Saturday, April 28, 2007

Iditarod Abuse Allegations

I have a Border Collie, arguably a working dog, at least in breed type. He is a pet to me and we have no sheep to herd, so I view him differently than a highland shepard might view his dogs. Given all that, when Iditarod participants point at a fellow musher and allege animal abuse to race organizers, you have to pay attention.

Two-time runner up Ramy Brooks, 38, was disqualified from the 1,100-mile race after witnesses said they saw him punch and kick some of his dogs and hit them with a ski pole when they refused to leave a checkpoint during a March 13th stage in Golovin, less than 100 miles from the finish in Nome. Brooks has admitted to "spanking" his dogs with a wooden trail marker. One of the dogs died the day after the incident. A necropsy could not determine why the dog died, and race officials said there was no evidence that Brooks was to blame.

Shane Goosen, who has taken part in the Iditarod three times, said race officials should have moved more quickly. "It took three days to disqualify this guy," he said. "There went the credibility of the Iditarod right there - it's gone." Goosen told the board that during the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race in January five people said they saw Brooks kick, hit and drag his dogs. He said he supported the decision to disqualify Brooks from this year's Iditarod race. "There is no doubt in my mind that he beat his dogs," he said.

Musher Perry Solmonson choked back tears as he addressed the board. Three times he dropped out of the Iditarod out of concern for his team, he said. "It is just a sad situation," Solmonson said. "I hope as a board you will have some integrity and do what is necessary for the dogs."

I hope so too.