This weekend, hundreds of dogs will embark upon the "Last Great Race on Earth," during which they will cover 1,100 miles of frozen tundra across Alaska. Although the race is in its 40th year, animal rights activists are still arguing that the Iditarod Sled Dog Race is too extreme and is more an exercise in animal cruelty than it is a celebration of the dogs' athleticism, Mother Nature Network
This is not the first year these types of concerns have been raised. Those looking to help animals
involved in the sport point out that 142 dogs have died as a result of the races since 1973, with 20 dying since 2005. One organization, the Sled Dog Action Coalition, points out that abuse of the racing dogs is also common.GlobalAnimal.org
reports that most of the dogs are bred soley for racing, so those that are not excellent runners are often killed off.
Still, supporters of the legendary race point out that dogs love racing, and a number of measures have been put in place to keep them safe and healthy along the way. Participants are microchipped and drug tested, and given health screenings and mid-race checkups, according to Mother Nature Network.