When you watch a team go out of
the starting chute at a race it usually looks pretty simple and goes off without
a hitch. How does the transformation from the chaotic scene in the staging area
become a safe race and how does it stay that way? It all begins with the
International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) Race Rules.
Race rules which promote animal
welfare are nothing new to sled dog racing. Since the first major organized race
in 1909 (the All Alaska Sweepstakes in Nome Alaska), rules have been implemented
to safeguard dogs and mushers alike. For the past 30 years, ISDRA has been at
the forefront of developing and maintaining sled dog
race rules which promote
safety and fairness. ISDRA
sanctioned races must comply with ISDRA's rules and regulations which
dictate everything from trail length and layout to mandatory safety equipment
and canine fitness.
In order to become an ISDRA
sanctioned race, the race course must comply with detailed trail
requirements. The basic premises governing trail design all concern safety. The
trail must not endanger dog teams or drivers, though some athletic ability on
the part of the driver is expected.
- All hazards must be
- Distances must be
- Trail design rules insure
that a musher who has traveled across the country or around the globe to
race, will know what to expect. The rules also enable the musher and the
dogs to train for the conditions they will encounter.
ISDRA race rules are designed to
safeguard sled dogs on and off the trail. For example:
- Physical abuse of dogs is
strictly prohibited. Anyone who is convicted of animal abuse or neglect is
barred from the race.
- The Race Marshall must
disqualify any team which is unfit or incapable of safely running the
race. A veterinarian is on call for all races. To prevent the spread of
disease, the race Veterinarian shall disqualify any team that includes a
dog with a contagious disease.
- Use of any substance(from
steroids to aspirin) that may affect the performance of a dog is strictly
prohibited. ISDRA Rules provide for drug testing and disqualification.
- Mushers’ equipment must
comply with race rules. For example- sleds must be equipped with a basket
and dog bag capable of safely carrying a dog that is too tired to complete
- Choke collars, muzzles and
other equipment that might be dangerous to the dogs are prohibited.
- Drivers may not replace a
dog on subsequent days of the race with a new dog. This rule ensures that
each dog team is well treated throughout the race.
- On the race course, teams
must stay on the marked trails. Shortcuts are not only cheating, they pose
unknown hazards to the teams. The rules also provide rules of the road
including "Right of way" requirements and passing rules.
In summary, ISDRA Race Rules and
Standards ensure the health and safety of the canine athletes wherever
they compete in their quest to become ISDRA