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Iditarod teams face trail safety concerns

By Dave Detling 6:06 AM February 18, 2014

Dozens of veterinarians will keep watch over teams throughout the race.

WASILLA – Despite concerns over trail conditions, the Iditarod International Sled Dog Race will start in Willow.

Race officials made the announcement Monday following a conference with organizers.

Executive Director Stan Hooley pointed to new technology that would help groom the first 70 to 80 miles of the race.

“We’re anxious to prove to people what can be done with the right equipment and the right resources,” Hooley said.

With slick river ice, there’s also concern for animal safety.

“Every time a dog slips on ice it could hurt her shoulder, hurt her wrist — her back,” said musher Nicolas Petit. “We’re going to take it really slow.”

Helping with those concerns will be a team of 55 veterinarians led by Stuart Nelson.

Nelson said the dogs are officials’ “top priority.”

“Some of them are more used to the cold,” he said. “Some are more use to the warmer conditions. They adapt well and we want to make sure they’re in good shape to go out on the trail.”

Nelson and his vets have been busy screening the four-legged athletes. He said 43 of his volunteers will be out on the trails to address further concerns along the route.

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