Hugh Neff banned from 2019 Yukon Quest due to poor dog care

Hugh Neff has been banned from the 2019 Yukon Quest race for poor dog care. (File Photo by Patrick Yack/Alaska Public Media)

Two-time Yukon Quest sled dog race champion Hugh Neff of Tok has been banned from participating in the 2019 race for poor dog care. Yukon Quest organizers announced the censure today, along with final necropsy results for a Neff dog that died in this year’s race. Quest head veterinarian Nina Hansen says the four-year-old male husky named Boppy died from inhaling vomit. Hansen says that’s a somewhat common accidental cause of sled dog deaths, but Boppy had other preventable health issues.

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”There were stomach ulcers, intestinal inflamation, there were whip worms — so parasites — muscle necrosis and severe weight loss and muscle wasting,” Hansen said.

Boppy died while Neff’s team was resting at a trailside cabin located before the Quest halfway point at Dawson City, where Neff scratched from the race. Hansen says the dog should have been pulled from the race at the previous checkpoint at Eagle.

”It was a failure on the vet team, and I’m going to admit that,” Hansen said. “That dog was looked at in Eagle, and it was recorded to have a poor body condition. And that was not brought to my attention. It is noted in the vet book. I had left Eagle before Hugh got there so that it something I need to evaluate on the vet team as well.”

Hansen says mushers are ultimately responsible for care of their dogs, and the Quest rule committee and board decided to censure Neff. Neff cannot run in next year’s Quest, and will have to run the shorter Quest 300 before entering the 1,000-mile race in the future. The 50-year-old Neff has competed in the Quest 17 times, including wins in 2012 and 2016, and is also a regular top contender in the Iditarod. Neff has 30 days to request an informal hearing. He did not respond to messages requesting comment earlier today.