- Get in touch with animal welfare organizations such as Humane Society International – Canada, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and The Humane Society of the United States, to learn more about sled dog operations.
- Speak Up!
- Education and spreading the word are key to change.
- Spread the word and start the conversation by talking to family, friends, and co-workers about the sled dog industry.
- Use social media. Get involved in the conversation. Tweet using #SledDogsFilm and follow Sled Dogs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Consider adopting a sled dog as they make wonderful pets and need homes.
MYTHS vs. FACTS – There are several myths and false statements made about sled dogs that much of the public and some mushers accept as fact. In order to help the dogs, it is important to separate the facts from fiction as much as possible.
- MYTH – Sled Dogs are working dogs and therefore are different than pet dogs and can be treated differently.
- FACT – Dogs have essentially unchanged DNA and genomes, going back to close to half a million years ago. Sled dogs have the same basic needs as any other dog. Those who claim otherwise do not have scientific basis for such a claim.
- MYTH – Tethering is a way of keeping sled dogs safe.
- FACT – Dogs are naturally social beings who need interaction with humans and/or other animals. Intensive confinement or long-term restraint can severely damage their physical and psychological well-being. When they are chained, dogs never get a chance to play with other dogs or explore their environment which is part of their natural instinct. A dog always seeks out the company of their family and will never choose to be alone. Dogs need to have the freedom to explore their environment and freely play with other dogs. An otherwise friendly and docile dog, when kept continuously chained or intensively confined in any way, becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious and often aggressive. Dogs do not naturally eliminate, eat and sleep in the same area as they are forced to do when chained. This practice makes the chained dog, highly anxious. It is common for continuously tethered dogs to endure physical ailments as a result of being continuously tethered. Their necks can become raw and sore, and their collars can painfully grow into their skin. Tethered dogs may also suffer from irregular feedings, overturned water bowls, inadequate veterinary care and extreme temperatures. During snow storms, their shelters may not be enough to keep them warm. During periods of extreme heat, they may not receive adequate water or protection from the sun. Owners who chain their dogs are less likely to clean the area of confinement, causing the dogs to eat and sleep in an area contaminated with urine and feces. What’s more, because their often neurotic behavior makes them difficult to approach, chained dogs are rarely given even minimal affection. Tethered dogs may become “part of the scenery” and can be easily ignored by their owners.
- MYTH – Sled dogs are not pets, they are working dogs.
- FACT – Working dogs have the same needs as any other dogs. This is a title that humans have given some breeds over others, but the needs of all dogs remain the same. Dogs are social animals and need to express their natural communal behavior that has been developed over thousands of years. Many sled dogs are deprived of the physical and psychological needs that are necessary for healthy, well-adjusted dogs. The vast majority of working dogs, such as service dogs for the blind, ‘search and rescue’ dogs or police dogs still live within a family setting and are treated as a pet once the dogs are off duty.
- MYTH – Sled Dogs cannot be trained to live as a family pet once they retire.
- FACT – It may take time for a sled dog to adjust to life off a chain and living with a family. Once they do adjust, they make wonderful companions just like any other dog. Sled dogs are generally friendly, loving and energetic. Even dogs that have been deprived of proper care can blossom once placed with a family.
- MYTH – Sled Dogs are canine “athletes”.
- FACT – This is a label that humans give sled dogs. The fact that these dogs enjoy running and are a more hardy dog, able to withstand cold better than short hair breeds, does not make them any more athletic than any other breed of dog that enjoys running such as Greyhounds, Jack Russell Terriers, Dobermans, Dalmatians and Border Collies. These breeds all love to run, but stop when they are tired. Sled dogs are forced to run and are not given the option of rest. There is strong evidence of physical harm to dogs that are forced to run, yet many mushers and others still cling to a false narrative of elite athleticism.
- MYTH – Sled dogs love what they do, they love to pull a sled.
- FACT – Sled dogs often spend the majority of their lives chained to a spoke in the ground on a field with hundreds of other chained dogs. Many dogs do enjoy racing or pulling a sled, especially when it is the only option to get off a chain, but the sliver of time they spend sledding, does not compensate for the majority of the time where the dogs basic needs are not being met.
- MYTH – Sled Dogs need to rest during their off season and it is acceptable for the dogs to remain permanently on chains for 6 to 7 months during the off season.
- FACT – Dogs need stimulation and daily exercise in which they are often deprived of during the off season. Some of the sled dogs are never exercised during the off season and are forced to remain on their chain for months at a time. This leads to boredom, frustration and depression. No species will survive without severe physical and psychological damage when it spends its life at the end of a chain. These dogs become commodities not living, breathing sentient beings.
- MYTH – Shooting a dog is humane as long as it is done properly.
- FACT – Shooting a dog is never humane unless under the most severe and unusual circumstances. Even then, dogs may become fearful and panicky, may not be killed instantly and will suffer while dying. Since dogs are considered “property” in North America, it is legal to shoot a dog. Most animal owners love their dogs and would never consider shooting a beloved member of their family. Responsible dog owners will always choose a peaceful death provided by a licensed veterinarian.
- MYTH – Sled Dogs are meant to live outside; they are more content and happier as outdoor animals.
- FACT — Much like their wolf ancestors, dogs are very social. Dogs are pack animals that thrive on companionship, with other dogs as well as humans. Dogs consider humans a part of their pack. Dogs that are kept outside are exposed to extremes of weather. The extreme cold of winter, the heat of summer, storms, wind, and rain can lead to sickness and death.
“To my mind, I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” – Mahatma Gandhi