Team Ineka

Sled Dogs vs. New Rules

Sled Dogs vs. New Rules

I have been a dog musher for a long time, over 15 years with a few breaks in between. I have also been the owner of a dog boarding facility/kennel and training center in Minnesota and Colorado. I have been licensed by the State of Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Pet Care Facilities Act which is the governing procedures for kennels, both commercial boarding kennels, and dog sledding (touring or hobby) kennels. I understand their rules and their reasoning for enacting new ones but the proposed rule changes for this upcoming year, namely for the owners sled dog kennels requiring sixty minutes of exercise off the tie-out chain were not well thought out.

You can read more about the new rules here in a NBC11News story

The problem here is sled dogs are not your family pet. They are some the healthiest, most conditioned athletes in the world and when a governing body imposes rules and regulations on something that they know very little about that is when someone like me needs to say something about.

Yes it is true that over 100 sled dogs were confiscated in Park County, Colorado in December of 2009 and I am saddened of the deplorable conditions and lack of care of these dogs and I feel that the owner(s) should be held 100 percent responsible for his/her actions to the fullest extend of the law. But, many of the State’s investigators have no idea what a sled dog is and what makes them different from the typical family, Siberian Husky (or other breed, for that matter).

Most sled dogs are cared for better than the musher cares for himself. Many of these dogs eat the most expensive kibble or hand prepared diets and receive countless hours exercising (ie. running in harness/pulling the sled). When the Department of Agriculture steps in and proposes changes they should at least educate themselves on the daily activities of a sled dog kennel. These investigators should learn what the difference is between a tie-out and a kennel set-up, how these dogs are fed and watered, how much exercise they are given, what relationship the musher has to his dogs, and so on.

Just like in all areas of life, one bad apple tends to spoil the whole bunch and the others, the majority in most cases, are left dealing with the rules imposed because of someone  else’s stupidity.

Just for an example, many years ago I knew of a musher who’s kennel was visited by animal control, acting on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, early one afternoon and the musher was given a ticket for many counts of animal abuse because there was no food for the sled dogs in the kennels. The animal control officer did not know anything about sled dog feeding schedules or routines and did not care to learn or even ask the musher.

If they would have bothered asking they would have been told that most sled dogs are fed once a day a diet that sometimes is in the thousands of calories during racing season and very little if any “extra” food is left over after the dogs gorge themselves on the highly palatable food ration. Again, these are not your family pet that grazes on a bowl of food left in the kitchen for it all day.

So before new rules or procedures are imposed maybe the Department should educate themselves first.

I would love to hear your opinion on this. Please comment below or send an email to


Dr. Robert Forto is the dog sledding examiner, a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the Mush! You Huskies radio show.

One Comment

  1. andres thalasinos

    May 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Most mushers know the vet’s phone number by heart (if not on speed dial) ut not their own primary care physician.

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