Iditarod developing new kennel management program

Published: Dec. 3, 2017 at 5:44 PM AKST
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The Iditarod Trail Committee says it’s developing a new plan to ensure that all kennels entered in the race meet certain standards of care for the dogs.

The new kennel management program, once implemented, will set mandatory requirements for all Iditarod kennels in areas such as cleanliness, nutrition, hydration, shelter, tethers and more, according to a press release sent Friday night.

ITC Chief Operating Officer Chas St. George says Iditarod kennels have been implementing “best care” kennel practices for a while, and the goal of the new program is really to showcase those practices.

“What we’re doing is looking at ways where we can share, literally share, what’s already happening in kennel management in Alaska,” St. George said. “We have a number of great mushers who have raised the bar on their own.”

ITC says the program will involve kennel visits and a certification process. But its unclear at this point how that process will work for kennels in extremely rural parts of Alaska, as well as other states and countries. St. George says cooperation with local governments will likely come into play.

“We have to look at how do we begin to collaborate with boroughs and with municipalities, and with the state in order to come up with a program that is a part of the state’s animal care program,” St. George said.

“Norway, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, those mushers when they sign they’re going to have to adhere to those standards. The reality is we don’t know what that looks like yet… we’re going through that process but we have to start somewhere.”

A seven-member advisory committee comprised of experienced mushers has been appointed to help shape the kennel management plan. They are: Vern Halter, Martin Buser, DeeDee Jonrowe, Jeff King, Aliy Zirkle, Sebastian Schnuelle and Karen Ramstead.

“I think it’s a really great, proactive place to start with what we consider to be our quality of care,” Jonrowe said. “I’m actually very excited about the other members that are on the committee because I think it represents widespread experience.”

The ITC plans to have the program implemented before June 23, which is the day entries open for the 2019 Iditarod.