Sled dog letter wrong

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, October 18, 2004

Margery Glickman, "founder" of a shell organization referred to as the Sled Dog Action Coalition, is continuing her venomous and misguided attacks against the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (Empire letters to the editor, Oct. 10).

As veterinarians, we have dedicated a substantial amount of time, often on a voluntary basis, and resources to the well-being of sled dogs. The Iditarod Trail Committee has been very proactive in promoting a number of studies, all of which have been very closely monitored to ensure the safety of the canine participants. In response to her assaults, these are the facts:

1. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race does not pretend to reenact the diptheria antiserum run of 1925. Obviously, there are significant comparisons between the two, including the use of sled dogs along portions of a common historical trail. There is no way to separate these facts.

2. The number of dropped dogs averages 36.5 percent, not 53 percent, as stated by Glickman. Reasons for dropping dogs are numerous, including musher strategy, being "in heat" or just plain tired. The illnesses and injuries that do occur are typically mild, with short recovery times.

3. The death rate for Iditarod canine participants is low. Necropsy findings have prompted specific research studies and changes in protocols, when applicable, in an effort to prevent future deaths. Statistically speaking, for an equivalent number of hours of engagement in physical activity, the death rate for Iditarod dogs is less than half of that for humans participating in cross country skiing, and only slightly higher than for joggers.

4. Glickman's characterization of the findings reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine article is inaccurate and misleading. Eighty-one percent of the dogs subjectively had more mucus in their airways than dogs maintained in a sterile controlled laboratory environment. Many pulmonary researchers believe that this is actually a protective adaptation.

5. Yes, the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine article reported that 48 percent of the dogs had endoscopically detectable gastric mucosal defects. However, only a small minority of the dogs demonstrated gastric abnormalities that would correspond with severity that causes discomfort in humans.

Stuart Nelson Jr.

Chief Veterinarian

Iditarod Trail Committee

and Michael S. Davis

Associate Professor

College of Veterinary Medicine Oklahoma State University

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