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By RACHEL D'ORO
ANCHORAGE — Alaska investigators say no evidence of animal cruelty was found after an animal rights group complained about a kennel operated by four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey, who was recently accused in a dog-doping scandal.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough said the investigation was conducted Saturday on the kennel, which is in Willow. Alaska State Troopers also are separately investigating complaints against a kennel, but they won't identify the musher.
The borough said in a release that it investigated after receiving complaints from an individual and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA had asked for investigations by the borough and troopers based on a whistleblower's reports of sick, injured or dead dogs at the Willow kennel, as well as a property in Talkeetna believed to be where some Seavey dogs are taken. PETA also released photos of dogs with neck wounds, chained dogs and an alleged puppy burial site, as well as videos it says were captured at the Willow property.
PETA said a whistleblower alleges the kennel operators allowed sick and severely injured dogs to suffer without veterinary care, and that handlers picked up dogs by the throat and threw them to punish them for disobeying commands or fighting. PETA also says a litter of seven newborn puppies recently died, and that a puppy was buried at the property.
But borough Mayor Vern Halter, a former Iditarod competitor, said in a borough statement released Wednesday evening that Seavey's kennel provides "a high standard of care" that includes acupuncture and canine massage.
"This complaint is absolutely false," Halter wrote.
In response, PETA spokesman David Perle said in an email to The Associated Press, "It's appalling and yet, also telling, that Mat-Su Mayor Vern Halter, a musher himself, considers cruel conditions such as chaining dozens of dogs to plastic barrels to be a 'high standard of care,' not to mention the specific cruelties purported, such as dogs with gaping wounds and bloody diarrhea and sick and dying dogs denied veterinary care, as shown in the evidence provided."
Halter and Seavey didn't immediately return messages Thursday.
Borough Animal Care officer Nick Uphus, however, said he interviewed the individual who filed the complaint and he visited the kennel, where he interviewed Seavey's wife, Jen Seavey, and inspected all 89 dogs at the site, and found no sign of mistreatment or neglect. Dallas Seavey was not at the site and was not interviewed, according to Uphus, who added that previous mushing kennel licensing inspections also have not turned up any cause for concern.
"It's a pretty nice facility," he said. He added he also inspected the Talkeetna property, where a handful of other dogs are kept, saying he found nothing amiss there either.
Uphus said he gave advance notice of his visit, and he spent about three hours at the properties.
PETA officials said Thursday they are submitting a public records request to the borough to gauge what was covered in the investigation.
The borough north of Anchorage is home to numerous competitive and recreational mushers. Iditarod headquarters are in the borough town of Wasilla.
The unidentified female whistleblower worked at the kennel as a dog handler between Sept. 5 and Oct. 27, the day she filed an affidavit with PETA, Perle said.
Iditarod officials recently said four of Seavey's dogs tested positive for a banned substance after his second-place finish in the nearly 1,000-mile race last March. Seavey denies the allegations.