During the cruel and grueling Iditarod race held in Alaska every March, sled dogs are forced to run 1,100 miles in about 10 days. Since the first race in 1973, more than 140 dogs have died along the course. At least one dog has died in most of the races.
Tragically, this year is no different. But instead of dying from the usual awful causes like being strangled in towlines or internal hemorrhaging after being gouged by a sled, a 3-year-old dog named Nash was killed early this morning by someone on a snowmobile who intentionally drove into two sleds in the race. Several dogs were injured.
“Someone tried to kill me with a snowmachine,” musher Aliy Zirkle told a race judge.
“Zirkle had her dog sled hit on the side by a snow machine and the snow machine turned around multiple times and came back at her before driving off,” according to an Alaska State Troopers dispatch. One of her dogs was bruised.
“Another musher, Jeff King, was hit from behind by what appears to be the same snow machine,” the dispatch reports. “One of of his dogs was killed in the incident and five of his dogs were injured.”
This afternoon, 26-year-old Arnold Demoski of Nulato, Ak., was arrested and charged with assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and criminal mischief. He may face additional charges, including driving under the influence.
“I don’t care if people know if I was drinking and driving,” he told the Alaska Dispatch News. “I’m really glad (Zirkle) and (King) are OK and I really feel sorry for Nash. … They say I continuously attacked them, but I turned around because I was concerned.”
The village of Nulato is holding a fundraiser tonight to raise money for Zirkle and King’s kennels.
This was at least the second time in the race’s 43-year history that a dog has been killed by a snowmobile. In 2008, one dog was killed and another injured when a snowmobile struck the team late at night.
Earlier this week, 13 dogs broke loose from their sled and ran away, probably fed up with being forced to race. They were later found — fortunately unhurt — and had to continue the race.
As I wrote for Care2.com, it’s time to end the Iditarod, or as some animal welfare advocates refer to it, the “Ihurtadog.” The Iditarod is supposed to celebrate Alaskan history and culture — not animal cruelty. A humane alternative needs to replace this race.
Rest in peace, Nash.
Photo via Twitter