PETA Seeking Charges In Iditarod Dog Death; Dorado’s Death Preventable Says Animal Rights Activists

By iScienceTimes Staff on March 20, 2013 11:29 AM EDT

PETA Seeks Charges IN Dogsled Death
PETA wants to see official charges filed in the asphyxiation death of a sled dog. (Photo: Creative Commons)

PETA is seeking criminal charges against the owners of a sled dog that died of asphyxiation during the Iditarod, a 1,000-mile dogsled race across Alaska. PETA is putting pressure on prosecutors in Alaska to charge Iditarod rookie Paige Drobny with animal cruelty crimes after she left one of her sled dogs, 5-year-old Dorado, in a lot set up to care for dogs left behind because of illness, injury, or tiredness. Dorado was removed from the race March 11 because he was moving stiffly, according to a blog posted on the website for the Squid Acres Kennel run by Drobny and her husband, Cody Strathe. Iditarod officials have said Dorado was otherwise healthy.

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"Once again, we've seen that when mushers chase prize money, it's the dogs who pay the price-in Dorado's case, with his life," Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch wrote in a letter to Alaskan prosecutors. "Dorado's death was as horrific as it was preventable, and PETA is calling on the district attorney's office to hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable

Dorado was discovered dead on the morning of March 18, five hours after officials checked on him. PETA is seeking charges because Dorado was kept outdoors in a pen behind a warehouse that was sheltering other dogs. A snow drift piled on top of Dorado and caused his death by asphyxiation. Strathe told the AP that both he and his wife put their trust in Iditarod officials, and had previously lobbied for changes that include boosting the number of helpers at checkpoints to check on dogs more often, providing adequate shelter and increasing the number of flights to get the dogs out more quickly.

"We thought that our dog was being cared for," he said. "That's the race organization's responsibility. We, as mushers, trusted them."

Stuart Nelson, the Iditarod's head veterinarian, told the Anchorage Daily News that Dorado's death was a freak accident, noting that weather conditions rarely affect the health and temperament of sled dogs.

"Dogs that are in the coastal areas, they live like that all the time. This dog probably wasn't used to being in those kind of conditions," Nelson said. "It would be very unusual that a dog wouldn't be able to just curl up, let the snow blow over, and weather the storm just fine. You look at Iditarod history, teams have been caught out there in storms, and that's what happens. For some reason, it didn't work for this dog. Maybe being from the Interior, (it was) not used to high winds."

Nome District Attorney John Earthman told the AP that no decision has been made on whether to pursue charges as PETA wants.

"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."

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