Is Husky Sledding Cruel?

by Becky

March 3, 2021

Animal tourism has gained popularity throughout the world. People will travel miles from home to swim with dolphins, ride an elephant, among other things. And if your destination is Finnish Lapland, husky sledding is probably at the top of your list.

But if you’re a responsible traveler, you’re probably wondering if the adrenaline rush is worth it. Is it ethical?

Huskies are working dogs. They are genetically reared to be intelligent, athletic, resilient, fast runners who can withstand cold weather. This means that they’re genetically suited for sledding. However, unethical sledding companies can neglect their dogs or push them to their physical limits. This is cruel because it can lead to health problems or even death.

If you’re thinking of trying husky sledding, it’s crucial to arm yourself with the right information. Find out how the company you’re working with treats the animals.

Research and make an informed decision. In this article, we look at the ins and outs of husky sledding to help you make an informed decision. Let’s dive right in.

What is Husky Sledding?

Husky sledding isn’t a new sport. For thousands of years, residents in arctic and sub-arctic parts of the world have been using huskies as a means of transport.

Traditionally, huskies were used to transport people and goods to different places due to a lack of roads or because the areas were covered with snow. And on occasion, husky sled races were held as a fun pastime.

However, the activity became a sport years later. Today, husky sledding is primarily done as a tourist activity since motorized transport has eradicated the need to use huskies as a means of transportation.

Is Husky Sledding Ethical?

Husky sledding in snow

There are a lot of horror stories surrounding dog sledding races in the world. The most famous is the Iditarod race in Alaska. In the 1997 race alone, a total of 107 dogs died.

A story is also told about dog sledding outfitters in Whistler who put down 56 of their dogs after the Winter Olympics because they could not afford to feed them due to reduced bookings.

Such stories can make you question the ethical nature of such races (and rightfully) so. But they are not a true reflection of the entire industry. Whether husky sledding is ethical solely depends on how owners treat their animals.

Huskies are bred for their impeccable running speed. Which means they are genetically suited for sled racing. However, it becomes unethical when caretakers take advantage of their animals. Some of the things that make this activity cruel include:

Pushing the Animal Beyond Its Limits

As we’ve mentioned, huskies love running, and they’re genetically suitable for the activity. However, it’s the dog musher’s job to know the animal’s limits.

A responsible musher will pay attention to the dog’s physical health and mental well-being. Some of the things responsible dog mushers do to ensure their dogs are in tip-top physical shape include:

  • Rubbing their paws with lotion, powders, and oils;
  • Trimming their nails;
  • Protecting their paws with corduroy booties for long runs;
  • Giving them enough rest time;
  • Scheduling frequent vet visits; and
  • Feeding them nutritious diets.

It’s also crucial for the musher to understand each of the huskies. They have to understand their different personalities and know what their limits are. If any of these care practices are ignored, it’s considered animal cruelty.

It’s inhumane to push an animal to exhaustion without proper care practices or even an adequate meal. But it happens.

Zero Respect for the Animals

It’s also not uncommon to come across companies that have no respect for their huskies. They’ll have a few huskies pulling multiple people on many rounds without giving the animal any rest.

They do this to make as much profit as possible, especially during the short tourist seasons.

You’ll also find companies that chain their dogs when they’re not racing, which is downright inhumane.

And like the dog sledding outfitters in Whistler, you won’t miss an outfitter or more who doesn’t have any qualms putting a dog down when they’re no longer racking up the profits.

Do Huskies Enjoy Sled Racing?

Your decision to participate in husky sled racing (provided the animals are treated right) will depend on whether or not you believe the animals are enjoying themselves.

Most experts compare husky sled racing with horse riding and working with animals on a sustainable farm. It’s not a master and slave kind of relationship but a co-operation.

If the animals are treated with respect and well taken care of, they can work with humans harmoniously. Besides, as the dog owner, you can tell from the dog’s body language if they are enjoying the activity or not. 

Most people who run sustainable and ethical dog sledding races have attested that the huskies enjoy the races as much as humans do.

If this is something that interests you, a story to check out is that of the Siberian Husky sledding hero  called Togo. It tells the true-life story of how this tenacious and independent dog saved the lives of 10 000 people during a diphtheria outbreak in 1925.

If you already know about the husky named Balto – then this story is really going to surprise you.

How to Identify Ethical Husky Sledding Companies

Person stroking huskies

If you’re satisfied with knowing that husky sledding is not immoral – you might be interested in finding an ethical sledding race company. This is easier said than done in some companies than others.

However, it’s not impossible. Research and identify areas where you can find cruelty-free companies. The following tips will come in handy.

Find Out if the Company Upholds Mush with PRIDE Principles

Two bodies protect sledding huskies: the national animal welfare and industry standards. While the law on treating animals may vary from one country to another, industry standards don’t.

One of the notable stakeholders in husky sledding is Mush with PRIDE (Providing Responsible Information on a Dog’s Environment).

A group of dog mushers developed this group in 1991 who were concerned about animal welfare. Throughout the years, the group has been providing dog care equipment and guidelines.

Ethical companies have no problem following the guidelines and subjecting themselves to routine inspections.

You can determine if the company you’re considering upholds these principles by checking for the information on their website.

Confirm Ethical Treatment of the Animals

If you can’t find the PRIDE principles information on the company website, find out how they treat their animals. Find out:

  • What the animals do during the summer (off-season): Are they still well taken care of, or are they chained up and made to do strenuous tasks?
  • What happens to retired sled dogs: Are they still well taken care of or killed because they don’t serve any purpose?
  • How do they keep the huskies in-and-off season are: Do the huskies have enough food, suitable shelter, and are they allowed to run freely without being confined in one space using chains?

This information will give you an idea of what kind of company you’re dealing with.

Some companies may not strictly follow the PRIDE principles, but they have a strict no-kill policy and impeccably take care of their animals.

Find Out Their Measures to Conserve the Environment

It’s not enough to take good care of the huskies. Dog mushers also need to take measures to ensure they’re taking care of their local environment and wildlife as they engage in the activity.

If the company you’re considering doesn’t check all these boxes, it’s time to continue your search.

Make the Right Choice

Husky sled racing is a fun activity for both humans and dogs. However, if the dog mushers don’t uphold proper guidelines for taking care of the animals, it can become unethical quite fast.

Therefore, if you’re considering trying this sport, ensure you find an ethical company that upholds the proper guidelines.

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