Dark Side of the Sled Dog Industry Exposed in New Film
By: Alicia Graef
December 3, 2016
In 2011, the public was shocked when a story broke about 100 sled dogs who were brutally executed and dumped in a mass grave in Whistler, British Columbia. Now, a documentary about the dark side of the sled dog industry is, ironically, set to premiere in that very same town this weekend.
For some, there may not be a better combination than dogs and the wilderness. The sled dog industry has played on that fantasy, and garnered a lot of support for events like the Iditarod – an annual race in Alaska that spans a thousand miles of rough terrain. Unfortunately, the dogs being used by this industry are paying the ultimate price.
Following a dog sledding trip in Ontario, award-winning documentary filmmaker Fern Levitt’s curiosity about the industry was sparked after she saw where the dogs lived, and was told some would soon be “culled” if no homes could be found for them.
Almostfive years later, her research into the industry has led to a new documentary, Sled Dogs, which is making its world premier at the Whistler Film Festival on Dec. 3, 2016.
“This film comes at a critical moment when the public is waking up to the treatment of animals and demanding change. The audience will be outraged when they discover the legal abuse of ‘man’s best friend’ under the guise of sport and entertainment. This is a timely documentary and a definitive call for action,” said Levitt. “I am thrilled that our film will premiere at the Whistler Film Festival as it was here that the world first learned the truth about how dogs are treated in the tourism industry.”
According to the synopsis, the film follows “a rookie Iditarod musher who sleds 1000 miles from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska; the training of Lydia, a sled dog puppy at six-months-old; a dog sled operation that was under investigation in 2013 in Snowmass, Colorado; and the 2010 sled dog cull in Whistler, B.C. after which cries of outrage by the dog-loving public forced the provincial government to enact tougher legislation to protect these animals.”
Disturbingly, if the Iditarod were held in almost any other state in the nation, it would violate animal cruelty laws intended to protect animals from being overworked. While it’s still going on in Alaska, dozens of major companies have already withdrawn their support and sponsorship thanks to public pressure.
Hopefully, a behind-the-scenes look into this industry will help raise more awareness about the sad and abusive lives these dogs are living and will lead to more changes that will protect them, along with getting more people to rethink supporting either the Iditarod, or this industry as a whole.
“The power of documentary film in today’s world is about educating the audience on a variety of issues. In the case of Sled Dogs, after audiences watch the entire film and see what our cameras discovered, they will be able to decide for themselves what the truth is about commercial dog sled operations,” added Producer Arnie Zipursky.