ANCHORAGE, Alaska —
Dorado was found dead after the next check at 8:30 a.m. Race organizers said seven other dogs also were covered with snow, and all except Dorado were in good condition.
While not optimal, organizers said, it isn't typically a condition that would cause alarm. "Sled dogs generally curl up in weather conditions such as this and are insulated by the snow," they said.
Unalakleet, 260 miles from Nome, is one of the two communities where the so-called dog boxes will be built for shelter. The village is a major hub for dogs removed from the race for various reasons, including injury, sickness or tiredness.
Another planned change is more frequent flights to transport dropped dogs more quickly from checkpoints that are not on Alaska's limited road system.
Dorado's death prompted People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to send a letter to Nome District Attorney John Earthman asking for animal cruelty charges to be filed for alleged criminal negligence in the death.
State law says the animal cruelty section "does not apply to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or practices or rodeos or stock contests."
But Earthman said Wednesday says that clause is open to debate. He said he was reviewing the letter and no decision has been made on whether to proceed. He declined to comment on the merits of the allegation but said to convict someone of animal cruelty means the circumstances have to be much more than an accident. He noted it's not unusual in the region for dogs to be outside overnight in similar conditions.
"You have to have a gross deviation from reasonable conduct under the circumstances," he said. "I know for a fact there were plenty of dogs out in that very storm all up and down the coast of western Alaska."
The death was the first Iditarod dog death since 2009, when six dogs died. Iditarod officials said Dorado's death was "the first time in memory that an incident of this type has occurred."
PETA says more than 140 dogs have died since the Iditarod began in 1973.