Neff seeks to appeal Yukon Quest suspension over necropsy
Hugh Neff has been banned from running the 2019 Yukon Quest Race after a necropsy report was released on his dog, Boppy -- but the veteran musher is fighting that decision.
On Thursday Neff released a nearly seven-minute video response, asking why he was being singled out despite other mushers seeing dog deaths and saying he was filing a written protest rather than appealing in person because "I will not grovel."
Neff, speaking emotionally next to a Quest banner and sporting a forearm tattoo of the race's logo, said in the video that his main reaction to his Quest suspension over Boppy’s death was “sadness.”
“It’s just sad that we’ve come to a state in dog mushing where we’re not trying to improve tough situations, but just people are just trying to destroy people’s careers and lifestyles,” Neff said. “It’s just a sad situation all around; I lost a boy that meant a lot to me, and we all love the Quest.”
Pixie Ingram, spokesperson for the Yukon Quest, said that Boppy died of aspiration pneumonia, according to a necropsy report released Tuesday.
Boppy, a 5-year-old male, died on February 9 at Clinton Creek after inhaling his own vomit. The necropsy also found mild stomach ulcers, moderate intestinal inflammation, mild whipworm infestation, skeletal muscle necrosis, severe weight loss and muscle wasting.
Yukon Quest International made the decision to deny Neff's eligibility for 2019 based on the Code of the Trail and Yukon Quest rules 35, 43 and 44; Neff will also be required to run the Yukon Quest-300 prior to entering the 1000-mile sled dog race.
Neff's suspension is in line with races implementing tighter restrictions and punishments for its mushers when dealing with issues involving their animals.
Neff, 50, is a two-time winner of the 1,000-mile race.
“It’s when a dog vomits and inhales at the same time, so the stomach contents get inhaled into the lungs,” Head Veterinarian Cristina Hansen said at the time of the death. “A dog can aspirate a small amount and live, but if a dog aspirates a large amount it will die quickly.”
Kathleen McGill, of the Yukon Quest Rule Committee, says Neff was responsible.
"They're (the mushers) on the trail, they're in the kennel, they're with the dog 24/7, and yes, they should be assessing their team-- if this dog wasn't eating well and should've been dropped sooner-- that sort of thing," McGill said.
"The skeletal muscle necrosis, the severe weight loss, muscle wasting-- these also speak to a dog that wasn't conditioned properly before the race-- didn't have enough internal body fat to draw on, as well as external body fat."
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Neff responded:
There is 2 sides to every story. We will be showing ours soon. Not a day goes by that we don't miss the "Bopinator". He was a special boy who will always be in our hearts. God Bless our dawgs, Bless Alaska and especially the Yukon Quest. We LOVE this race that Grandpa LeRoy created and hope to see it evolve. We will be filing an appeal within the next few weeks. 49 Forever...
Cases of dogs aspirating are rare on the trail, Hansen said. The Quest’s last dog death due to aspiration was another of Neff’s dogs, Geronimo, during the 2011 race.
Neff has 30 days from the date of censure to request an informal hearing.
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