Iditarod appeal board reverses penalties for Yukon musher Michelle Phillips

·2 min read
Yukon musher Michelle Phillips. The veteran Yukon musher said the recommendation of the race's appeal board to re-examine a rule about dog care and sheltering dogs during the race is a step in the right direction. (Julien Schroder/Yukon Quest - image credit)
Yukon musher Michelle Phillips. The veteran Yukon musher said the recommendation of the race's appeal board to re-examine a rule about dog care and sheltering dogs during the race is a step in the right direction. (Julien Schroder/Yukon Quest - image credit)

Yukon musher Michelle Phillips said an Iditarod appeal board's decision that recommends the trail sled-dog race revisit the rules around sheltering dogs and dog care, and eliminate any contradictions in them, is a step in the right direction.

"I think it was a step forward in putting dogs first," said Phillips.

In addition to making the recommendation, the appeal board ruled that Phillips will be fined $1,000 instead of being dropped one spot in the final standings for sheltering her dogs during the last leg of the 1,510-kilometre race last March.

While she said she found that part of the decision "a little disappointing," she added she understood why it was made.

"We still got the thousand dollar penalty, but they had to do the penalty because the rule was in place," she said, adding the rule is contradictory.

Contradictory rule

Phillips sheltered her dogs in a cabin along the race's trail when she encountered high winds, which she estimates were about 80 to 95 km/h.

Other mushers complained and she was dropped from 17th place to 18th, losing $1,000 as a result.

Fellow mushers Mille Porsild of Denmark and Riley Dyche of Fairbanks were also penalized for sheltering their dogs during the storm. Porsild was dropped three spots, from 14th to 17th, and Dyche was fined $1,000 but wasn't demoted in the standings.

Phillips appealed the decision.

Emily Mesner/Anchorage Daily News/AP
Emily Mesner/Anchorage Daily News/AP

Iditarod rules say dogs cannot be taken inside shelters except for race veterinarians' medical examination or treatment.

However, the entry immediately after that one in the Iditarod rule book says: "There will be no cruel or inhumane treatment of dogs. Cruel or inhumane treatment involves any action or inaction, which causes preventable pain or suffering to a dog."

At the time, Phillips said the rules needed to change to reflect "what's important in the care of the sled dog."

On Friday, she said the board's decision shows they recognize there's a problem with the rule.

"[It] gives the rules committee time to go back and look at the rule and re-examine it and reword it so that in the future, if this happens again, the mushers will not get penalized," she said.

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