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Iditarod mushers could get $500 for veterinary expenses

Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Races

PORTAGE LAKE, ME - FEBRUARY 28: Christine Richardson of Canaan, N.H., makes her way across the terrain near Portage Lake during the Irving Woodlands CAC 250 during the Can-Am Crown sled dog races in Portage Lake, Maine on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009. (Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston Globe via Getty Images

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has announced that the first 50 mushers who enter the 2021 race and the 2022 race will receive hundreds of dollars in reimbursements to help cover veterinary costs.

Money would come from the $50,000 Pike Dog Wellness First Initiative, which started by a donation from longtime race supporter David Pike, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Pike owns a home in Girdwood, Alaska, and is the managing owner of a law firm based in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.

Those eligible could receive up to $500 for diagnostics, vaccines, deworming and other services provided by a licensed veterinarian or a licensed veterinarian technician, race officials said.

The Pike Dog Wellness program has allocated $25,000 to each of the races.

The program partnered with the Iditarod in anticipation of “the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic may have on Iditarod mushing kennels due to lost revenue from tourism declines and other economic hardships,” according to a statement.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

The first day of signups for the 2021 race has not yet been announced but is usually in late June, officials said.

This year, Thomas Waerner, 47, crossed the finish line first on March 18, completing the nearly 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometre) race across Alaska with a nearly six-hour lead in front of second-place musher, three-time champion Mitch Seavey.