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ANCHORAGE - Musher Ramy Brooks is calling on family and friends to help him fight an e-mail war against animal rights activists who are pressing one of his Iditarod race sponsors to pull its support.
Brooks, 31, said Thursday that the corporate headquarters for AmeriGas in Valley Forge, Pa., has been flooded with electronic mail telling it to pull its sponsorship help. Brooks believes the people involved found out about AmeriGas' support from Brooks' Website listing his sponsors.
``I guess I assume they are thinking that we are mistreating dogs or not taking good enough care of the dogs. Whatever their reasoning is, I think it is wrong,'' Brooks said.
AmeriGas' office in Fairbanks was told by corporate headquarters to pull its support, but the local office decided to continue helping Brooks, said Victor Hughes, sales and service manager. Hughes himself is a musher who is friends with Brooks and arranged to help him. Brooks promised to display two AmeriGas logos.
``I am not going to withdraw my sponsorship,'' Hughes said. ``I have chosen to go my own way with this and take what comes. I know Ramy, and I know his dog care and he's won honorable mention for dog care. I couldn't think of a better person to sponsor.''
In 1996, Brooks won the Alaska Airlines Eddy Hoffman Humanitarian Award for the best dog care in the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race, said Greg Loudon, his business manager.
Comment from AmeriGas' corporate offices was not available Thursday afternoon.
The company's sponsorship help consisted of selling Brooks some appliances at cost this year after he built a cabin in Healy, Hughes said, plus setting up some propane tanks for free and giving him a free fill-up.
Brooks said the animal rights activists never called him directly and he's not sure what they're saying about him. Loss of AmeriGas support, however, could hurt. Brooks, who will compete in the Iditarod Saturday for the sixth time, said it costs him about $100,000 a year to run the race. His best finish was eighth in 1997. Last year, he won the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race, considered by many mushers to be tougher than the more famous Iditarod.
``It is not a big sponsor. But all our sponsors, small or big, are a big part of how we get to the start of the race. It is not going to affect our race this year, but any support we lose is a step backward,'' Brooks said.
Brooks and Hughes said they're hoping the sport's supporters will tell AmeriGas how it feels.
``I think it is important for me to say something so that the people who are supportive of us can voice their opinions,'' Brooks said.
In the mid 1990s, pressure from animal rights groups caused two of the race's biggest sponsors - Timberland Co. and Iams Co.- to pull their support. The two companies represented about a quarter of the Iditarod's budget then.