Saturday, March 5th, is the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Race organizers describe it as a “race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer.” I describe as a way to exploit dogs and get them killed in the name of humanity’s obsession with sports.

Like all animal exploitation as entertainment, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has no place in modern society. Yet plenty of corporations are perfectly willing to line up and shell-out money to sponsor the thing.

One of these corporations is Target, which courts a hip, progressive demographic, while at the same time funding gay-bashing conservatives. And despite their canine mascot, Target sponsors something called the “Iditarod Teacher on the Trail” program. In doing so, they are also sponsoring the abuse and possible deaths of countless dogs.

Nearly every single Iditarod has resulted in dogs being killed during the race. Since it began in 1973, at least 142 dogs have been run to death or have died from other causes in the Iditarod. No one knows how many die after the race after having their health and immune systems seriously compromised by the grueling event.

And grueling it is: the race’s own website goes on and on about the ” jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra” the sled dogs face on the trail, along with “temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills …” No wonder a dead dog or two or six is just taken for granted as part of the race.

Sled dogs don’t just risk death during the race. Culling — a nicer term for killing — dogs is a fact of life (or death) in the dog sledding industry. As noted by PETA, sled dogs routinely face being killed “when they become ill, don’t run fast enough, or are simply unwanted.” For example, in 2005, it was revealed that the largest U.S. dogsled company, Krabloonik Kennel in Aspen, Colorado, “was shooting and killing as many as 35 dogs every year.” PETA quotes one Krabloonik employee defending the killings, saying, “This is part of the circle of life for the dog-sled dog.”

Need further proof? Just consider what happened at Vancouver-based company Outdoor Adventures Whistler. When their dog sledding business slowed, they responded by killing 100 of their dogs.

The Iditarod has faced budget shortfalls over the past few years, but corporate sponsors are helping keep the event in business. Target has branded itself as a dog-friendly company, and they shouldn’t be supporting something that’s so deadly for dogs. Take a stand for canines and ask Target to stop sponsoring the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Photo Credit: echoforsberg, Target dog at the Iditarod