Neff says he’ll appeal Quest ban over poor care

Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage: Iditarod musher Hugh Neff leaves Willow during the 2011 Iditarod. This year, Neff is wearing number 27.

Musher Hugh Neff is talking back to Yukon Quest organizers who this week banned him from next year’s race for poor dog care. The censure announced Tuesday is based on a necropsy of a Neff dog named Boppy, who died in this year’s race.

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The post-mortem analysis found the dog to be in generally poor health, prior to aspirating on vomit. In a video posted on his Facebook page, Neff, a two-time past Quest champion from Tok, confirms he will appeal the disciplinary action, characterizes it as a personal attack, and says he won’t grovel.

”Now, I’m not going to go in front of a board of people that I know don’t like me and won’t respect my word to get them to try and change their minds, which this is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for,” Neff said.

The Quest has boards in Alaska and the Yukon, which approved the censure based on recommendations of a separate race rules committee. Committee Chair veterinarian Kathleen McGill was unavailable to comment today. The necropsy on Boppy found that the dog had stomach ulcers, intestinal inflammation, worms, skeletal muscle necrosis, severe weight loss and muscle wasting. A Quest musher who has never before been censured for poor dog care. Neff says he’s being singled out, when other mushers have also had “dog issues”.

”Obviously, dogs get skinny when it’s 50 below out and you’re running 1,000 miles and you’re trying to pour food into them,” Neff said. “They never even interviewed the people at 40 mile where this incident happened. And that just blows my mind. So, they’re just going off of paperwork and their own feeling about what they see number wise.”

Under the Quest censure, Neff is banned from the 2019 Quest, and must complete the shorter Quest 300 before being able to register for the thousand-mile race in the future. Neff says he loves the Quest, and will not back down.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling for Alaska and Yukon authorities to investigate Neff for what they call “alleged cruelty to animals”.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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