On Tuesday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) urged Alaska prosecutors through a letter to the District Attorney's Office in Anchorage, to file animal cruelty charges against those responsible for the death of Dorado, a five-year-old racing sled dog in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race last week in the town of Unalakleet.
"It's a horrifying death, and we feel it was totally preventable."
The 55-pound dog had been left with approximately 135 other dogs who had been scratched from the race for health or related physical issues. Dorado's owner, Paige Drobny, of the Squid Acres mushers stated Dorado was dropped from racing on Mar. 11 because he was acting stiff, but had no other physical problems.
After Drobny left Dorado at the facility which was 260 miles from the finish line, the team continued on with the race. Cody Strathe, Drobny's husband stated:
“We thought that our dog was being cared for,” Strathe, who is also a musher, told the Anchorage Daily News. “That's the race organization's responsibility. We, as mushers, trusted them.”
Most of the dogs at the Unalakleet facility spent the night in airport buildings, but 35 other dogs, including Dorado were taken to the rear of the building where veterinarians and volunteers thought the dogs would be safe from the cold temperatures and the wind. That night the temperature dipped to 15 below zero with winds cresting at 45 mph.
Dorado was checked on at 3 a.m. and was fine. Five hours later, his lifeless body was discovered.
There have been no decisions as to whether Alaska officials will file animal cruelty charges. According to the LA Times, Alaska animal cruelty laws exempt dog-mushing competitions, and Nome District Attorney John Earthman would have to prove criminal charges for negligence. An accident is not a crime, and if the D.A. were to pursue criminal neglect, the State would have to prove there was a gross deviation from what a reasonable caretaker would do. In Alaska, sled dogs are routinely tethered with short leases to small dog houses and are accustomed to being outdoors during the extreme temperatures.
The Iditarod has been criticized by humane organizations for many years. The grueling 1.049 mile trip from Anchorage to Nome celebrates the role sled dogs played in the settlement of Alaska.
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