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Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has a new leader

We'll likely see continued leaderboard changes as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race makes its way from Anchorage to Nome. Currently, the musher holding the first position is Sebastian Schnuelle, who grabbed the lead by hitting the trail four minutes after arriving in Anvik Friday morning.

The Anchorage Daily News has been posting profiles of different mushers and their sled-dogs, including the one above of Skunk, one of the Schnuelle's teammates who "knows that she's kind of cute and gets away with a lot," the veteran musher from Whitehorse, Canada, says in the video.

Defending and four-time consecutive champion Lance Mackey is now competing with a reduced team of nine dogs, dropping seven of his 16-dog team thus far. Mackey is still in contention, and is currently listed in fifth place.

Meanwhile, Martin Buser, who has been making tremendous time between checkpoints thus far, has fallen back in the pack and is in seventh.

-- Kelly Burgess

Video credit: Anchorage Daily News


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Comments (11)

It is unacceptable for even one dog to suffer and die for entertainment. And that's exactly what the Iditarod is: a contest in which the cash prize and the truck and bragging rights are the goal.

Mushers brag as if they play a big part, but they ride and sleep while the dogs do all the grueling work. The Iditarod rules mandate that the dogs be provided 40 hours of sleep in TOTAl even thought the race takes two weeks.

Some dogs love to run, but no dog loves to run 1150 miles in a matter of days!

I too was sorry to hear that Lance had to drop Maple. She sounds like an awesome little dog and I'm sure it was tough for him to leave her behind. Hopefully she will rejoin his team for future races.

To those of you claiming cruelty - what is your personal experience with sled dogs? I have been involved in the sport for years and have met a wide variety of mushers (from recreational urban mushers right up to top Iditarod racers) and have been to their kennels and met their dogs. I worked for two years as a full-time handler at an Iditarod kennel. I cannot speak for every musher on the planet but for most of us, the reason we got into mushing was because we love dogs and we love being out on the trail with our dogs.

Mushing is not a sport you can make a lot of money at, seriously. Very few people are able to make a living running dogs, and you generally spend MUCH more money on your team than you could hope to make back. And I know plenty of mushers who gave up better-paying, much more glamorous jobs just because they would rather be on the dog trail.

In my time working and training, I have NEVER seen any dog, of any age, put down just because he or she did not make a team. Huskies do want to please their humans, but one of the more frustrating aspects of the breed (and one reason that pet huskies often end up in rescue) is that, even more, they want to please themselves. They are stubborn and strong-willed but we love them anyway. :)


The fact that any dogs die during this grueling event is bad enough, but those victims are only the tip of a very dirty iceburg and don't come close to including all the dogs that die during training, or within weeks after training and racing as a result of pulmonary hemorrhage, kidney failure, bleeding gastric ulcers, aspiration pneumonia, Rhabdomyolysis (muscle disintegration), and ulcerative, bloody colitis -
ALL of which are well-documented in the veterinary medical literature as occurring within days to weeks after training or racing.

And this does not include the pups and dogs that are purposely killed in the widespread practice called culling (killing those deemed athletically unworthy). The endurance racing puppies that are culled early and adult dogs that are killed as a result of poor performance, disabling injury or crippling arthritis should be included in the victim count as well in order to truthfully assess the entire scope of the abuse.

I understand that through overbreeding and active culling, there are some dogs who love to run for varing distances in some conditions, but once they are harnessed to a team and under the domination of the musher, there is a coerercive element that forces dogs, who naturally want to please, to critically over-extend themselves in these harsh race conditions.

We are not talking about racing to bring medicine to cure a diphtheria epidemic (purpose of original race).
This is for sport and entertainment, with prize and endorsement $ thrown in which always serves to enhance canine exploitation.
It is arrogant, irresponsible and dangerous to continue this way.

Paula Kislak, DVM

I hate these morons that scream animal cruelty. These dogs LOVE this. A lot of the time they don't even like to stop at checkpoints because they want to keep on racing. These people don't even know anything about this race. They see an animal on a harness and think....OH.....The HORROR. I love this race and am excited at each update. It will be amazing if Mackey can pull it out and win his fifth straight with a short team. I was upset he had to scratch Maple. We'll see what happens..GO LANCE!

People who want to do something that they have their minds set on have the ability to rationalize, and think they are fooling everyone else. They leave out important points of information where it serves their purpose. There is NO necessity to run dogs relentlessly through the snow for 1100 miles. Dogs are not only killed during the race, there are others that are intentionally killed beforehand because they don't "make the grade." Also, when they are not being run beyond endurance (and sometimes to death), they are kept on short chains. These brutal people are NOT fooling me. Participants in this atrocity are shamefully cruel and self-centered.

Lucy Shelton and a bunch of other peta's are spewing there lies all over the Internet. Her and Munn probably the same person make post then answer there own post with more vomit and lies. GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT SHELTON and MUNN also known as PETA.

Here is some true facts about PETA

Public Records: PETA Found Adoptive Homes for Just 1 out of 300 Animals


B. Young: The lady is hardly a nut. She got the facts right. You are either delusional or don't care about the welfare of the dogs. While these dogs enjoy pulling sleds, 1,100 is WAY too long of a haul and they're driven relentlessly in order for the musher to win that money. Money completely changes the character of the activity. There is no denying that the race is grueling and that many dogs are injured and die. You are in serious need of a reality check as well as a dose of compassion.

Dogs can be dropped for all kinds of reasons, they aren't always greviously injured or ill. Sometimes they just aren't fitting in with the team, are distracted, lose focus, etc. And many of those that don't finish are from teams where the musher scratches. No dogs died in the 2010 Iditarod and so far none have died this year. Zoya's dog (whom she brought back with mouth-to-mouth) is alive and well. I think the story of her and that dog is a great representation of the musher/dog bond.

Lady you're a nut. These dogs love the race and the mushers love and take great care of the dogs. Most of these men and women are great humanitarians who devote their lives to these dogs. If you don't like the race that's fine but don't be a whiner and complain just for the sake of complaining. Get the facts before you pretend to know something about the iditarod.

It would be great to see this cruel race end! The average death rate in this race is 3-4 dogs a year; the total known deaths is 142 so far. Only about half the dogs make it to the finish line, and these are the best-conditioned dogs in the world due to their training year-round. They are dropped due to injury, illness, or exhaustion. Zoya DeNure scratched from this year's race after one of her dogs collapsed while running.

The 1100-mile distance is too long, and the conditions and terrain too grueling for the dogs. There are laws in at least 38 states against over-driving and over-working animals, which is exactly what the Iditarod does. The Alaska cruelty statue that would apply to the sled dogs was changed in 2008 to exempt them.

Organizations including Animal Legal Defense Fund, In Defense of Animals, PETA, and Sled Dog Action Coalition want this race to end. People concerned about animals should boycott this cruel race and contact the sponsors to end their support of it.

What a great video of Sebastian Schnuelle and Skunk! You can tell that he has a really great relationship with his dogs (I've seen that before in other interviews with him, one of which was filmed in his house where his dogs were curled up all over the furniture!).

The other dog profile videos are great too! I had the pleasure of meeting Zoya DeNure's leader, Sebe, several years ago when Zoya took me on a training run, and I have met some of Ed and Tasha Stielstra's dogs as well.

It would be great to see Sebastian win the Iditarod this year but then again, the race is far from over. It remains to be seen whether Lance or Martin or any of the others will move back to the lead.



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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.