Iditarod dog dies; race officials say no lack of care found

JUNEAU, Alaska -- Alaska musher Katherine Keith has had dogs die in the last two Iditarod Trail Sled Dog races, but a race official said he could find no fault in how she cares for her team.

A release from the race said the 5-year-old dog named Blonde had been dropped from the competition Wednesday and was being treated for signs of pneumonia. Blonde died early Thursday. A necropsy was planned.

The cause of death last year for Keith's dog Flash, a 4-year-old male, was consistent with acute aspiration pneumonia.

Race marshal Mark Nordman said Thursday that every dog death "is investigated to the fullest" and the review of Blonde's death would remain open pending the necropsy results.

However, Nordman said Keith would be allowed to continue racing because there was no evidence of a lack of care.

"It is very unfortunate that Katherine has been through this before, but once again, I can find no fault in the way that Katherine cares for her race team," Nordman said in a statement.

Five canine deaths connected to the nearly 1,000-mile race across Alaska last year prompted protests from animal rights activists complaining that dogs are forced to run a hundred miles a day.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on Thursday said Blonde's death pinpoints why the Iditarod must end. It also has called for the Iditarod to release veterinary records of every dog dropped from this year's race.

"Mushers are using and abusing dogs and then leaving broken ones behind in their pursuit of the almighty purse," PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement.