ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A ferocious winter storm on the final leg of this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog that ultimately forced six mushers to scratch on the same day has now cost three more mushers to protect their dogs instead of keeping them outside. in inclement weather. terms
Mille Porsild of Denmark, Michelle Phillips of Canada and Riley Dyche of Fairbanks were cited for bringing dogs inside shelter cabins to ride out the storm in winds so strong they caused blackout conditions, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.
Porsild dropped from 14th to 17th, while Phillips dropped a notch to 18th. Dyche was not demoted in the rankings, but was fined $1,000 after officials determined there were no other mushers near him who had been affected by the dogs resting inside.
The drop in final position equated to $3,450 less for Porsild and $1,000 less for Phillips.
The nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska was won on March 15 by Brent Sass, who was also affected by the storm just as he neared the finish line in Nome. He said he fell off the sled and couldn’t see a thing, and thought he would have to duck down with his dogs and ride out the storm.
The demotion of the three mushers, which was not widely publicized by the Iditarod, immediately drew a harsh retort from the race’s biggest critic, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“Nothing makes it clearer that this death race must end than the fact that the Iditarod slapped mushers with a ticket as punishment for acting to prevent dog deaths,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement. a statement on Friday.
He called for cruelty charges to be brought against sled drivers who left their dogs outside while inside shelter cabins: “Cruelty is built into this deadly race, and it’s time for it to stop.”
The decision to punish the mushers was made by race marshal Mark Nordman, who said the indoor break for the dogs equated to a competitive advantage over the teams that followed them to Nome.
“There is no question that Michelle and Mille did the right thing for their dogs,” Nordman said. “But it also affected the competition of the runners in the future.”
“Stopping and having the dogs in the shelter cabin didn’t give Michelle or me any competitive advantage; on the contrary, we both lost the advantage we had, especially me and my team,” Porsild wrote to the Daily News from Denmark.
Iditarod rules say dogs may not be brought into shelters except for examination or medical treatment by race veterinarians. However, the entry immediately following that in the Iditarod rule book states: “There shall be no cruel or inhumane treatment of dogs. Cruel or inhumane treatment means any action or inaction that causes avoidable pain or suffering to a dog.
Four mushers — Matt Hall, three-time champion Mitch Seavey, Lev Shvarts and former champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom — filed complaints against Porsild and Phillips. Hall and Seavey moved up one place each as Porsild and Phillips were demoted, and Shvarts moved up two places.
“I had no doubt that my dogs sitting unprotected in these conditions could lead to death or the death of one or more dogs,” Porsild wrote in an email to Nordman after the race, explaining why he did so.
“With no natural windbreaks or materials available to protect them, I did what I felt was the best option for my dog’s well-being in that dire situation,” Phillips wrote on Facebook.
Separately, Dyche also took his team to a different shelter cabin to avoid the storm and was fined for failing to inform race officials that he had done so.
Dyche told the newspaper that he knew it was a violation to bring dogs inside, but he had no choice after failing to cobble together a windbreak for the dogs. He said that as he sat in the cabin with the dogs for the next 24 hours and listened to the winds whipping through the cabin, he knew he had made the right decision.
Porsild, who returned to Norway after the race, was not informed by race officials of the demotion. He found out only when Phillips told him days later.
Phillips announced on Facebook that this was his last Iditarod.
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