Borough Musher’s Law Protects Dog Kennels

A  hundred huskies howling is  the  kind of noise that angers homeowners who happen to live close by a sled dog kennel. And with suburbia edging ever – closer to the heart of the Mat Su, clashes between dog owners and new neighbors are inevitable.  Iditarod musher Cim Smyth, from Big Lake, testified Wednesday at the Mat Su Assembly public hearing on a new ordinance aimed at protecting musher’s rights.

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“There’s a lot of regulations out there. Very few are positively supporting our sport. Which is the state sport. It is a major hobby for a lot of people, but it is also a major business in this state for a lot of people. I pay my taxes racing sled dogs, racing sled dogs.”

The ordinance sets out terms for a three year kennel license  for a fee of 150 dollars.

 Mat Su Assemblyman Vern Halter , who  keeps a kennel, has run his share of Iditarods, and happens to be an attorney.  Halter sponsored the lengthy ordinance that covers everything from a definition of sled dog to mushing facility standards of care.

 Halter also points out that  sled dog  mushing is the state sport, and that Alaska has been officially recognized as a “right to mush” state by the legislature.

 A number of professional kennel owners spoke up at the meeting in support of the ordinance.   Dee Dee Jonrowe,  says the ordinance protects the dogs as well. In her forty years of mushing, Jonrowe says she’s seen positive changes in dog care.

“And I believe that this ordinance is really helping to design the framework for the quality facilities that I think we would like to see all sled dogs have available to them.”

 Other mushers related negative incidents aimed at their sport… blocked trails and signs with derogatory messages. The ordinance spells out the the definition of interference with mushing, with possible fines for interference of up to one thousand dollars and imprisonment of 90 days.

 The Borough’s Animal Control Board did not offer an opinion on the ordinance. But John Wood, board chair and a sprint musher, noted the economic boost that mushing has become for the Valley

“If you take a look at the economic driver that this industry provides for you, it’s immense. It’s an international sport. If we play our cards correctly, we could be the center of that.

 But some expressed concerns.  Patty Rosnel spoke against the ordinance, saying that  the Borough has not attached a fiscal note to the law, and that there is no money in the Borough budget to pay for enforcement.

 Despite that complaint, the ordinance passed unanimously, adding a new chapter to the Borough’s animal care regulations.