The world’s most famous sled dog race will be without one of its most lucrative sponsors going forward after Wells Fargo announced this week it is severing ties with the Iditarod.
“Wells Fargo regularly reviews where we allocate our marketing resources to build and enhance relationships with customers and the broader community,” Wells Fargo spokesman David Kennedy told the Associated Press this week. “As part of this process, we have decided not to sponsor the Iditarod in 2018.”
Iditarod organizers, however, allege there’s another reason the financial institution decided to end its sponsorship — PETA and the “manipulative information” the animal rights group has spread about the sport of mushing.
“These misguided activists are implying that the Iditarod condones and engages in cruelty to sled dogs that participate in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race,” Iditarod Chief Executive Stan Hooley told the AP. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We honor the sled dogs who participate in the Iditarod. We take every step to ensure our canine athletes are provided the very best care possible on the trail, and always treated with respect.”
Kennedy’s response came after PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, declared victory in a blog post on its website.
“PETA and people all over the world who care about dogs commend the compassionate decision made by [Wells Fargo] but recognize that there is still work to be done,” PETA’s Danny Prater wrote.
The post added PETA would now concentrate on lobbying Coca-Cola to pull its Iditarod sponsorship next.
“Until the Iditarod is canceled entirely or switches to using only willing, human cyclists, cross-country skiers, or snowmobilers, you can make a difference for the dogs who suffer on the trail,” Prater added.
As PETA has done in the past with the circus, horse-racing and other events that require animals to perform, the group has used strong, emotional language when addressing animal rights issues.
In the case of the Iditarod, PETA declared that mushers view their dogs “as little more than snowmobiles with fur,” who “are lucky if they finish the race alive and without serious injury.” PETA claims 151 dogs have died since the Iditarod began in 1973 and that the “death toll continues to climb.”
Iditarod organizers, however, doubt that total, citing a lack of official records.
“There are no records of dog deaths during the early years of the race, so we can’t provide you with an accurate number,” race spokesman Chas St. George told the AP. “I don’t know how PETA can factually make that claim.”
What is not in doubt are the four dogs who died in the 2017 Iditarod, which took place in March. It was the deadliest race on paper since the 2009 iteration, which claimed six canine lives, according to the Alaska Dispatch.
The paper added there were no dog deaths from 2010 to 2012, and that on average, usually only one dog perished during the race.
While the cause of death isn’t known for every dog, Iditarod officials determined the cause of death for two of the canine athletes was due to lung problems, including extensive pulmonary edema and acute aspiration pneumonia.