A Note to Petition Supporters:
The following is a copy of an open letter to the Premier of the Yukon, Ranj Pillai that I plan to submit to the Yukon News and the Whitehorse Star for publication in the hope that it will be accepted without bias. Either way I will continue to speak for the voiceless because people need to know the truth about what happens to animals forced to endure events like the Yukon Quest. – PJ Yukon, Author of this petition, Whitehorse Yukon. This letter is also featured in the petition update located at: https://rb.gy/udc5bk
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------*This is my original unedited document as published on January 31 2024
An Open Letter to Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai
Dear Premier Ranj Pillai, as a life-long Yukoner I am writing to ask you and the Yukon Government to cease funding the Yukon Quest sled dog race and to request your response to 150,000 people who have signed a petition to oppose it. The number of signers is actually higher however a prior petition signed by several thousand was hacked.
As you may be aware you are named decision maker in the petition titled: “Stop Sled Dogs From Being Run To Death & Maimed For Life In Deadly 1,000-Mile Yukon Quest” that asks you and the Yukon Government to stop supporting and promoting the Yukon Quest because it is an inhumane event that fosters the exploitation, abuse, and deaths of sled dogs and causes them to be warehoused in large dog yards where they are often tethered twenty‐four hours a day.
The Quest Has a High Mortality Rate: Funded by the Yukon Government, the Yukon Quest is known to have a high mortality rate yet the Quest provides little or no legitimate public record of dog deaths despite the fact that various media have reported that as many as forty dogs have died during the race. When you consider that many deaths may not have been reported that number is likely higher. When the Quest began in 1984 dog deaths were seldom reported - apart from the odd media headline braying, “Grisly Dog Death Due to Blown Intestines” in 2013.
The Death of Boppy: The death of Boppy the Sled Dog, who died during the race when he choked to death on his own vomit in minus -55 degree temperatures near Dawson City in 2018, was mentioned at some point by the Quest, however the official necropsy report stating that Boppy was in extremely poor condition before the race even started, yet race vets had allowed him to race, was so disturbing the Quest later deleted it from their website. I have a copy of that document.
In 2007 Four Dogs Perished in One Race during the Yukon Quest. In 2017 FIVE Dogs Died in One Race during the Iditarod. The same mushers often compete in both races.
The aspiration of stomach contents is a common cause of death in both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod where dogs are simply run to death trying to please their master. They also suffer frostbite and freeze their lungs.
A Comment on the Petition by a Veterinarian States: “I understand that these dogs are high energy and love to run but this race is too extreme. This race exceeds all safety limits and dogs suffer and die because of it. We cannot exploit them for our sport or our entertainment.”
Hundreds of Dogs Have Died: Former employees of the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod have witnessed the ongoing abuse of sled dogs and have exposed unreported dog deaths and mushers that compete in both races who have a history of animal abuse and dog drugging. The reports include videos, photographs, recorded audio, and first-person accounts of former dog handlers and kennel staff. Together the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod have killed hundreds of dogs.
Many Don’t Make it to the Start Line: It’s legal to kill a sled dog in the Yukon. They are considered property. Their owners can beat them, abuse them, and shoot them without fear of penalty. Culling is common. The Musher’s Sled Dog Code of Practice conveniently features a diagram detailing how to shoot a sled dog when no longer required – right between the eyes.
Many Don't Make it Across the Finish Line: The dog’s feet become wore out from the vast distances that they cover. They also pull muscles, incur stress fractures, are afflicted with diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses, pneumonia, or bleeding stomach ulcers. It’s never clear what actually happens to the dogs who are dumped at the check points.
The Body Language of a Dog in Distress: I have seen dogs collapsed across the finish line, dogs with blood down their chest, dogs rolling on their backs and gouging their necks into the snow in agony, half-mad from harness burn; males with tails tucked tightly from frostbite to their genitals, dogs with open wounds from boot burn, dogs tearing at boots that are on too tight, dogs with no boots at all, paws cut by sharp ice.
I have also seen exhausted dogs at the finish line with wilted ears and frozen urine stuck to their coats from being denied a pit stop while race attendants toss meat chunks on the ground to distract them and attempt to block onlookers. Does this sound like good family fun? I have photos. They’re not pretty.
What’s It Like for the Dogs? Race dogs are often treated like disposable objects; yanked up by the neck by handlers, thrown into trucks, and left shackled in bare feet in 45 below at the start line. When the race is over there is nothing to protect them from being culled or chained outdoors in extreme sub-zero temperatures or otherwise neglected in overcrowded kennels.
Mushers often refer to their dogs as ‘Alaskan Huskies’ which means they are not breed-specific but rather mixed-breed mutts. In other words house dogs. These dogs are not athletes they are sentient beings who do not belong in sports events.
I Have Been to the Kennels: I have smelled the stench and seen the deplorable conditions under which race dogs are forced to live. It’s heartbreaking. Unable to even socialize with their own kind, chained dogs bark and howl sorrowfully, every one of them desperate for a little attention. Clearly the guy who brags he has 70 dogs out in his dog yard doesn’t have them all sitting on his couch in his living room when it’s 45 below.
Lack of Accountability: What happens to the dogs who are dropped at the check points? Why are dog deaths not accounted for? Why do so many vet-certified animals die aspirating their own vomit? Are they being pushed too far in harsh conditions beyond their capabilities? Is it all about money, greed, and ego at the expense of the animals? Lots is hidden. Much is kept secret. It's a dirty business.
Sponsors Pull Out: Public sentiment no longer supports the use of animals for entertainment. Big companies like Jack Daniels, ExxonMobil and Alaska Airlines have cut ties with sled dog races due to public pressure.
There is a Big Difference Between Mushing and Racing: The 2024 Yukon Quest race has been temporarily shortened with a plan to lengthen it back to 1,000 miles however even a 450-mile race is grueling for the dogs, especially in certain areas where temps commonly drop to −60 °F and winds can reach 50 mph.
Running Sled Dogs to Death was Never a Tradition: My own mother ran dog team but she never raced them. She respected the animals. The only way to make this race safer for the dogs is to exclude them from the race.
The Death Toll Keeps Climbing: A repeat musher who has had a couple of wins under his belt has also had two dogs die during the race. Let’s hope another dog doesn’t have to die in his pursuit of yet another trophy shot. I don’t call people who run dogs to death champions.
Mr. Pillai, although the petition has been signed by hundreds of thousands worldwide, neither yourself nor the former premier have responded to people who have attempted to contact you regarding this issue. Perhaps you would prefer that we deliver thousands of pages containing the names and signatures, and comments of people who oppose this race to you in person?
Sled Dog Racing Needs to be Banned: If the Yukon Government continues to ignore those who oppose this race the Yukon stands to gain a reputation for supporting events that foster animal abuse.
I am open to discuss the reallocation of Yukon Quest funds to support the rescue and rehabilitation of animals in need and the creation of more effective laws and surveillance to enforce them in the Yukon.
Our nonhuman brothers deserve better. Let’s make the Yukon a more humane destination and show the world we care.
Sincerely, PJ Yukon (formerly Johnson)
The petition can be viewed at: rb.gy/t60rnm
@PJ_Yukon on Twitter (X) https://twitter.com/PJ_Yukon