Three Iditarod mushers were penalized for bringing their dogs into shelter cabins to escape a fierce windstorm that caused white-out conditions during the nearly 1,000-mile race. According to the Anchorage Daily News, race marshal Mark Nordman made the decision to penalize Mille Porsild of Denmark, Michelle Phillips of Canada and Riley Dyche of Fairbanks for their decision to shelter their sled dogs from the storm.
According to Nordman, although the mushers’ decision was the “right thing for the dogs,” he believed that it gave them a competitive advantage over the other teams who did not rest their dogs indoors.
Porsild told the news agency that the area she was in when the storm hit was a “wind funnel” which provided no escape for her dog team. She decided to bring the dogs indoors because she feared for their safety; she has stated that she did not know that her decision was in violation of race rules. Though the race rules forbid dogs from being sheltered during the race, they also state that the dogs cannot be subjected to cruel or inhumane treatment during the event. Porsild defended her decision, stating “There was no doubt to me that my dogs sitting unprotected in these conditions could lead to death or deaths of dog(s).”
In a Facebook post, Phillips explained her decision to bring the dogs inside, writing, “With no natural wind breaks or materials available to shelter them I made what I felt was the best choice for my dog’s welfare in that extreme situation. I unhooked my dogs and put them in the shelter where they could rest and recover safe from the hostile conditions outside. The wind continued to howl and shake the building all night. That confirmed my choice to bring my team in out of the storm.”
PETA lashed out on social media about the decision to penalize the mushers, Tweeting:
Dyche sheltered his dogs in a different cabin and was fined $1,000 for his decision. He knew that doing so was in violation of the Iditarod rule, but he knew that bringing the dogs in from the storm was the right thing to do.
Phillips and Porsild were dropped in the finishing positions and Dyche was fined. In Phillips’ Facebook post, she indicated that this would be her last Iditarod race.
(Stock images of sled dogs via Pixabay)