March 12, 2002 at 8:32 PM EST - Updated June 29 at 11:40 PM
RUBY, Alaska (AP) - The first dog to die in this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race got tangled up in the gangline and suffered a spinal injury in its neck, race officials said.
Race Marshal Mark Nordman on Monday announced the necropsy results on Goro, a 5-year-old male who died a few minutes before musher Jim Oehlschlaeger's team arrived in Ruby, about 500 miles from Nome.
Oehlschlaeger, of Cincinnati, Ohio, had missed a turn on the trail Sunday and was turning his team around. Nordman said Goro got ahead of a pair of dogs in front of him and became entangled when the team was being straightened out.
Nordman said he has found nothing to prohibit Oehlschlaeger from continuing to Nome. Mushers are thrown out if there are signs of cruel, inhumane or abusive treatment to the dogs.
"It was an accident that happened," Nordman said. "This musher was very distraught."
More than 1,000 dogs were in the starting teams for the 64 mushers entered in this year's race. One or two dogs die in the race in a typical year.
Two dogs died in last year's Iditarod, one from fluid in the lungs and the other from an uncommon bacterial infection, according to vets. One dog died in each race for the years 1998-2000. Five died in 1997.
Critics say mushers push the dogs too hard, while race supporters say the death rates are much lower for the canine athletes than for the pet population as a whole.
The dogs get an extensive medical examination, including blood work and an electrocardiogram, before they start the race. The Iditarod has 35 veterinarians on the trail who check almost all the dogs at each checkpoint.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)