Clam Gulch's Osmar holds two-minute lead in race as mushers reach Circle City

Quest suffers second dog death this year

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A second dog in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race collapsed and died along the same stretch of trail where hours earlier another dog died, a race official confirmed Tuesday.

Carrie Farr of Nenana arrived Monday at the Eagle checkpoint carrying the Alaska husky in her sled. She arrived at the checkpoint just a few hours after musher Dave Sawatzky of Healy arrived with a dead dog in his sled bag. Both dogs died on the stretch of trail between Dawson and Eagle.

''None of us are ever happy about it, including the mushers that are usually crushed by it,'' said Layne St. John, executive director for Yukon Quest International Ltd., representing the Alaska side of the race.

The race started Feb. 11 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.

One dog died during last year's race.

With the race more than half over, Tim Osmar of Clam Gulch held the lead. Osmar left Slaven's Cabin checkpoint at 5:40 a.m. Tuesday, 13 minutes in front of William Kleedehn of Carcross, Yukon Territory, and 21 minutes ahead of Sawatzky. Andrew Lesh of Fairbanks was about an hour behind the leader.

Osmar then was the first musher into the Circle City checkpoint, arriving there at 5:08 p.m. Tuesday with 11 dogs. Kleedehn hit Circle City just two minutes later with 10 dogs, while Sawatzky made it to Circle City 22 minutes behind Osmar with 13 dogs.

St. John said the race relies on the judgment of 11 veterinarians at 10 checkpoints along the trail to assess dogs. Each dog is checked over before being allowed to continue.

''They obviously felt this dog was capable of going on,'' St. John said.

Veterinarians in Eagle disqualified Hugh Neff of Fairbanks on Monday after deciding his team was not fit to continue. Neff was the race's first disqualification.

Quest head veterinarian Margy Terhar told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that there was no indication that the death of Farr's dog could have been anticipated.

The dog had been treated for what appeared to be mild case of trachio bronchitis during the 36-hour layover in Dawson City.

Several veterinarians were on hand at the checkpoint, St. John said.

Farr said after leaving Dawson she carried the dog in her sled but decided to put him back in harness to help the team over some hills. He had been running for about five minutes when he collapsed.

A spokeswoman for a group opposed to competitive dog mushing said dog deaths are more evidence that long-distance races are inhumane.

''I think it is unconscionable to have dogs involved in a grueling race, one that is so physically demanding that they routinely become injured, ill or die,'' said Margery Glickman, director of the Miami-based Sled Dog Action Coalition when asked about the dog deaths.

Autopsies will be performed on the two dogs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Farr was allowed to continue the race.

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