FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Leaders of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race are allowing a musher to compete in the race even though he missed a required veterinarian inspection for his dogs.
Race officials announced Monday that Ed Stielstra, of Nature's Kennel in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, will be allowed to participate in the 1,000-mile race. He will have to pay a fine, pending a successful veterinarian check, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Nature's Kennel Sled Dog Racing & Adventure posted on its Facebook page Monday that Stielstra had been withdrawn from the race after missing vet checkup on Sunday, a required pre-race step for rookie mushers. The kennel said heavy fog had delayed their trip up the Alaska Highway from Michigan.
Once word got around that Stielstra wouldn't be racing, former Quest champions Brent Sass and Hugh Neff posted on their Facebook pages that they were considering withdrawing from the race in solidarity with Stielstra.
"Due to unfortunate circumstances it looks like I might be withdrawing from the Yukon Quest," Neff said. "If you mess with one of us you're messing with me. All rules need to be negotiated for the best interest of the event. Dog races are more than just rules and regulations. They are a celebration of the northern lifestyle, of our culture and the dogs!"
Sass' post said he was making a hard decision about leaving the "race I love and have focused my entire career on," but it is "important to follow ones heart and stand behind what you believe in."
The kennel thanked other mushers for their support but asked them not to boycott the race on the kennel's behalf.
"We take full responsibility for pushing our schedule tighter than we should have and now we have moved on," the kennel said on Facebook. "Our apologies to the Yukon Quest for the inconvenience and we guarantee it will not happen in the future."
Stielstra has never competed in the Quest but has run the Iditarod eight times.
The race organization also announced another musher has been removed from the 2017 Yukon Quest for a veterinary rules violation.
Fairbanks-based rookie Severin Cathry was withdrawn for not fulfilling a rule related to vaccinations for bordetella, the canine disease commonly known as kennel cough.