PETA apologizes to Iditarod musher for alleging that she was negligent

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  April 2013:

ANCHORAGE––Rarely apologetic about campaign statements and tactics,  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals apologized on April 8,  2013 to Fairbanks musher Paige Drobny for alleging in web postings and media statements that one of her dogs died during the Iditarod trail race due to her negligence.  

Recipients of PETA alerts reportedly sent more than 350 e-mails to Nome District Attorney John Earthman in support of a PETA demand that Drobny be criminally prosecuted.

Drobny,  an Iditarod  rookie who finished in 34th place,  on March 11,  2013 left Dorado,  a five-year-old male husky,  at the Unalakleet checkpoint,  260 miles from the finish line in Nome,  reportedly because he had developed a stiff gait.  A racing veteran,  Dorado had in 2012 completed the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest race.

More than 100 dogs left earlier by mushers filled the two available buildings at the Unalkleet airport, so Dorado was left outdoors with about 30 other dogs.  All of the dogs were to be flown to Nome to be reclaimed by their mushers,  but a blizzard kept aircraft from flying.

Dorado was alive and resting when last checked at about 3:00 a.m. on March 15,  Iditarod spokesperson Erin McLarnon told media,  but he was later buried by snow,  along with seven other dogs, and was found dead of asphyxiation at about 8:00 a.m.

“We thought that our dog was being cared for,”   said Cody Strathe,  Drobny’s husband and partner in operating Squid Acres Kennel in Fairbanks.  “That’s the race organization’s responsibility,”  Strathe told Associated Press.  “We, as mushers, trusted them.”

Attorney and Iditarod veteran Myron Angstman,  of Bethel,  Alaska,  on behalf of Drobny demanded that PETA retract statements saying that she left Dorado unattended. Angstman reportedly reminded PETA that a libel suit,  if filed,  would be heard in Nome.

“PETA has learned that Ms. Drobny had no way of knowing that a sudden storm was coming to the checkpoint area and is not culpable for Dorado’s death.  PETA apologizes for suggesting that she was,”  said the PETA statement.  “PETA thanks Ms. Drobny for asking the Iditarod to make changes so as to supply shelter for all dogs dropped off at collection points along the race route in the future and is pleased that the Iditarod has agreed.”

PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch added that,  “This cruel race should end—but until then, Iditarod organizers need to enact further reforms,  including time limits on dogs’ participation and better supervision to prevent abusive training methods.”

Responded Drobny,  to Mallory Peebles of KTUU-TV in Anchorage,  “We are bothered by the obvious attempt to bury this release in a larger piece of PETA propaganda.  We are considering our options in light of this weak effort.”

Dorado was the first dog to die during the 1,100-mile Iditarod since 2009,  when six dogs died. Altogether,  at least 142 dogs have died since the race began in 1973,  to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the dog sled relay that delivered diphtheria serum to Nome to stop an epidemic.

May in March

There was a happier ending for May,  a nine-year-old female husky belonging to 35th place finisher Jim Lanier,  of Chugiak.  May was racing on loan to Newton Marshall of Jamaica.  Somehow May broke loose and got lost after Marshall’s team became entangled with another team somewhere between Rohn and Nikolai.

Having lost May,  Marshall was obliged by the rules to quit the Iditarod and search for her.  “May traveled several times from Rohn to Nikolai,”  apparently searching unsuccessfully for Marshall while Marshall was searching for her,  then ran “all the way up the Dalzell Gorge,  up the Alaska Range to the other side,  through Rainy Pass,  across Shell Lake,  and was spotted multiple times in Skwentna,”  Iditarod veteran Stan Smith told Beth Bragg of the Anchorage Daily News.  “There were many reports of seeing her. They were all heading south.”

Wrote Bragg,  “May proceeded to run the anti-Iditarod, backtracking for miles and miles, from checkpoint to checkpoint,  eating other teams’ leftovers along the trail.”   Having run in previous Iditarods, May seemed to know the route.  But May finally missed a turn when nearly back to Willow,  and was found at last by three snowmobilers,  after six days alone,  on a trail to Big Lake. Smith took her in until Lanier could reclaim her.

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