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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007County: Nome
Disposition: Not Charged
Person of Interest: Ramy Brooks
Case Updates: 2 update(s) available
A Golovin village grade-school teacher who observed Iditarod musher Ramy Brooks mistreat his dog team -- an episode that led to the veteran Healy musher's disqualification -- saw something more disturbing than what Brooks or Iditarod officials have reported.
When Brooks' team refused to move, said 28-year-old Maude Paniptchuk, who teaches kindergarten through second grade at Golovin School, he kicked the dogs and hit them with his fist and a ski pole. He didn't merely spank them with a thin piece of lath used as a trail marker, as Iditarod officials said Sunday.
And contrary to an earlier account reported by Brooks' business manager, it wasn't a tangle of students that caused the dogs to stop on a patch of ice on the outskirts of Golovin, a small village on the Iditarod Trail about 15 miles west of White Mountain -- the dogs appeared exhausted, she said.
Besides herself and her 1-year-old son, there were only two small children and a grown man who observed the incident, she said. And she was not the one who initially filed a complaint about it, though she did describe what she saw to race marshal Mark Nordman when word of the incident spread.
Reached in Nome on Monday night, Nordman acknowledged that he spoke with Paniptchuk, and he doesn't dispute her story.
On her way home with her son one day last week, she saw Brooks pass through the village with his team, Paniptchuk said. Her little boy likes dogs, so she snowmachined out to the end of town to watch the musher leave. When she got there, Brooks' dogs had stopped on a patch of ice -- so she halted about 20 feet away, turned off her machine and watched.
"I didn't want to get too close, because I didn't want to upset the dogs," she said. "I heard him swearing at his dogs, trying to get them to go. Then I saw him hit a couple. And I thought, 'OK, so he's scolding them, trying to encourage them to go.' And we kept watching ... we saw him go down the line and hit each of his dogs."
She never saw Brooks hit the dogs with a piece of 1/4-inch by 1- 1/2-inch lath used as a trail stake -- as first Brooks' business manager, Greg Louden and later Nordman reported.
"No, he used his hand," she said. "And then he kicked a couple, and he used his pole -- like a ski pole -- to hit them."
At the beginning, she watched the scene alone, Paniptchuk said. But then two 8-year-old children, a boy and a girl, who followed her on foot to catch up with her, arrived and watched too.
"They said, 'Auntie, why is he doing that?' I didn't feel right explaining the actions of someone else. I said, 'I don't know, maybe they just don't want to go.' "
She continued to watch for about 15 or 20 minutes as Brooks continued without success to grab his leaders and try to pull them forward, Paniptchuk said. She wanted to leave sooner but her snowmachine wouldn't start and she had to wait for her brother to arrive to start it.
In the meantime, she noticed that a man from the village, who was out cutting wood, was watching too from the other side of the dog team. It was David Amuktoolik Jr., she said.
Amuktoolik (who doesn't have a telephone and couldn't be reached Monday to comment) was also upset by what he saw, she said.
"He even hollered, he yelled, he said, 'They're not going to go if you treat them that way ... they're not going to go if you hit them.' "
Later, the children told their parents what they saw, and one of them, Sherri Lewis, reported the incident to Iditarod officials.
Reached by telephone Monday night, Lewis said everyone in Golovin loves the Iditarod, and it disturbed her to hear her daughter tell her what she saw.
"She just said he was kicking the dogs, and dragging them, trying to get them to go, and hitting them with a stick," Lewis said.
"Just hearing this from my 8-year-old daughter ... It's just a little disappointing. ... It sounded like they were tired. The conditions weren't good. We have a lot of glare ice."
Efforts to contact Brooks or his business manager Monday night were not successful. However, Nordman acknowledged that the account conveyed to Iditarod officials by Brooks himself differs from the school teacher's.
But even the musher's version was grave enough for the three race judges to rule that he should be disqualified on those grounds alone, Nordman said.
"By no means am I disputing what Maude saw," he said. "This had to be dealt with and it had to be dealt with in a quick fashion."
Right now, Nordman said, he's still trying to officiate the end of the Iditarod.
"Once we get back to town, I'm sure there will be much more discussion on it."
|A professional sled dog musher has been banned from Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for two years for allegedly beating his canine cohorts. |
The board of directors behind the annual race handed down the two-year suspension recently after allegations that Ramy Brooks beat his dogs while competing in the 1,100-mile race, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
In addition to being banned from the race in 2008 and 2009, Brooks will be placed on three years probation should he return to the Iditarod.
Brooks admitted in March that he had spanked his dogs after they stopped during the 2007 race, but eyewitnesses to the incident said he violently beat the animals.
He was immediately disqualified from the race.
While one of his sled dogs died during the race from undetermined causes, one veterinarian said he found no bruises on any of the other canines.
|Source: The Post-Chronicle - May 19, 2007|
Update posted on Jun 1, 2007 - 1:41AM
|This year's Iditarod may be finished, but one musher is still facing a lot of fallout. Ramy Brooks has been accused of spanking his dogs with a wooden marker during this year's race and was disqualified.|
This was a huge topic at Friday's Iditarod board of directors meeting. Every musher CBS 11 spoke with said this is an extremely emotional time for them. Iditarod board of directors and some athletes met at the Millennium hotel first thing on Friday morning. During this time a public comment period was open. Now an independent investigation kicks off.
The investigation is being conducted by a law firm in downtown Anchorage. In order to get to the bottom of Brook's alleged incident, lawyers are traveling back to Golovin. There, they can interview key witnesses, gather all the information and present it back to the Iditarod board of directors. They plan on leaving in three or four days.
What the board decides is anybody's guess, but there is one rule to keep in mind.
"If you are, by Alaska state statute, convicted of animal abuse or cruelty, then you are not allowed to enter this race," said Chas St. George of the Iditarod.
Some mushers are taking this news pretty hard. They say it shines a negative light on an amazing Alaskan tradition.
"There were 82 dog teams on the trail last year. And there are 82 different opinions of what should happen or what did happen. All I can say is, it's a good thing that there is an independent council that's getting to the bottom of all this," said musher, Aliy Zirkle.
Brooks will not be commenting on the investigation until a decision has been made. Brooks says he doesn't want to influence the Iditarod's process.
|Source: KTVA - April 27, 2007|
Update posted on Apr 28, 2007 - 2:31AM
- Anchorage Daily News - March 22, 2007
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