Spending two weeks at 10 below zero chasing a pack of Huskies through the Alaskan wilderness is not my idea of a good time. I assume, however, that the mushers enjoy this exercise in masochism. But from a sled dog's point of view, is a 1,000 mile race in the arctic snow a form of animal cruelty or is it just plain fun?
I don't know the answer to that question, but it is useful to put the dangers of the Iditarod into perspective. Between 2007 and 2013, exactly one dog died during the Iditarod -- a sled dog named Dorado, who was asphyxiated after being covered by blowing snow. While Dorado's death was tragic, the scale of canine deaths associated with sled racing pales in comparison to the carnage caused by another form of animal competition – thoroughbred horse-racing.
The statistics are shocking. Between 2009 and 2012, 2,300 horses died at state-regulated race tracks in the United States. And, on average, 24 horses die each week on American race tracks. That's nearly four deaths per day associated with horseracing, compared to one death in seven years for the Iditarod. (See here for more on the tragedies of horse-racing.)