2018 

February 7 2018:

As the sled dogs are currently running 1,000 miles in grueling conditions in the Yukon Quest race they are very much on my mind. Today I posted a new video narration of my poem "Because I am a Sled Dog". Click to view ~~> Videos by pj johnson

February 2 2018:

Tomorrow the 35th annual Yukon Quest takes off in Fairbanks Alaska heading to Whitehorse. Every year I dread it. A little over a year ago I began my campaign to expose the ongoing animal abuse and exploitation inherent in the two 1,000-mile sled dog races - the Alaskan Iditarod and the Yukon Quest - by posting the article “The Painful Truth About Long-Distance Sled Dog Racing” on my website. https://bit.ly/2paXlV8

I also created the hashtag to oppose both races and over the past year support to oppose the races has continued to grow. Although some Yukoners tell me on the QT they are glad I speak out on behalf of the sled dogs they are hesitant to join me for fear of reprisal. I understand their position. The Yukon Quest has grown into a massive institution complete with corporate and government funding and international support. That alone can be daunting. It is also quite true that the Yukon has a very small population - it's really just one big neighbourhood. We all have to live here and try to get along. Not everyone is going to want to stick their neck out.

On several occasions I have spoken out publicly to expose the plight of the sled dogs including at an event in Vancouver at Queens Park last summer and another event last month at the National Arts Centre/Centre national des Arts in Ottawa. On those occasions the general reaction to my presentation was one of shock and concern and many commented to me that they had no idea how badly the animals were being abused and exploited. I get that. Little of the reality of what goes on behind the scenes of these races and the way the sled dogs are actually treated is known to the general public. Many including the media continue to turn a blind eye.

 I recently participated in a brief audio interview that aired on CBC on January 31st and I was also quoted in a CBC North article titled “Activists dog the Yukon Quest, but veterinarians say it's safe”. The title of the article may have been clever but at present I seem to be the only ‘dog’ in that race, at least in my homeland. It’s true that in the past I've been known as something of a canoe-rocker but in this case I paddle alone. However I am not totally alone, there are many caring people who have joined me online to oppose these barbaric races. We are   and we are a force to be reckoned with!

CBC audio interview clip: https://clyp.it/eieti2tl
CBC North News article: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/yukon-quest-veterinarians-1.4509509

In the CBC North article the vets insist the dogs are all healthy and there's no problem for them to participate in a thousand-mile race in brutal arctic conditions even though the fatality rate is unacceptable. Of course anyone with a vested interest in the Yukon Quest including mushers, handlers, organizers and vets will defend their position but the fact remains that while the veterinarians may 'be at every checkpoint', internal injuries sustained by the dogs during the race often go undetected until they are seriously impaired or until it’s simply too late. And of course no one mentions the fact that some mushers just blow right through the checkpoints.

 

When I began this campaign a year ago I knew that I could become the target of some blow-back however to date there really has been little if any. In the comments section of the CBC article someone stated: “pj is her own special brand of crazy” . I responded: “I am an unapologetic animal advocate. If standing up and speaking out for the protection of defenseless animals makes me 'crazy' then go ahead and call me crazy. There are a million more just like me. We are the stewards of the creatures with whom we share this planet and it's up to us to honour, to respect, and to protect them. Sign me: pj johnson – The Original Yukon Raven Maniac.”

People need to take a good hard look at what's really happening. Animals are being abused. Just because it's been going on for years doesn't make it ethical. In closing I have to wonder – how many dogs will die this year? Even one dog is one too many. 

Yukoners! – We need to honour and respect the majestic Malamute that stands so proudly on the masthead of our Yukon Coat of Arms! JUST SAY NO TO 1,000-MILE SLED DOG RACES! They are a legal form of animal abuse.

“If just one person stands up and speaks the truth it can never be unheard. If many speak it cannot be ignored.”  - pj johnson Poet Laureate of the Yukon

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January 16 2018: As the new year dawns and I enter my 24th year as Poet Laureate of the Yukon I look forward to continued service as an artistic mentor, Yukon ambassador, and a passionate animal advocate. As an advocate I am vitally aware that the brutal Yukon Quest 1000-mile sled dog race is scarely two weeks away. I dread it every year. The short races out on the river during Rendezvous in days gone by were great fun - and no one got hurt.