ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — A 2-year-old dog injured while competing at the world’s most famous sled dog race has died, with the competition now drawing an onslaught of criticism regarding the welfare of the dogs forced to run.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is known for its harsh terrain, as well as the grueling pace the dogs must keep with to complete the nearly thousand mile journey across Alaska. On March 10, a young canine participant named “Smoke” was the victim of unfavorable conditions on board a plane between checkpoints. The dog was being transported in a wooden travel kennel on a plane after suffering a wrist injury that forced him to be dropped from the race. 74 other dropped dogs were travelling with him.
Aboard the flight from Galina to Anchorage, officials say the dog showed signs of overheating. By the time it landed, Smoke had died. The findings of a necropsy conducted indicate the dog likely died from hyperthermia, and the factors that led to the high temperature of the plane cabin are now being investigated.
Smoke’s death is forcing immediate changes to how the dropped dogs are transferred, with organizers vowing to avoid dressing the dogs in coats during flights, as well as monitoring cabin temperatures more carefully and increasing ventilation to ensure a safe passage for the animal athletes.
Smoke is the second dog to die in this year’s race, which began on March 6 and is expected to end later this week. To date, PETA reports at least 148 dogs have lost their lives in the Iditarod’s recorded history.