Iditarod reviewing sheltering rules, discussing new stipulation for dog safety after incidents in this year’s race

The scene at the finish line of the 2022 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The scene at the finish line of the 2022 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.(Alaska's News Source)
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 4:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After everything that happened during and after the 50th Iditarod, CEO Rob Urbach said in an email that race officials are looking into a new stipulation regarding keeping track of sled dogs, and reviewing the rule book when it comes to sheltering dogs during the race.

The new stipulation the Iditarod is discussing, according to Urbach, has to do with Sebastein Dos Santos Borges and his lost dog, Leon. During the race, Leon slipped out of his color and coat at the Ruby checkpoint. According to an email from the Iditarod, Dos Santos Borges switched his collar from a racing collar to a loose collar “despite protests” from veterinarians on site.

As of right now, the search still continues for Leon and according to the Iditarod, there have been recent sightings. Due to Leon managing to get out of his collar, Urbach said in the email they are discussing a new stipulation that would require more secure collars, and even the potential of a tracking device in the collars as well.

When it comes to the Iditarod reviewing additional rules, that has to do with the public outcry over three mushers being penalized for breaking Rule 37 in the Iditarod Rule Book which states: “Dogs may not be brought into shelters except for race veterinarians’ medical examination or treatment. Dogs must be returned outside as soon as such examination or treatment is completed unless the dog is returned from the race.”

According to Urbach’s email, a panel has been formed to hear the appeals being made by the three mushers that were penalized, and the rule will be reviewed.

“One of the foundational tenets of the Iditarod is a passionate concern for dogs and dog welfare,” the Iditarod wrote in a statement about the sheltering rule. “Those of you who have expressed concerns believe what we believe: that exemplary dog care is of paramount importance. We realize on the surface that the rule seems rigid and fails to account for extreme weather situations.”

The panel is also mandated to make a decision within 45 days of March 29, meaning a decision will be made in the coming weeks.

And for the first time, the Iditarod made comment on the “non-Iditarod dog fatality” in Wasilla, where a family pet was killed by dogs belonging to Jessie Holmes, who took third in the Iditarod this past year.

Urbach said in the email that “Upon a completed process by the authorities and or an internal review we will take the appropriate action.”

Another Iditarod rule stipulates that no musher convicted of a charge of animal abuse or neglect under Alaska law can participate in the race. The mayor of Wasilla said in a statement about the incident that citations were expected to be issued, which could impact Holmes’ ability to compete in the race going forward.

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