Mushers in Scotland

Having just returned from lecturing at this year’s American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Conference while in the midst of preparing to move from my home of 16 years in less than a week (no worries, this is by my choosing).  I’ve simply not managed to put fingers to keyboard and produce a blog that I would consider meaningful. Rather than skip a week, I’ve opted to provide you with something for your viewing rather than your reading pleasure.

I love this piece titled, “The Boys and the Kids” because it so deftly portrays the human animal connection.  I think I’d love it even if the creator of this piece weren’t my daughter Susannah, a photojournalism student at Ohio University.  Part of her curriculum takes place in Scotland (my, my what lucky students) which is where this video was created.  Enjoy.

Video: Susannah Kay

Mushers in Scotland? Who knew!

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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7 Comments on “Mushers in Scotland

  1. Wonderful piece by Susannah! These people obviously love and keep their dogs for the entire lives of the dogs. As with anything, there are good and bad people in the sport. Much still needs to be done in animal cruelty, but these people state plainly that they keep their dogs for the dogs’ lifetimes. Susannah captured the joy these lovely people have and their passion for the relationships they have with the animals. Thank you, though, Nancy, for the comments, as many of us need the information about the sport in general. Kudos to Susannah!

  2. I think this video is a romanticized version of this subject. Perhaps these people are kinder than others to their dogs, but to compare the lives of the dogs to those of the pampered children is unrealistic. What happens when the dogs are not racing? What happens when a dog is no longer able to race?What happens to the puppies who are not racing “material” I have been involved in rescuing animals for many years including unwanted Huskies no longer wanted by mushers and know the inherent cruelty in this sport.

    Earlier this year a memo from British Columbia Worker’s Compensation Board was leaked to the media: the general manager of a dog tour company filed an application for post-traumatic stress disorder after having killed 100 sled dogs on April 21 and 23, 2010, as allegedly ordered to by his employer. He used a gun to shoot each dog and the killings were performed in full view of the other terrified dogs slated to be shot. The full report (below) on the incident describes nightmarish scenes during the cull, including dog named Suzie whose cheek was blown off and her eyeball left dangling prior to the killing shot, and a dog named Poker who was shot accidentally and suffered for fifteen minutes before being euthanized. Please be advised that the details are graphic and very disturbing:

    The dog cull was ordered because of a “slow winter season,” according to USA Today. Marcie Moriarty, head of the British Columbia SPCA cruelty investigations division, told the Vancouver Sun that:

    There is a problem with the sled dog industry in general. People see these 20 sled dogs, an idyllic setting with snow in the background and think how great. But what they don’t see is the 200 dogs tethered and sleeping out back, chained to a barrel….What do they do when they don’t have the money to feed them all? When the dogs aren’t needed. The order to simply put them down is not acceptable.

    To the general public, the most familiar face of the sled dog industry is Alaska’s Iditarod, an annual race in which teams of dogs are forced to pull a sled 1,100 miles across the Alaska wilderness, often running at a grueling pace of over 100 miles per day for ten straight days. The race has become a big money maker, bringing tourists and sponsors to Alaska.

    Since the race began in 1973, over 130 dogs have died during the event. We don’t know how many dogs have died during training or immediately after the event, because no one is keeping statistics. Causes of death have included heart attacks, drowning, hemorrhaging after being impaled on a sled, muscular arrest and strangulation. There are multiple claims that dogs have been beaten during the race when they were too tired or otherwise unwilling to continue running. And, there are many examples of dogs suffering injuries, exhaustion and other illnesses.

    Alaska’s anti-cruelty law specifically exempts “generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests” from the protections given to other animals in Alaska. Alaska’s anti-cruelty law ranked in the bottom tier.

    The BC incident received attention but many other forms of cruelty, including the murder of unwanted Huskies killed, are not reported simply because they occur on private property.

    If you care about dogs and want to truly “speak for Spot” contact the Iditarod’s corporate sponsors and request that they no longer fund this deadly and horrific event.

  3. Wow, Susannah did a phenomenal job not only with the camera but just the right commentary too! Many thanks for sharing her work with us. Can’t wait to see more! Keep it coming!

  4. Congratulations and thanks to your daughter for a beautiful piece on the sled dogs in Scotland.

    However, the piece on the tigers disturbs me. Are they kept in the cages? Whle I am well aware of the dire need to rescue them from the abominable situation these recued animals is ever present, if they are kept in the cages shown is not a good solution to their problems.

    Perhaps I read it wrong. Clarification would be greatly appreciated!

  5. Geesh! You’d never know that part of my career duties is writing since it’s late at night. I rephrased a bit this time:
    Please pass along my huge congratulations to your daughter for this awesome piece. As a musher & mother myself, I could not have portrayed the sport or the family life inter-meshed within the sport any better than she did. This is a tremendous piece to promote the lifestyle of mushing. I would love to meet the musher whose kennel she featured – he’s a great ambassador for true dog-human relationships, responsibility in breeding, and wise training of dog athletes.

  6. Please pass along my huge congratulations to your daughter for this awesome piece. As a musher & mother myself, I could not have portrayed the sport or the family life inter-meshed within the sport any better than she did. This is a tremendous piece to promote the lifestyle of our sport. I would love to meet the musher whose kennel she featured – he’s a great ambassador for our sport.