Letter to the Editor

Beyond time to champion the dogs This letter is in response to Wednesday’s Surgery Hasn’t Severed Turner’s Quest Plans, about…

Beyond time to

champion the dogs

This letter is in response to Wednesday’s Surgery Hasn’t Severed Turner’s Quest Plans, about Yukon Quest musher/sled dog tour operator Frank Turner.

Turner, stated in the story that he “welcomed criticism” — a refreshing change from the attitude of the Yukon Quest organization, which is obviously averse to responding to criticism because it does not have anything of substance to offer in defense of the barbaric event, nor does it wish to inspire more public criticism should it publicly defend the race.

The fact that it gets more than $200,000 per year of Yukoners’ public money apparently does not make it any more willing to be accountable.

Speaking with reporter Genesee Keevil about criticism of sled dog racing, Turner cited mushers “using whips.”

Turner, don’t you remember that just before the 2007 Quest race you brought up the issue of mushers culling dogs, and made a statement that “the Quest should admit that culling (of unwanted dogs and puppies) is part of the competitive racing world and take measures to discourage it?”

Furthermore, you suggested that prospective Quest racers disclose on the entry form that “to participate in the Quest you declare that you do not practice culling of dogs.”

I believe you were courageously pro-active in getting this story out to CBC Yukon Radio, as CBC is usually, like most Yukon media sources, a big cheerleader for the race.

Obviously, you were so ostracized by the sled-dog racing community after making those statements that you have abandoned speaking up about that worthy cause.

Incidentally, 2007 Quest race marshal Mike McCowan’s reported response to your plea was that the dog culling policies of Quest mushers were “not [the Quest organization’s] business.”

By looking at your website, you are apparently not ashamed to show pictures of the numerous chained dogs (you have 120 dogs and are breeding more), including retired Quest dogs, and one of your handlers made a comment in the article about a mysterious lady, who “was big into animal rights” changing her tune after spending a night at your bed and breakfast.

Keevil trotted out other such fluffy anecdotes in her previous article this summer, about a fellow Quest musher/dog tour operator.

The vital statistic was that “more than 95 per cent of the people who are not OK with (sled dog sports) are OK with it after they try it.”

I will tell you right now, Turner, that a hardcore animal rights person would never visit your operation unless he or she was conducting an investigation of it.

Also, such people would vehemently disagree with your right to breed animals, to make money off them pulling tourists around winter and summer, to subject them to races like the Quest and to force them to spend a lot of their time chained up next to their cheap plywood dog houses.

This is all OK (not illegal) because in the Yukon there is no legislation specifically protecting sled dogs.

Our society is wildly supportive of the Quest and the Yukon tourism industry promotes sled dog tours as a prime tourism activity.

One thing in particular that I noticed stood out on your website, Turner, was that I noticed that in November of 2002, you were involved in the rescue of 32 neglected sled dogs.

You obviously knew the identity of the particular musher who owned these dogs, because on the site you provide detailed information about their bloodlines (many of the dogs originated from the late Iditarod musher Susan Butcher’s breeding program).

Where exactly was this dog yard located, Turner?

If it was in the Yukon, was the closest Humane Society notified or involved?

Was this reported to Yukon media sources?

As a media junkie, I do not usually miss seeing or hearing about such stories.

It otherwise appears, Turner, that you took it upon yourself to rescue these dogs “on the QT” in order to protect the reputation of the dog mushing community. (Nevertheless, thank you for rescuing the dogs.)

I am also surprised at you coming out of retirement to run the Quest.

You did so last year and are planning on running again in 2008.

One of the motivators may have been the fact that the Quest was given a $50,000 US purse injection by the Territorial government, apparently in response to Yukon-based Quest mushers whining over the years about the perceived paltry prize money.

Many of these mushers had threatened to abandon the Quest and run the Iditarod instead.

This year, Keevil reported that you had “fought back tears” because “there were just too many injuries” due to the Quest trail conditions (“like running on pavement” for the dogs — Yukon News, February 19).

Keevil also wrote on the same day about some dogs freezing their penises in minus 57 degree weather.

How does a dog get over such a terrible injury?

How can you as a self-professed dog lover continue to participate in, and serve as an apologist for, this race that has killed many dogs over the years, and, every year, subjects them to such indignities?

Terry Cumming, SledDogWATCHDOG.com

Whitehorse