperature?

I am stunned by reading so many troubling paragraphs within one article. I realize some publications wrongfully promote the Idiot-rod as a sport, but we have to make sure articles have some basis in facts. If I wrote an article about baseball spring training, it would be inappropriate for me to blindly quote a manager as saying crack cocaine is good for young players. I would need to offer a counter to a wildly false statement such as that.

Journalists should be held to the same standard in reporting on dog racing.


PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

Some thoughts about the media and dog racing

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Every time I read a news story reporting on greyhound racing or dog sled racing in a positive light, in what is typically a legitimate news outlet, it screams of poor journalism.

And for sports news outlets to report dog race results – the way the national media reports on the IdiocyRod, for example – ranks as a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 on the journalism scale. Even if for just a moment, we put aside the cruelty involved in these industries, it ranks with reporting the results of a street-corner dice game in the ‘Sports’ section.

John Smith beat Howard Howey with role of seven in a back alley off Market Street – and won 10 bucks. More details at 11.

Report on more local sports. It is far better to report on the local recreation team that won its league tournament – or in the case of national media, do that too. Report more news about youth sports safety or on the U10 team that won a national tournament. Don’t waste space on crap; especially crap with a history of animal cruelty and death of animals on the race course.

But it also poor journalism to consistently ignore the primary issue within the subject matter you are reporting on. The major component within dog racing is the treatment and death of dogs. I’ve been a sports journalist too for 14 years. I would never want to cover a game without noting the primary news out of that game. Or I’d never want to write a feature about a particular sport or event or athlete, without mentioning the primary piece of information from that story.

I already hear the naysayers who don’t agree with me. They might be saying, ‘But wait, they are only reporting the results. They can’t mention the horrors of dog racing every time they cover a race.

But that’s the point. Why cover something in this way to begin with, knowing there are horrors behind the scenes? We don’t see dog-fight results in the paper for a reason. True, it’s illegal. But we also know it’s horrible.

Stop covering it and cover something else. Do this and maybe it could lead to dog racing going away for good.


PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic