King discusses proposed Iditarod rule changes

Written by Amanda ByrdSome Iditarod mushers have been looking into the changes of the dog fatality rule during the Iditarod. In the past, mushers who have had a dog expire on the trail have been allowed to continue down the trail while an investigation into the cause of death is discovered. Jeff King, 4-time Iditarod champion, has made a recommendation that any musher who has a dog die during the race should be disqualified. King spoke with Lori Townsend of Alaska Public Radio. “It is a rare enough occurrence and a big enough deal that the musher is going to have to say ‘well I am out of this one’, and through the course of actions that would have to occur from autopsy through to the investigation, he may or may not be cleared of being a part of that.”King says that due to the challenges that a quick investigation on the death of the dog presents to the organization, and being a business, it must be a huge challenge to deal with a quick investigation as well as deal with something as emotional and traumatic as the fatality of a dog.The Iditarod is a sporting event, which entertains people around the world in edge of the seat excitement. The race brings together many elements of the romance we associate with running with dogs. But King says that while the race is entertaining and a grueling marathon, the fatality of a dog is not entertaining to anyone. The proposed disqualification rule would remove anyone who has a dog die, allowing a full investigation in the cause of death. King says that the rule would not eliminate deaths, but it would make the Iditarod race a stronger, more defendable, more promotionable event on a national and global scale. The automatic disqualification rule was tried in 1996, and a musher had a dog fatality, and was disqualified from the race. He sued the race organization and won. The rule then had caveats for uncontrollable occurrences, but King is suggesting an across the board disqualification, which will not eliminate all deaths, but will eliminate some when the consequences are higher.

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