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ANCHORAGE (AP) — The board for Alaska's most famous sled dog race will kick mushers out of the competition if one of their dogs dies while on the trail, race officials said.
The Iditarod Trail Committee board debated and eventually approved the change among others at its meeting in Anchorage on Friday.
Reaching a compromise, the board of directors added the caveat that if a dog's death "was caused solely by unforeseeable forces," then a musher may be allowed to stay in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The rules previously allowed the decision of withdrawing a musher to be left up to the race marshal and the marshal's judges.
During the board's discussion, the directors called on mushers in the room to give their thoughts.
Four-time champion Jeff King said the musher should be withdrawn immediately if a dog dies in the race.
"For 10 days you've got to keep your dogs alive, if not the musher, who the hell is responsible?" King said.
Three-time champion Mitch Seavey advocated for exceptions to the rule, saying the mushers would be blamed for a dog's death regardless of fault.
Veteran musher Wade Marrs told KTVA-TV that sometimes accidents happen that are outside a musher's control.
"And it's so hard for me to go put all that time and effort into something that an accident or somebody else's doing can take me out of the race," Wade said. "I just see this rule as being very controversial."
The board also approved a change that reduces the number of dogs that a team can start with from 16 to 14.