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Iditarod

Mat-Su finds no animal-care violations in Dallas Seavey kennel

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: November 2, 2017
  • Published November 2, 2017

Dallas Seavey pets Blazer and reaches fro Beatle at his home in Willow on Friday, February 20, 2015.  (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

PALMER — A Matanuska-Susitna Borough animal care officer has found no validity to a complaint about sled dog abuse at Dallas Seavey's kennels.

Seavey said he welcomed the investigation into the complaint filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, saying the group wants to end the Iditarod but kills many of its shelter animals.

A Mat-Su animal control officer called the Seavey kennel Saturday to tell them he was coming.

"I was not here at the time," Seavey said Thursday, recently returned from a trip to China. "But Jen, my wife, said please come as soon as you can."

The complaint came on the heels of revelations last month that dogs in Seavey's 2017 Iditarod team tested positive for a prohibited opioid painkiller. Seavey, 30, is a four-time Iditarod winner, finishing second this year behind his father, Mitch.

He has vehemently denied giving his dogs the painkiller tramadol.

PETA on Friday filed a complaint with the Alaska Department of Public Safety, the Alaska State Troopers and Mat-Su animal care based on new allegations about injuries and negligent care among Seavey's more than 100 dogs.

The claims come from a "handler apparently associated with the operation" who asked to remain anonymous, the complaint says.

The group this week posted photos and a video purporting to show sick and injured dogs over the past month at Seavey's dog yard.

But Mat-Su animal care officer Nick Uphus, during Saturday's visit to Seavey facilities in Caswell and Talkeetna found "no evidence of any violation — no evidence of failure to provide humane animal care and no evidence of cruelty to animals," according to a statement the borough released late Wednesday.

Uphus did call the Seavey team ahead of time, said Matt Hardwig, the borough's animal care chief. That's standard practice for officers making compliance checks, Hardwig said.

The Alaska State Troopers also received the complaint last Friday and are investigating, a spokeswoman said.

According to PETA, the "whistleblower" in the Seavey kennel described injured dogs, including one with a possibly broken leg hurt by handlers trying to punish them by grabbing them by their necks and throwing them. The group said the whistleblower also claimed a litter of seven newborn puppies died without veterinary care.

A woman's voice can be heard over the videos, calling dogs by name. She points out a place where she says puppies are buried.

Seavey until Thursday remained largely silent about the abuse accusations that began last week.

Asked about handlers abusing dogs and a lack of veterinary care, Seavey said he didn't know yet exactly what claims have been made.

"We have a zero tolerance policy on animal abuse," he said. "We do not accept that. We're trying to figure out if there's any validity."

Seavey said PETA's role in the complaint, coming so soon after the drug-testing scandal, "really does concern me as it pertains to dogs that had tramadol in their systems."

Does he think PETA is responsible for the tramadol?

"I don't know," he said. "This is starting to look suspicious. Where the first big news thing they've had has to do with is this issue."

PETA spokesman David Perle called the claim absurd, "as animal protectionists work to safeguard dogs whereas racers work to win money and a title while their dogs are pushed beyond their endurance and even worked to death."

Perle in an email said Iditarod dogs can suffer bruised and cut feet, pulled muscles, stress fractures, pneumonia and stomach ulcers, "so drugging the dogs to mask all of this comes as no surprise."

Seavey is authorized by the Mat-Su Borough to have 90 or more dogs, according to the three-year mushing facility license he received in December 2015.

The borough inspected his facilities that year and in 2012 for a kennel license, Hardwig said.

Seavey owns nearly 100 acres near the Talkeetna Spur Road and 3 acres in Caswell north of Willow, according to Mat-Su property records.

Borough Mayor Vern Halter said in the borough news release that Seavey gives sled dogs a "high standard of care" including homeopathy, acupuncture and dog massage.

Halter is a top-10 Iditarod finisher and Yukon Quest winner who owns a dog-tour kennel in Willow with his wife.

"This complaint is absolutely false," he said in a prepared statement.

The animal care and cruelty provisions are part of the borough's animal care and regulation code that also categorizes sled dogs as livestock.

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