Region: Ontario and Nunavut
Year of Production: 2016
If you picture yourself flying along a frozen, winding trail surrounded by wild Boreal forests with only the whisper of sled runners beneath you and the howling of a pack of dogs to break the solitude, it’s easy to see why year after year thousands of tourists flock to experience one of the most quintessentially Northern pastimes: dog sledding.
This idyllic portrait has been promoted by both the tourism industry and the dog sledding world for decades in an attempt to maximize profits while concealing a gruesome reality. A reality where dogs are continually tethered to a four foot chain and euthanized when they’re deemed no longer useful.
In 2011 the public finally learned the truth after an incident in Whistler, BC made international headlines: One hundred dogs were brutally murdered and thrown in a mass grave by a tourism company after an unprofitable season. Sled dog companies along with the B.C. government decried the practice, claiming it to be an isolated occurrence, but animal rights activists maintain that this practice is pervasive throughout the entire industry
The upcoming trial of Dan MacEachen in Colorado will once again bring the dog sled industry into the public eye. Dan, who is the owner of one of the largest dog sledding company in North America, was charged with 8 counts of animal cruelty. If he is found guilty, the case could spark a much-needed debate about animal rights laws in North America. This is not the first time concerns were raised against MacEachen. In 1988, he was charged with the animal cruelty, but the charge was dropped and Dan continued to run his sledding operations, till now.
The money-making machine known as the Alaskan Iditarod is perhaps the biggest hurdle on the road to achieving better treatment for sled dogs as it is a financial pillar in the Northern community and a tradition that is well loved by mushers and spectators alike. Thousands of tourists flock each year to watch "the last great race" as teams of sled dogs run over a thousand miles across Mother Nature's harshest landscape. Supporters of the Iditarod claim that sled dogs are "canine athletics" and love the challenge of this sport. They claim that sled dogs are born and bred to race and are "different" from other dogs. Animal rights critics along with former mushers fervently disagree and claim that these statements are used to justify animal abuse and keep an misinformed public in the dark.
SLED DOGS is the first documentary to explore both sides of the dog sledding industry. This film
weaves together various characters and narratives to explore the truth about the dog sledding industry and the Alaskan Iditarod while posing the question: "Is this abuse disguised as entertainment against "man's best friend"?
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Slater-Brody Productions Ltd
DIRECTOR: Fern Levitt
SCRIPTWRITERS: Fern Levitt